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Steve Davis shifted the tone and level of intensity of the four-way Democratic Primary in the eastside HD 99 race Friday with a Facebook Live attack on Ajay Pittman.

“I will not let anyone misguide this community,” Davis said in the live video around noon.

And connecting Pittman with her mother, Sen. Anastasia Pittman, Davis said, “The old guard is at work big time.”

Pittman responded later in the day.

“If you have time to make videos attacking other people, you have time to be knocking doors,” Pittman told Free Press in a phone interview later in the evening. “I’ve been knocking doors and making actual contact with the people of 99.”

The other two Democrats in the primary for HD 99 are Nkem House and Crentha Sequoyah Turner.

Shift

Pittman campaign mailer 2018-6-22
One side of Ajay Pittman’s campaign mailer showing Thelma Parks as one of the endorsers. BRETTDICKERSON/OKCFreePress

So far, the race between four Democrats for the eastside house district has been active, but without any intense public criticism.

But when the last round of Pittman’s campaign materials came out, Davis went on the attack in the name of defending the people of HD 99.

Pittman’s mailer showed Thelma Parks, who is over 90 and a revered figure on the east side, endorsing Pittman.

Davis attacked Pittman on two points: a seeming endorsement from a living historical figure on the east side and PAC money from a pro-charter school group.

Thelma Parks

Davis said that Parks did not endorse Pittman but supported him. He claimed that he had talked with Parks just that morning where she said she supported him.

He also encouraged his viewers, if they had her number, to call her themselves and ask.

When Free Press contacted Parks by phone Friday evening she denied having endorsed Pittman, which seemed to support Davis’ contention.

“I did not endorse her. I gave her a donation. I gave several people a donation because they came and asked for a donation. But, no I did not,” Parks said.

She said she has allowed several candidates to put signs in a part of her property, too.

“George Young’s sign is there. Steve Davis’ sign is there. Ajay Pittman’s sign is there. Christine Byrd, her sign is there.”

Pittman responds

But later in the evening, Pittman told Free Press that Parks has endorsed her and the information on the flyer is correct.

“I will tell you that one, Mrs. Parks is 95 years old,” said Pittman. “I don’t think people realize that she does not always remember everything that she says and the permission that she gives and things like that.”

Other side of Pittman's mailer with quote
The other side of Pittman’s mailer has a quote from Thelma Parks below a photo of the two together. BRETTDICKERSON/OKCFreePress

“However, I have a recording of Miss Parks and I have a video of Miss Parks telling me what she said to me. Telling me that she believes in me,” said Pittman.

“We are all full blazes ahead,” said Pittman. “I was just with Miss Parks hours ago.”

Parks was a teacher and counselor at the historic Douglass High School and then at U.S. Grant in Oklahoma City Public Schools for many years. Later she was an OKCPS Board of Education member representing the east side for 24 years she told Free Press in a phone interview Friday evening.

Thelma R. Parks Elementary School at 1501 Northeast 30th Street in OKC is named after her.

And so support and endorsement from Parks for a house district race in a part of the city where black history and cultural memory is so important are significant.

Charter schools

The second criticism that seemed to generate even more passion for Davis was that a political action committee or PAC that is widely-known for promoting the spread of charter schools or “school choice” has sent campaign flyers out to HD 99 voters on Pittman’s behalf.

Oklahoma Federation for Children Action Fund based in Oklahoma City sent out flyers supporting Pittman.

But Pittman claims to have no knowledge of what they are doing on her behalf until flyers show up in her own mailbox.

Steve Davis, one of four primary candidates for HD99
Steve Davis, one of four primary candidates for HD99. BRETTDICKERSON/OKCFreePress

In Davis’ live video he turned up the heat on support from the PAC that has no direct connection to Pittman by law.

“She has been bankrolled by a major school choice organization,” said Davis.

“You have to ask yourself a question,” Davis said in another part of the video. “Why have they bankrolled this young, inexperienced 23-year old?”

“They [the PAC] are trying to come in and annihilate public education,” Davis said in a crescendo of emotion.

He described their support of Pittman and the seeming connection as “disingenuous in every way.”

“Let’s tell the establishment where the Hell to go,” Davis said at the end of the video.

What works

Free Press asked Pittman directly in our phone interview Friday if she supports turning Oklahoma City Public Schools into a district of charter schools, which has happened in some urban areas of the U.S.

“I support what works. I support equity in education,” said Pittman.

“I graduated from an Oklahoma City public school – Northeast High School,” Pittman said. “But, I also attended KIPP Reach College Preparatory. So I’ve seen both sides of the charter school conversation and the public school education conversation.”

“I’m for what works for students. I’m for education equity in education and equality.”

“But, do I think every school needs to be a charter school? No,” Pittman told us. “Do I think there is a place for charter schools? Yes.”

Voting continues

Early voting continues at county election boards across the state from 9:00 to 2:00 Saturday.

Polls open Tuesday at precinct locations from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

You may find your own individual voting information including the ballots you will receive by using the Oklahoma Election Commission’s Online Voter Tool.


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