Candidate Profile: Drew Edmondson, Democrat for Governor

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Oklahoma Watch will update this profile throughout the campaign.
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Why he’s running
On his campaign website, former state Attorney General Drew Edmondson writes that he is running because “the Oklahoma way is under attack” by big corporations and the wealthy who have put their interests first at the expense of most Oklahomans. “I’m running to take on Wall Street,  take on the powerful, take on our legislature, take on anyone – from either party – that isn’t putting the people of Oklahoma first. I’ve done it my whole life.” Edmondson said he wants to protect schools, health care, seniors, working people and children, and bring back good jobs that benefit communities.

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Strategy
Edmondson has struck a somewhat populist tone, at least in self-published statements. That should play well with most Democrats in the state and could tap into the frustrations of other groups that include many Republicans, such as teachers and women, as well as voters statewide who supported the throw-the-bums-out candidacy of Donald Trump. In some interviews, he is more centrist, saying he works across party lines. How much he tacks to the center going forward, and how an improving economy affects his chances, remain to be seen. Democratic turnout will be critical for him.

The basics
Age: 71
Race: White
Where he lives: Oklahoma City
Family status: Married to Linda Edmondson; they have two children.
Email: info@drewforoklahoma.com
Education:
Northeastern State University, 1964-1968. B.A. in speech education.
University of Tulsa School of Law, 1978 graduate
Occupation:
Private law practice, 2011-present
Oklahoma Attorney General, 1994-2011
Muskogee County District Attorney, 1982-1992
Muskogee County Assistant District Attorney, 1979-1982
Oklahoma State Representative, 1974-1976
U.S. Navy, 1968-1972
Family history: Edmondson comes from a storied Oklahoma political family. Drew Edmondson’s father, Ed, was a U.S. representative from Muskogee. Former Gov. J. Howard Edmondson was Drew Edmondson’s uncle. Current Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice James Edmondson is Drew Edmondson’s brother.

Where to learn more
>Campaign website
>Facebook campaign page
>Facebook personal page
>Twitter
>YouTube

Stances on issues
Education
Edmondson said he intends to restore all education funding lost from budget cuts and re-enforce provisions of House Bill 1017, a 1990 education reform bill passed and signed into law. On his campaign website, he says he would work to raise teacher salaries to the regional average, reduce administrative costs and put the money into classrooms. He also would increase higher education funding and make pre-kindergarten education more accessible across the state.
Taxes
He is an advocate for restoring the gross production tax (GPT) on all oil production to 7 percent and ending the capital gains tax exemption. If able to stabilize the state budget as a whole, Edmondson said he would support legislation to appropriate the funds generated from the gross production tax to a special capital investments fund. That fund would be used to pay for infrastructure improvements such as for roads and state facilities. He supports raising the tobacco tax from $1 per pack to $1.50. He would close corporate tax loopholes and expand deductions for the middle class and small businesses.
Criminal justice
During a forum in February, Edmondson said it is “immoral” to have monetary incentives tied to the prison system. During the announcement of his candidacy for governor in March 2017, Edmondson said voters made a “smart” decision in approving  State Question 780, a bill lowering some drug and property crime offenses to misdemeanors.
Economy
He said he would work to improve the image of Oklahoma nationally to aid in business recruitment. He would place a greater focus on rural areas and counties that have been neglected in economic development. He would staff the state Department of Commerce with experienced business people rather than political appointees. He would encourage innovation and entrepreneurship through greater use of public-private partnerships.
Health and social welfare
Edmondson has said he would work to expand Medicaid and provide wider health-care access to rural residents. He supported medical marijuana, saying additional tax revenue generated from legalization would benefit state government. He is a long-time pro-choice advocate. He would negotiate price increases with drugmakers and import drugs from Canada when necessary.

Endorsements
>Kim and Brad Henry
>George and Donna Nigh
>David and Rhonda Walters
>Mike and Susan Turpen
>Robert S. Kerr III
>David Boren
>Scott Inman
>AFL-CIO
>American Federation of Teachers
>The Tulsa World (for the primary)
>Edmond Democratic Women
>Kelli O’Hara

Quick Q&A
What would you do to attract larger companies to the state? (City of Enid)

The debate
Supporters say:
Edmondson would bring to the job significant experience and accomplishments as a political leader, with a focus on helping Oklahomans who are  in need and investing in areas, such as education, that benefit the entire state. He has a keen understanding of the biggest issues in both urban and rural Oklahoma and uses words skillfully to make his case. He would work to improve opportunities for women and minorities. He won’t kowtow to corporate interests.
Critics say:
Edmondson is more liberal than most Oklahomans and will try to raise taxes, especially on higher-income taxpayers,  and spend more money. That will meet  resistance from the Legislature. He could hurt the oil and gas industry by reducing incentives and attempting to raise the gross production tax. His support for expanding Medicaid would leave the state responsible for the escalating costs of a program that already covers one in five Oklahomans.

Accomplishments
In 1996, Edmondson, then attorney general, sued tobacco companies for $1 billion, which led to a settlement and eventual creation of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust. He also sued poultry companies in 2005, alleging their chicken farm runoff polluted northeastern Oklahoma lakes and the Illinois River. That lawsuit is still pending.

Key political moments
Edmondson ran for governor in 2010 but lost the Democratic nomination by a slim margin to Jari Askins. In the June 26, 2018, Democratic primary, he won with 61 percent of the vote.

Donors
(Jan. 1, 2017-Aug. 13, 2018)
Top donors to campaign
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers: $5,000.
Ironworkers PAC: $5,000.
Plumbers & Pipe Fitters Local 430: $5,000.
American Fidelity Corp.: $2,500.
AT&T: $2,500.
Coalition of Advocates for Responsible Eldercare: $2,500.
Number of individual donors giving maximum $5,400 per election (individual donor limit is $2,700 per election): 34
Number of donors giving at least $2,000: 337
Independent expenditure groups
None

Religion
Edmondson is a lifelong Christian who grew up attending the First Presbyterian Church in his hometown of Muskogee. As an adult, he would serve as a member, deacon and ordained elder at the congregation. Edmondson and his wife, Linda, are now members of the Mayflower Congregational Church, a United Church of Christ congregation in Oklahoma City.
When it comes to public policy, Edmondson said the teachings of Jesus can and should be used as a reference. “I describe myself as a “New Testament Democrat” who believes that the teachings of Jesus should guide our own lives and be reflected in our public policies,” he said.

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