In sections of five counties in south central Oklahoma is Senate District 13. A small portion of the district is in southern Pottawatomie County, with communities like St. Louis, Asher, Tribbey and Wannette falling in the Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s tribal jurisdiction. Running to follow the seat of term-limited Senator Susan Paddack is Republican Greg McCortney and Democrat Eric Hall, both from Ada, Oklahoma. We asked each about their motivations for running and views on the issues facing the district and its members. Their responses have slightly edited for clarity.
Mr. McCortney was unable to provide answers to the questions in time, but did provide a statement.
McCortney: “As a member of the Ada City Council and former mayor, I have worked extensively with the Chickasaw Nation, and I feel confident in saying that the relationship between the city and the Chickasaw Nation is very good. I am a member of the Choctaw Nation and understand the sovereignty of the tribes in Oklahoma. I believe that there is very good recent precedence showing that the state and the tribes can work well together to reach our mutual goals. I look forward to working with all of the tribal governments that are represented in Senate District 13 and hope we can move our state and our region forward.”
Why are you seeking this seat?
Hall: “As an educator in Oklahoma for over 10 years I have become increasingly concerned about the priorities of the Oklahoma legislature particularly in regards to budgeting. It is my opinion that we have shifted our priority away from serving the people of our state as a whole. I am seeking this seat to ensure that Senate District 13 has a senator who will put the concerns of the people of our district ahead of politics. We have been fortunate to have an outstanding senator during the last 12 years who absolutely listened to her constituents and had priorities in the right place, I hope to continue that good work and continue to be that voice.”
What is one specific issue you’ll focus on during this or the next legislative session that will be relevant to the people of House District 26?
Hall: “Our public sector employees which include educators, public heath, public safety and those working in building and maintaining the infrastructure for our citizens have suffered increasingly due to poor fiscal management from the leadership in our state. I will work to be a voice for our public and state employees in order prioritize our public responsibilities in the budgeting process.”
As a state legislator, what is your view on the role of tribes in Oklahoma as it pertains to state and local governments?
Hall: “It is very important that there are open lines of communication between tribal and state and local governments. Recently, as many of our public schools, rural water districts and municipalities have struggled to meet the needs of many of their students and residents, tribal governments have stepped in and generously assisted in funding school projects, funded road and bridge project, drilled new wells and have helped in many other areas. Tribal governments also help decrease healthcare costs in Oklahoma by providing healthcare to many citizens. In the past these relationships have been equitable to both the tribes and to the State of Oklahoma, and it is important that we continue to promote a positive relationship between all of the tribes and the state.”
What ideas do you have to improve communication and relationships between tribal governments and the State of Oklahoma?
Hall: “It is important that when discussing any legislation that impacts tribal governments all parties with an interest have a voice and a ‘seat at the table.’ When necessary mediation should be used to ensure each voice is heard and considered.”
What is your opinion on tribal-state compacts?
Hall: “Tribal-state compacts create business agreements between the state and tribal governments in regards to gaming. I am in full support of these compacts in Oklahoma, as it creates an equitable partnership between the state and tribal governments.”
What is your opinion on tribal sovereignty?
Hall: “I am in support of the right of tribes to govern themselves.”
Do you support allowing non-tribal gaming in Oklahoma?
Hall: “Compacts have been agreed upon in Oklahoma and it is important that the agreement continues to be honored, therefore I do not support non-tribal gaming in Oklahoma.”
Do you support allowing Internet gaming in Oklahoma?
Hall: “I do not support allowing Internet gaming in Oklahoma, as there is currently an agreement between the State of Oklahoma and the tribes regarding gaming and internet gaming would modify current agreements.”
Do you believe that tribes should collect and remit sales tax for sales to non-members to the State of Oklahoma? Why or why not?
Hall: “I do not believe it is the responsibility of tribes to collect sales tax for the State of Oklahoma.”
Who do you believe is the best method for dispute resolution between tribes and the state?
Hall: “When there is a dispute between tribes and the state I feel mediation is the best method. It is important that each party have an opportunity to be represented and feel as though their voice is represented in the resolution. The relationship between the State of Oklahoma and tribal governments is important and as a candidate for the legislature it is important to me that there continues to be a relationship built on mutual respect, equity, and communication between the State of Oklahoma and our tribal governments.”