Oklahoma House hires former speaker T.W. Shannon to aid in redistricting

The Oklahoma House has hired a former Republican speaker to help with the upcoming redistricting process.

House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, announced Monday the hiring of former Speaker T.W. Shannon to serve as the chamber’s public liaison on redistricting.

Shannon will help solicit public input on how House legislative districts should look for the next decade and build bridges between the public and legislators throughout the redistricting process that occurs following the U.S. Census. He also will serve as a spokesman to the public and media outlets, according to a news release.

“T.W. Shannon is an incredibly effective communicator whose diversity and deep understanding of all of Oklahoma will strongly benefit the House’s public-focused redistricting process,” McCall said.

Shannon will be paid $6,250 per month on a month-to-month contract, said a spokesman for McCall. He will report to the House Redistricting Committee and eight regional subcommittees on which all 101 House members will serve.

Senate leadership also hired outside help to aid in the redistricting process. Keith Beall, who was chief of staff to former Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, will serve as Senate redistricting director. He will be paid $105,000, according to the Tulsa World.

The House has established a redistricting process that will allow all Oklahomans to be heard while producing proper leadership for the state, Shannon said.

“House seats belong to the public, and it is an honor to help the public bring their vision for their representation to the table in the critical constitutional process of redistricting,” he said.

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White House task force says Oklahoma 5th in new virus cases

Updated


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma had the fifth-highest rate of newly reported coronavirus cases in the U.S. last week and the White House Coronavirus Task Force is again recommending a statewide mask mandate, according to a report released Wednesday by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The state had 142 new virus cases per 100,000 residents, compared to a national average of 72 per 100,000, according to the task force report, which is dated Sunday.


The number of new cases declined slightly from the task force’s report last week, when Oklahoma was seeing 146 per 100,000 people and had the ninth-highest rate of new cases. After recommending a statewide mask requirement, the task force last week recommended that they only be required in urban areas and in counties where students and teachers had tested positive for the virus.



“Establish statewide mask mandate. COVID-19 is being brought into nursing homes through community transmission. Review and improve infection control practices at nursing homes to stop the introduction of COVID-19. Arkansas is a great example in the Heartland where statewide transmission has decreased through mask usage,” the report said.


Gov. Kevin Stitt has said repeatedly that he would not issue a statewide mandate and would instead rely on residents to adopt safe health practices that include wearing masks, socially distancing and frequently washing their hands.

The state health department on Wednesday reported 970 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 12 more deaths from the disease, raising

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Candidates race to win oil industry support in key Oklahoma House race

Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn and her Republican opponent, state Sen. Stephanie Bice, are racing to prove their devotion to Oklahoma City’s dominant, but wounded, oil and gas industry, in a one of the most fiercely fought House contests.



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The coronavirus pandemic forced people to stop driving and flying, stomping out demand for fuels and causing an oil price crash, pushing Horn to occupy an unusual position for Democrat in the final months before Election Day.

“I have spent a great deal of time as a Democrat in an energy state working to educate my colleagues on the importance of oil and gas,” Horn told the Washington Examiner in an interview.

Whether Horn can establish herself as an fossil fuel industry ally in the face of skeptical attacks from Bice and House Republican leaders will be a key factor in whether she can hang onto Oklahoma’s 5th district.

President Trump won the district by about 13 percentage points in 2016.

“I certainly think jobs and the economy are the big issue, and when you talk about Oklahoma, oil and gas are a big part of that,” Bice, 46, told the Washington Examiner in an interview.

Horn, 44, won a 2018 upset over incumbent Republican Rep. Steve Russell. She was among the “majority makers” that gave Democrats control of the House for the first time in eight years.

Election prognosticators Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball both rate the 2020 race a toss-up. Horn hopes to get a boost from a recent endorsement by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a rare break from the business group’s usual alliance with Republicans.

“The Chamber recognizes my sensible, thoughtful approach to policy, business, and job creation, and I am very proud of that recognition,” Horn said.

But GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy singled out the endorsement of Horn as proof that the Chamber had “sold out” Republicans, and accused her of supporting the liberal “Green New Deal” to tackle climate change. That’s a mischaracterization of Horn’s position (she did not sign on as a sponsor of the Green New Deal). But it’s representative of the attacks Horn will face being a part of a Democratic Party that with Joe Biden atop the ticket is proposing the most progressive climate agenda in history.

For her part, Bice notes business leaders in Oklahoma opposed the Chamber’s endorsement of Horn, with the state’s oil and gas industry accusing Horn of voting with Democrats most of the time on energy issues.

“Her voting record speaks volumes about her lack of support for the oil and gas industry,” Bice said. “She may have received the endorsement, but I don’t know if Oklahomans put weight in the endorsement from a D.C. group.”

Bice is not running as a diehard Trump devotee. In the primary, she didn’t mention him as frequently, seeking to appeal to moderate suburban women and even enduring attack ads from the conservative Club for Growth.

Trump got 54% of the vote

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