Oklahoma House District 97 has been represented by attorney Jason Lowe (D) since 2016. During this election cycle, Republican Ben Janloo is challenging Lowe for the seat.
Lowe and Janloo differ most on their approach to gun rights and policy.
District 97 is home to some of Oklahoma’s strongest Black communities as nearly 60 percent of its residents identify as African American.
Midwest City, Spencer, Forest Park, Jones, and Oklahoma City are all located in the district.
Before Lowe took office, Mike Shelton represented the district as a Democrat from 2004 to 2016 when he reached his term limit.
The following is an overview of each candidate’s platform based on a questionnaire they completed 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 that you will have on November 3.HD97-Reduced
Lowe has been a criminal defense attorney for nearly 15 years and has his own law firm. He considers himself extremely involved in the local communities in the house district as he was born and raised in Oklahoma City.
“I feel the only thing that qualifies me for this position is the support of my community,” Lowe wrote in response to the questionnaire. “I don’t think that a person is ever prepared to represent the people unless that person is in constant communication with the people”.
During his four years in office, he has authored one bill that has been signed into law by the governor, and it prohibited the Department of Human Services from increasing fees.
His platform includes criminal justice reform, education, and gun violence prevention.
“For [criminal justice reform], I want to ensure that we are not over sentencing, that bail amounts are fair and equitable, and most importantly that our prisons are not a for-profit industry in Oklahoma,” the representative wrote.
In the past, he has introduced bills that would help expunge criminal records, allow district court judges to be subject to open records requests, and overall encourage criminal justice reform.
While Lowe has not directly authored any bills pertaining to education, he is a vocal supporter of teacher pay raises.
“We need to finish what we started. Give teachers the raises they deserve, Give support staff the raises they deserve, and fully fund classrooms,” he wrote. “We know the needs, we know how we pay for it, we just need to finish the job.”
The representative is most known for his work in gun safety. He made headlines for filing a lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma for a permitless carry law passed last year.
In March, Lowe and members of the gun safety organization Moms Demand Action got 37,000 Oklahomans out of 95,000 needed to sign a petition that would put a state question on the November ballot that would essentially reverse the permitless carry law. However, it was ordered stricken by the Oklahoma Supreme Court because of problems the court cited with the gist of the question.
Republican newcomer Ben Janloo has been living and working in House District 97 for roughly four decades. Immigrating from Iran in the 1970s, he describes himself as the embodiment of the American dream.
“I have worked in the community [for] over 40 years. I’ve paid taxes in the community, raised a family in the community, run successful businesses in the community, owned property in the community and I care about Oklahomans hav[ing] the rights accorded to them in the Second Amendment to defend themselves and their loved ones,” he wrote in response to Free Press’s survey.
The Second Amendment is an important issue for Janloo.
“In 2020 amid Covid and police Department defunding movements never have citizens felt more of a need to protect their families,” Janloo wrote. “I will stand firm on protecting Second Amendment rights and working closely with the groups who share the same goals to protect Oklahomans.”
During his campaign, he has faced some hardships. Most recently, he was physically assaulted when he was posting campaign signs and was hospitalized.
The main platforms he is running on are repairing local roads, law enforcement accountability, and protecting second amendment rights.
Janloo explained that the lack of new and safe roads in his district can discourage new business, which is why he wants to author bills that would change that.
In terms of public safety, he wants to draft a bill that would help make a state agency dedicated to helping citizens report police officers that they deem corrupt.
He said that most complaints filed against police officers are handled by individual municipalities, which is not the most efficient way to process complaints in his view.
He wants to increase trust between the community and the police, which is why he wants to draft a bill that would create some form of state oversight.
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