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Thursday, August 24th, 2017Last Update: Tuesday, August 1st, 2017 01:57:38 PM

Special Election for State House District 28

By: Constitution Staff

State Rep. Tom Newell (R-Seminole) announced his resignation from the Oklahoma House of Representatives in December. His announcement came just weeks after being reelected in the November General Election. Newell delivered his resignation letter to Gov. Mary Fallin with an effective date of Dec. 31, 2016 and Gov. Fallin has set the dates for the Special Election to fill the vacancy. The district covers Seminole County and the northern portion of Pottawatomie County in east central Oklahoma.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the people of House District 28,” said Newell . “I will be pursuing an opportunity in the private sector that will allow me to spend more time with my family, while allowing me to serve families nationwide.” He later announced that he is now a senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability, a conservative Florida-based think tank. Newell, who is a pastor, has served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives since 2011. He has been one of the more conservative members of the Legislature, earning an 82 percent cumulative average on the Oklahoma Conservative Index published by the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper.

The filing period for the Special Election was January 9-11. The Special Primary Election is set for March 7 and the Special General Election is scheduled for May 9. Unlike the regular primary elections to select a party nominee, the candidate that finishes first in the Special Primary is the nominee. In the regular primary elections there is a runoff if a candidate does not get over 50 percent of the vote. Four Republicans, five Democrats, and a Libertarian filed for the seat. Several have previously run for theseat. Three of the Democrats also ran in last year's campaign to unseat Rep. Newell.

Billy Choate, 50, is one of the four Republicans who filed. He was the GOP nominee for the seat twice prior to Newell’s election, but lost both times to a Democrat. He also was mayor of Seminole for two years. He is an insurance agent.

Mike Matlock, 59, of Prague is assistant superintendent of instruction at Gordon Cooper Technology Center and has served on the Prague School Board.

Daniel J. Matthews, 36, of Meeker is executive director of the Community Market of Pottawatomie County and serves as an associate pastor. He has been endorsed by the Oklahoma Political Action Committee (OCPAC).

Zack Taylor, 33, of Seminole is part owner of RKR Exploration Inc. He works in the day to day field operations and management of oil and gas wells with his dad and uncle.

Last year's Democrat nominee, Marilyn Rainwater, was defeated with just a third of the vote against Newell. She also unsuccessfully ran for the seat in 2012 and for a state Senate seat in 2014. Rainwater, 62, of Seminole is a longtime social worker.

Jason Leonard and Yasminda Choate, alsoran for the the Democratic nomination last year, but lost to Rainwater in the Primary Election. Leonard, 50, is from Seminole. Choate, 37, who is no relation to the Republican candidate with the same last name, is from Sasakwa.

The other two Democrats are Steve Barnes and Blake Cummings. Barnes, 60, is an attorney in Wewoka. He recently moved back to the district with plans to run against Newell in the future. Cummings, 57, of Maud is also a new resident of the district. He ran for the adjacent U.S. House seat in 2008, but lost to the incumbent, Congressman Tom Cole. He works as a petroleum land consultant .

The sole Libertarian candidate is Cody Presley, 39, of Wewoka who is a Shawnee city employee . He switched his registration from Republican last year after the party regained recognition in the state, but was not able to do it in time to file against Newell.

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