Oklahoma House District 83 is considered an important seat to flip for Republicans during this election cycle. The district was Republican-controlled for decades until current Democratic incumbent, Chelsey Branham, won in 2018 against Jason Reese.
Branham won the seat when Republican Randy McDaniel reached his term limit leaving her a window to run as a new voice during the historical 2018 teacher strike in Oklahoma.
The house district covers Edmond, Nichols Hills, Oklahoma City, and The Village.
Now, Republican businessman Eric Roberts is running against Branham in an attempt to flip the house seat once again. The following is a run down of both candidates based on a questionnaire they personally filled out for Free Press and outside research.
With less than a month left until the November elections, Free Press will be providing coverage of races in the Oklahoma City metro area in depth. By doing so, we hope that you, the reader, gain a better understanding of the choices you will have on November 3.
Chelsey Branham – incumbent
Before running for office, Branham was known for her work as the director of economic and social justice at the Young Women Christian Association’s (YWCA) Oklahoma City chapter, a non-profit service provider for domestic and sexual abuse victims.
This experience has undoubtedly influenced the representative’s policy making as she drafted a bill that would declare April sexual assault awarness month in Oklahoma, but it failed to go beyond the house.
During her first year in office, the majority of bills she introduced revolved around foster care such as prohibiting DHS from stopping private child-placing agencies from helping foster homes and extending foster care services to Oklahoma youth.
None of these foster care initiatives have been signed into law by the governor, and only one of Branham’s bills has become law.
That law was In State Contractors Incentive Act of 2019, which helped create more job opportunities for local contractors.
Education and healthcare
Branham explained how improving the lives of Oklahomans is crucial for economic growth.
“We often miss out on bids for business opportunities (ex: Tesla most recently) because companies feel we lack proper investment in education and healthcare to support their employment needs,” she wrote.
When it comes to healthcare, the representative is an advocate for medicaid expansion. “I will work with my colleagues to find funding solutions for SQ803 that do not cut other agency funding and resources for families,” she explained.
The representative received her masters in international economics and development and she conducted research in Zambia to help improve community health before returning to Oklahoma to work at the YWCA.
Dark money attack
Recently, Branham was a target of the Oklahoma MAGA Coalition. The Oklahoman reported that the Oklahoma Democratic Party called an investigation into the group because they did not register with the Secretary of State’s Office before spending over $1,000 in campaigning efforts.
Reportedly, mailers were being sent claiming that Branham supports leftist groups like Antifa. There is no information on Branham’s website or social media platforms indicating that she supports Antifa.
Eric Roberts – challenger
Roberts has been a land developer for nearly three decades owning Colonial Center LTD and other businesses. The Republican candidate believes that his experience in managing business will help Oklahoma and its pending financial crisis.
“I know that you can’t run the government as a business, but you can take business principles and apply them to government,” Roberts wrote. “The State is looking at a 1.2 billion dollar shortfall next year. Having some more business savvy at the Capitol would be helpful.”
This is not the first time the businessman has run for office. In 2018, he ran for Oklahoma Senate District 30 but lost in a seven-way primary.
Robert’s wrote to Free Press that the most important issues to him are criminal justice reform, helping local businesses, and education.
In a campaign ad posted on Facebook, Roberts’s family is shown knocking on a door of a business asking it to open. The video then cuts to Roberts explaining the importance of keeping businesses safely open during the pandemic in order to improve economic growth.
“We don’t yet know the full effect this will have, but we do know that we cannot sustain prolonged periods of stagnation in the workforce and halt and hesitancies in production of goods and services,” he wrote on his campaign website.
He also is a proponent of ensuring that education spending goes directly into the classroom. “The State spends close to 4 billion dollars on education and the schools can’t buy books and desks, and teachers have to pay for supplies out of their own pockets,” he explained.
While he was speaking to the Frederick Douglass Republican Women’s Club he said that he met with many education experts who explained to him the struggles of lack of supplies and large classrooms.
This is why he believes there needs to be school district consolidation, meaning decreasing the amount of superintendents in Oklahoma to put more money in classrooms.
Roberts would also like to see more alternatives in lieu of incarceration given to those struggling with addiction and mental health issues, which would further decrease the amount spent on state prisons.