Rep. James Lockhart will not seek re-election

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. James Lockhart announced today that because of family considerations, he will not seek re-election next year to a fourth term in the Oklahoma Legislature.

“I want to be able to spend more time” with my family. “My daughter will be graduating high school in four short years and I don’t want to miss any more than I already have,” the Heavener Democrat said.

A couple of years ago, while in Oklahoma City during the annual legislative session, “[M]y son played in his first T-ball game and I couldn’t be there,” Lockhart lamented. “I have regretted missing that game ever since.”

His daughter, Hope, is a 14-year-old ninth grader, and his son, Jakob, is a 7-year-old second grader.

Lockhart, 41, believes he has fulfilled his obligation “to help our state and our nation,” he wrote in a 565-word letter to his constituents and supporters.

That sense of duty was demonstrated 14 years ago, when he assisted in the recovery efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. “I was just out of college” and working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a wildlife damage specialist. He had to borrow money to get to New York to lend a hand, he recalled, because, “I didn’t have a credit card.”

Nine years later he was elected to represent House District 3 in the Oklahoma Legislature. He is completing his fifth year in the state House of Representatives.

He said his wife and his parents “want me to step away from politics” after his third term expires in November 2016. “I think my 2010 report to the state Ethics Commission shows I spent more than $10,000 of my own money, so you can see why I’m not beholden to any one group.”

“Too many people work hard and struggle to make it to the end of each month, and those families” have been the focus of his efforts at the State Capitol, Lockhart wrote. He said his votes in the Legislature have been cast “with one simple philosophy: Will it help or hurt the average working family in Oklahoma?”

Lockhart also contends that all elected officials, regardless of whether “they are school board members or the President of the United States,” are obligated to do what they can to improve the standard of living for those who elected them to public office.

“From helping bring in more jobs to standing up for homeowners when propane prices hit record highs, I fought for my constituents and always tried to make their lives better,” he said.

His efforts at the Capitol the past five years have included urging his colleagues to appropriate more money for school textbooks, computers and other educational materials; improving services at state-operated veterans centers; working to get the Heavener nutrition center reopened; protecting the water rights of southeastern Oklahomans; upgrading roads, bridges and highways in LeFlore County; expanding the fiber optic cable network in the area, to boost Internet accessibility; and opposing GOP-sponsored tax cuts that have resulted in three consecutive years of state budget deficits totaling more than $1 billion.

Lockhart thanked those who sent him to the Legislature and have kept him there. “I ran for office in 2010 when the nation’s economy was in shambles, and I will never forget that you bet on me during some very hard times,” he wrote. 

“Thank you so much,” he concluded. Being a state legislator “is definitely the hardest job I ever had, but it has also been the most rewarding.”

His plans for life after the Legislature are not completely formulated yet, he indicated. “I have my cows, my bulldozer, a rent house, and I may be able to teach some online courses,” he said. “Mainly, I want to sleep in my own bed every night.”