7 minute read

OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — Three of the four candidates for Mayor of Oklahoma City participated in an open debate on Tuesday evening at The Douglass Auditorium in OKC. 

Jimmy Lawson, Carol Hefner, and Frank Urbanic each participated in an hour-long event that mostly involved candidates taking turns answering questions instead of debating. The incumbent Mayor David Holt was represented by a photograph and unused microphone.

Holt declined to attend and field questions in the public sphere.

All three at the debate demonstrated passion for the seat, while adding some notes of ignorance about the daily functions of City of Oklahoma City government.

OKC mayoral debate
On stage for the debate in the run for mayor of Oklahoma City were (L-R) Tres Savage, Editor-in-Chief of NonDoc, candidates Jimmy Lawson, Carol Hefner, empty podium for Mayor Holt, Frank Urbanic, and News 9’s Storme Jones. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

The debate was organized by NonDoc Media with News 9 providing the livestream and their reporter Storme Jones sharing the question asking with NonDoc’s Editor-in-Chief Tres Savage. Free Press and other local news media outlets were partners along with nonprofit civic organizations.

The four candidates answered questions about their hopes and plans for being Mayor, some of which are completely off the table legally within the seat of the Mayor of OKC.

Opening Remarks

Each attending candidate was given two minutes to deliver opening statements. Each candidate started with hopeful comments about their proposed terms as mayor.

Frank Urbanic, an attorney and arch-right conservative activist, was first to address the audience.

Frank Urbanic
Frank Urbanic, candidate for Mayor of the City of Oklahoma City. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Urbanic focused on his military experience in the reserves, where he flew AWACS during some combat situations, he said. He also touted the lawsuits he represented against the state and the City, citing incumbent mayor David Holt as a “tyrant” who tried to close businesses. 

Urbanic successfully sued the City of Oklahoma City to allow bars to stay open late during the previous height of the deadly pandemic that has claimed the lives of nearly 12,000 Oklahomans.

Urbanic closed his opening statements by reading a ringing earlier endorsement of his candidacy by Carol Hefner, now, another candidate for mayor.

Jimmy Lawson, a youth mentor and college professor, talked briefly about his own experience growing up in Oklahoma City, and the ways in which, according to Lawson, the “status quo” isn’t working.

Carol Hefner, a fabulously wealthy hyper-conservative self-proclaimed “businesswoman,” emphasized her Christianity, and her family’s role in building Oklahoma City. She referred to herself throughout the evening as a developer who knows how to build things.

Throughout the night, Hefner referenced the Government’s job as being limited to the protection of “life, liberty, and property.”

Several times Hefner forcefully used the phrase instead of the actual phrase from the Declaration of Independence: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The fact that she used the same phrase repeatedly during the debate ruled out the possibility that she simply slipped up.

Some conservatives have moved away from the language of the Founders’ in the Declaration of independence and focused instead on the earlier John Locke inclusion of “property.”

Homelessness

All three candidates answered questions about what problem is foremost in Oklahoma City.

First Lawson proposed ideas about addressing homelessness, revealing his idea of a “transitional center” that would serve people transitioning out of homelessness. His proposition would be a facility with mental health services, job training, and re-entry services. Funding for this project was not discussed.

Hefner claimed homelessness and crime go hand in hand. Hefner went on to make the fantastic claim that she has spoken with 92 people in Oklahoma City experiencing homelessness, nearly all of whom claim to have been given a bus ticket and cash to travel to Oklahoma City from the West Coast.

Carol Hefner
Carol Hefner, candidate for Mayor of the City of Oklahoma City. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

There is no evidence to back up Hefner’s claim.

Urbanic also addressed Homelessness and said that the key magnet for those experiencing homelessness, is Mayor David Holt. He suggested that Oklahoma City adopt a Housing First model, a model already employed widely in the City. He then revealed his misunderstanding of “Housing First” by criticizing some people who move into housing and stay there for years receiving services, which is actually a part of the model.

Urbanic also said that he had concerns about public buildings like City Hall and the City office building. He claimed that it was slowing down permitting for development and building, a process that has actually been made faster by providing online options.

Other Topics

Each candidate made claims as to their superior ability to serve the people of Oklahoma City better than the absent incumbent.

Jimmy Lawson
Jimmy Lawson, candidate for mayor of the City of Oklahoma City. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Hefner declared that the Oklahoma City-County Health Department gave false information to the City Council and the public, a claim that is patently false. She further said that she and her husband fought and won a battle against mask mandates.

Urbanic claimed that his work in representing bars and restaurants against the City of Oklahoma City’s curfews during the height of the pandemic was a victory against the tyranny of Mayor David Holt. 

He also referenced suits against the State of Oklahoma and the City of Guthrie over similar issues.

Lawson declared that his stance and slogan was “People over Politicians,” and that he had insightful experiences growing up in Oklahoma City.

Policing

Unsurprisingly, no candidate endorsed defunding the police or even keeping budgets flat.

In fact, both Hefner and Urbanic suggested that they would like to see more money given to the Police Department.

Lawson said he was against defunding police, but wished for more community-centered policing, while giving few details about what that would mean.

Here Hefner dedicated her time to praising police and firefighters, all of whom she claimed were among the lowest paid in the state. 

She further excoriated the absent incumbent for bringing in the consulting firm 21cp. Hefner referred to the organization as a “Defund the Police” organization, despite the consultants’ suggestions that largely included expanding police services.

In contrast, many members of the public, specifically advocates for fair policing in poor areas, have criticized 21cp for being too “pro-police.”

The election for Mayor of Oklahoma City takes place on February 8, 2022. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, a runoff election will be held on April 5 between the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes in the general election.

City Hall
City Hall for the City of Oklahoma City (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Last Updated January 26, 2022, 12:16 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor