Candidates on both sides of the aisle for the upcoming Oklahoma House of Representatives District 5 will take part in a candidates forum next week.

The event, hosted by members of the Jay Public School's Professional Classroom Association of Teachers, takes place at 6 p.m., Monday, Sept. 17, at Bulldog Arena on the campus of Jay High School.

The forum will feature Rep. Josh West Republican incumbent, and Ed Trumbull Democratic challenger.

Lyndall Woods, president of the organization said the event is designed to give members of the community a chance to meet the men, one of which who will serve as the representative in the upcoming legislative session.

"The winner of this House seat will have a large impact on the future of our state," Woods said. "This is an opportunity to get to know the candidates better, and be a more informed voter."

The event is free and open to the public. Members of the Republican and Democratic parties within Delaware County will serve as the moderators. 

Meet the Candidates

• Rep. Josh West

West is campaigning for a second term in office. He said his reason for running remains the same - to serve.

"I have served my country in combat on two different war fronts, that gives a person a different perspective on life," West said. "Service has been my life for the past 20 years. Selfless service has to be at the forefront of this job, there is no other reason to run."

West describes himself as a husband, father and a patriot. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have four children: Ethan, Walker, Katie and Aubrey. Elizabeth West is the children's administrator for Grand Lake Mental Health. His children attend Grove Public Schools.

"[I] truly care about the people of my district and the state of Oklahoma," West said. "I have worked hard everyday since the day I was elected to be a strong voice  for District 5 and rural Oklahoma.

"I am passionate about this job, I have thick skin and have at times made my colleagues on both sides of the isle upset. I'm not afraid to call out members on both sides in order to lead. In doing this, I have earned the respect of my peers, both Republican and Democrat."

If re-elected, West said he will continue to work for several issues including addressing teacher pay raise; addressing ways to fix the state budget within the continuous cuts; and holding agencies accountable with knowing how and where the money is spent.

"I came in with a large freshmen class that was heard throughout the state," West said. "We made addressing those issues a priority our first two years.

"We passed the first teacher pay raise in 11 years and largest in state history, along with the largest appropriated education budget in state history.

"We fixed $1 billion dollar shortfall and passed legislation to audit every major agency. This should have been done years ago, but I am glad that this was made a priority by my colleagues and we got it done."

West believes the person who fills the representative seat must be pragmatic.

"Very little things are black and white when dealing with issues within the state," West said. "Your job is to look for solutions that move the state forward.

"With 12 year term limits, this forces you to educate yourself quick, as you are put into Leadership positions early in your legislative tenure."

He also sees the importance of this seat within the legislature. 

"I see the rural versus urban battles everyday at the capitol and if you don't have strong leadership representing you, then it all becomes about Oklahoma City and Tulsa," West said. "We must have a strong voice for rural Oklahoma."

West said he considers being able to help his constituents as one of his main accomplishments for his first term in office.

"That is very satisfying knowing that I have the ability to help you, no matter what issues you need help with," West said. "Outside of that, I have worked hard and it shows with the mutual respect that is shown from both Republicans and Democrats.

"I will never stop trying to advance the state forward and truly feel that we have a great opportunity to move the state and district forward as your representative."

Ultimately, West said he is proud of his first term in office.

"I have said many times that I wouldn't take back anything I have done," West said. "It is a huge learning curve, but I stand by all my decisions and my votes and will answer for them."

West said he could not do the job without the support of his wife and children.

"If I didn't have their support, I would be able to do this job, nor would I want to," West said. "You have to have thick skin with this job and not take things personally but do take the job personal.

"Often times my family takes the heat when I'm at the capitol, when people are upset with me. To the people of district 5, I just want to say thank you for allowing me to serve you, it has been an honor everyday."

• The Issues

West believes on Jan. 1, 2019, the incoming group of legislators will face a variety of issues including education, diversification and rural jobs, rural healthcare and medical marijuana.

For education, he believes "great progress" was made during the 2018 session, addressing teacher pay.

"Being a border district, it was important to start with this as we see teachers that leave Oklahoma for other states," West said. "I think that the pay increase will help us recruit quality teachers and retain senior level teachers.

"I understand that the issues for our teachers are more than just pay though and I am confident we will keep addressing those issues like classroom size."

Outside of pay raises, West said, the legislature did a line item budget for an additional $50 million for books and classroom size.

"Consolidation is always a topic of conversation that is brought up by constituents when I am out in the district," West said. "There are members that have been working with other states like Arkansas, who recently consolidated administration.

"Up to this point, it hasn't saved Arkansas money, it just created another level of bureaucracy. There is already a system in place for communities that want to consolidate schools and it is done at the local level."

In terms of diversification and rural jobs, West believes state officials must continue to look for ways to diversity the state's economy beyond a reliance on the energy sector.

"We must continue to support incentives like the aerospace incentive, which is vital to our district and also support new legislation like SB 1585 that was passed last year," West said. "SB 1585 is similar to the aerospace incentive, but it deals with bringing in auto manufacturing jobs.

"Tourism will always be vital not only to district 5, but to the state of Oklahoma and we must ensure we do everything we can to support this industry and support the thousands of Oklahoman's that work in our area."

Regarding rural health care, West believes this issue is vital for his constituents.

"If we lose our rural hospitals, then we are forced to drive to Tulsa or out of state to Joplin or Fayetteville to have access to healthcare," West said. "We also have a large population of those who are in nursing homes, so we must ensure that we protect programs for our elderly and disabled like the Advantage waiver. We were able to give an increase in provider rates this year for the first time in many years."

With the passage of State Question 788, West believes questions regarding medical marijuana will remain at the forefront during the next legislative session.

"I am one of 13 members of the House and Senate that was put on the Medical Marijuana committee, which meets every week," West said. "Within the State Question, it gave the Department of Health the authority to make the emergency rules.

"Our job as committee members is to make recommendations to the Department of Health with regulations and ensure that we are upholding the people's will."

West said many areas within the state - outside of the state question - were impacted by voters decision including law enforcement, health care, banking, business and more.

"This is uncharted territory for the state and we will have to go in a make changes as issues arise," West said.

In terms of the state's budget, West believes "great progress" was made "in some cases with little help over the past two years."

"With the revenue brought in and the economy growing, the future is looking great," West said. "We paid back over $450 million to the raining day fund, which we were constitutionally mandated to do and are $300 million in the positive with the General Revenue fund."

West said one major problem facing legislatures is that more than 60 percent of the budget comes "off the top" and the House of Representatives, which "controls the purs" cannot touch the funding.

"This ties our hands to say the least," West said. "In the years that we had revenue failures, the cuts did not come from the legislature, they came from the off of the top money. When we did not meet benchmarks, OMES, which is the accounting agency of the state, made across the board cuts."

Looking ahead

As a house member, West is allowed to run eight bills each session.

He is currently working on legislation that ensures agencies are held accountable by requiring them to provide line item budgeting.

"We would pass a 70 percent budget in March and require that the agencies provide a line item budget to the A&B Subcommittee Chairmen for the remaining 30 percent," West said.

He is also working on a bill, initially sponsored in 2017, regarding paternity fraud.

That bill passed the House 94-0, but was not heard in the Senate.

"Last year I really began to dig into prison reform and was able to pass HB 2881, which expanded our drug court system," West said. "We spend over $20,000 dollars a year per person to keep people in jail but it costs around $5,000 for an individual to go through our drug court.

"This allows the individual to still work, be with their family and attain their GED all while saving the state tax dollars."

West also ran SB 85, changing the state's Pardon and Parole Board.

"This bill mandated that two out of the five members substance abuse providers or mental health providers," West said. "Currently, over 50 percent of males and 70 percent of females in prison are diagnosed with a mental health disorder and 85 percent of all people in prison have substance abuse problems. This has the potential to save the state millions of dollars in the long run. "

• Ed Trumbull

An educator and current mayor for the City of Grove, Trumbull said he is running for office, not for himself, but rather for the people of Oklahoma.

"Over the past 10 years I have watched as Oklahoma has been taken down the wrong path," Trumbull said. "I want to ensure that my grandchildren and others have a high quality of life and don’t need to leave our state."

Trumbull said he does not see himself as a candidate or politician, but instead, as a public servant.

"As a career teacher, city councilman, and now mayor I have had the honor to help make a positive impact on our community and hope to continue to serve on a larger level," Trumbull said.

If elected, he plans to make education his key issue at the state level.

"I want education to truly be a priority and not just be paid lip service," Trumbull said. "When we but education first it becomes a catalyst in addressing so many of the negative issues impacting our state. The state budget needs to be addressed to support vital state services."

Trumbull has worked as an educator for 31 years, with a majority of his career at Grove Public Schools.

Trumbull and his wife, Kelly, have four children: Bradon Richardson, Brooke Bullard and her husband, Tyler, and the late Bryan Richardson and Sarah Trumbull; and two grandchildren: Brynlee and Tripp Bullard

He believes the person filling the seat for district 5 needs to know the issues that have a daily impact on his/her constituents.

"The public has a negative outlook on the job the state legislators have been doing," Trumbull said. "I hope to change this by being part of a republic that actually does its job."

If elected, Trumbull said he will strive to help his constituents be heard in Oklahoma City.

"There are too many people that feel as though their voices have not been heard in the past," Trumbull said. "I want to make sure all voices are heard."

Ultimately, Trumbull said, he believes running for office is a way he can continue to insure prosperity and quality of life for those within his district.

"I will have to quit pursuing my passion of teaching, but I will have the opportunity to serve at a level that will have an impact on a greater number of people," Trumbull said.

He believes whoever fills the role of representative for the district will need to be "truly caring about all constituents and have the ability to work with a wide variety of people."

What do you think the most important skill is to be the reprsentatives

The Issues

Trumbull believes three of the main issues facing the incoming legislature on Jan. 1, 2019, will be education, the state's budget and rural healthcare.

He said making "responsible budgeting a priority" will be key to solving those issue.

He said he will strive to make changes within the budget, primarily "not playing a shell game with the taxpayer’s money."

Trumbull said if elected he will work on legislation designed to reverse the Gross Production Incentive and returning the GPT to 7 percent.