Novotny challenges Rep. Kern in Oklahoma House District 84

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 28-Aug-2010

The top issue in the 2010 elections, says House District 84 hopeful Brittany Novotny, a Democrat, is “jobs, jobs, jobs.” She is running against incumbent Rep. Sally Kern, a Republican. The emphasis each is putting on economic issues echoes that found in many state legislative races in Oklahoma in this year full of .bad economic news.

There are some things about the race that make it different from most other legislative races – including the recent visit of a national television crew, and an early New York Times feature story. A conversation with Novotny sets the table with similarities to other electoral jousts in the state.

Novotny told CapitolBeatOK, “For the last six years, the district has been represented by an incumbent who is out of touch with mainstream Oklahoma values. She has been ineffective. The Journal Record said Rep. Kern is bad for business. She is so harsh in her views and beliefs. Oklahoma has a chance to move up, to build community. I want to help take Oklahoma forward.”

Asked to name her key issue or issues, Novotny said, “Education is certainly a key to the future. Rep. Kern says she’s been a champion of education, but that’s hardly the case. It’s hard to find anything she’s done to advance education while serving on the committee. One of my criticisms of Rep. Kern is that she doesn’t recognize that we have to work to improve the world we actually live in, not the world we wish we lived in.”

Warming to incumbent criticism, the Oklahoma City lawyer said, “If she’s for education, why hasn’t she worked to advance technology in the schools? The world today requires 24/7 communication and kids in school need to learn how to access that. Our schools need to start earlier in teaching children about logic, reasoning and argumentation, how to discriminate between good and bad information. We need incentives to keep our best teachers, and better ways to deal with the less effective teachers.”

Asked how districts might deal with bad or weak teachers, the challenger reflected, “It’s tough. With my experience in employment law I realize that teachers are employees of government, and therefore have important due process rights. Our school districts need tools to reward good teachers and deal better with the less effective teachers. I had a bad teacher in high school, sadly it was in Honors Algebra, so that was terribly frustrating. We have to separate the good from the bad. “

Expanding the catalog of campaign issues, Novotny continued, “Another of my campaign issues is transportation. This is one area where we don’t spend enough time or energy at the Legislature. Specifically I hope we can improve public transit options, including use of CNG busses. That would save energy, burn more cleanly and also boost an Oklahoma industry.

“I’ve encountered a lot of seniors as I go door to door. … I’ve learned a lot from them. They have trouble getting around if they don’t have a car, and the bus options are so limited. They would feel safer and have better lives if we have more and better options.

“So, particularly for that older population, the aging population, there are things that can be done in the transportation area that would help the environment and improve the economy. I support a fixed rail trolley system and the mass transit improvements envisioned in MAPS III. The discussion of a fixed rail circulator is important. If we could get that in place, then a commuter rail line from Edmond would make sense.”

Novotny pointed to fresh concerns on “public safety.” Specifically, “I live off N.W. 50th in the PCO (Putnam City HS) area. In most of the apartment complexes, there are no dedicated shelters. Where would those people even go if we knew an f4 or f5 tornado was rolling through? So, we need to press for shelters in multi-unit housing.

“This idea began to circulate in my mind more when I saw a similar proposal to require shelter in mobile homes got shot down by special interest lobbying. My goodness, we have the most tornadoes in the whole world right here in Oklahoma. There are more and more people moving here. It only makes sense to find ways to protect those people and get them safety.”

How in the world does a Democratic challenger win in a year like this, when Republican gains are widely anticipated nationwide and in Oklahoma? Novotny responded: “All politics is local. I think that’s true. We have polled and the early baseline shows Rep. Kern is under 50%. We come in at 35% and that’s pretty amazing for a first time candidate. Those are our internal numbers and they give me hope.

“A lot of Republicans see the incumbent doesn’t necessarily represent their line of thinking. Those are people who favor responsible government, not extremism. The extremes in both parties do not represent the ways most Oklahomans actually think, and certainly do not represent the people in House District 84.

“The people I’ve talked to want real solutions. When CNN talked to me they were surprised that going door-to-door was/is my favorite part of campaigning. It connects with people where they live. The 24-7 news cycle is actually NOT the way most people live and think. They are just people going about their lives. They just want responsible and responsive government.

In terms of voter registration, “Republicans have the most; but it’s a plurality not a majority. Independents are actually 13%, a high number. The balance are Democrats. When people actually vote, I anticipate the independents will only be 6 or 7% of the electorate.

“We think there’s a way to get independents, earn 15 or even 20% of the Republicans, and hold all the Democrats. That’s how we win, that’s our way over the top. The people are ready to be through with extreme Republicans, and with this incumbent who is bad for business.”

Through a few days ago, Novotny had raised “about $35,000. … To institute the direct mail program we believe will bring success, we need $75-80,000. Some of my friends have talked about $100,000, but I’m not sure that’s doable. We will have an aggressive direct mail program as the best way to get engagement with the voter. TV ads don’t really make sense.”

Novotny asserts, “The election is not about partisan bickering. Republicans do not want our state to fail, and I hope most Republicans believe the same thing about Democrats. We have to work together to find solutions.”

CapitolBeatOK visited the candidate’s website to find news articles referencing the matter that makes the H.D. 84 race unique for Oklahoma this year.

Kurt Hochenauer’s “Okie Funk”  reported Novotny understands “there are going to be some folks who try to make this election about the fact that my medical history includes a gender transition, but I’m running for office because I believe I’m the best candidate to fight for jobs, education and transportation.”

The New York Times sketched the matter this way:

“Both candidates for House District 84 in west Oklahoma City – where Mrs. Kern won by a comfortable margin in 2008 and remains popular – have insisted that Ms. Novotny’s sex will not be an issue in their campaigns.” The Times reported Novotny “identifies as a heterosexual woman.”

Novotny told CapitolBeatOK, “This campaign is not about that. … I have found the voters are not interested in that so much, as they are interested in my plans, what I will do if elected. They want, like I do, to build a brighter future. I’ve said, and believe, this election is not about my past, it’s about our future.”

Novotny’s favorite book is “Eat Pray Love,” basis for the new movie starring Julia Roberts. “It helped me take stock of my life when I read it, and look to the future.” As for movies, the first choice is “To Kill a Mockingbird. The book of course was also great. That film had a big influence on me as a child, and helped lead me in the direction of the legal field.”

As for music, “I like a lot of different kinds of music. Alt (alternative) Country is something I’ve gotten into lately. There are some great country artists, alternative, here in Oklahoma City. I also like rock and traditional country.”

When it comes to television, Novotny’s choice is “’Six feet under.’ I watched the whole thing on DVD and just loved it. It was kind of interesting, given the subject matter, how they managed to cover real life issues so well.”