Candidate Profile: Chris Powell, Libertarian for Governor

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Oklahoma Watch will update this profile throughout the campaign.
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Why he’s running
“In my experiences with education, military service, and both public and private sector employment, I learned firsthand how government fails to prioritize the rights of the people that it is intended to serve. Since joining the Libertarian Party in 2000 I have worked to limit the power of politics and thereby increase individual freedom. No other Libertarian is as experienced and prepared to take on the establishment party candidates. I am ready to take Oklahoma in a new direction towards liberty.”

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Strategy
Powell aims to appeal to the same anti-establishment undercurrent that helped elect Donald Trump and propelled Bernie Sanders to a win in Oklahoma’s 2016 Democratic presidential primary. Powell will rely on dissatisfied voters who are tired of the state’s binary elections and are interested in exploring the effect of a real third party. To win, he will likely need to convince mainstream conservative voters that his vision of small government doesn’t go too far. Powell also will need to distinguish himself from  Libertarian Party runoff opponent Rex Lawhorn, then secure more funding to contend in the general election.

The basics
Age: 46
Race: White
Where he lives: Bethany
Family status: Married to Amy; they have three children.

Amy and Chris Powell

Email: okcspowell@gmail.com
Education:
Choctaw High School, graduated 1989
Attended Rose State College and Oklahoma City Community College.
Occupation:
Oklahoma City Police Department, 2009-present (911 dispatcher, evidence management unit)
Family Service Counselor, 2007-2009 (Memorial Park Cemetery and Funeral Home)
Sales manager, 2003-2007
U.S. Marine Corps, 1989-1995 (served in first Gulf War 1990-1991)
Family history: Grew up in Choctaw. His father was a truck driver; his mother was a bookkeeper.

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

Stances on issues
Education: Powell supports more localized and deregulated education, saying on his campaign website, “The best people to make decisions on the education of a child are teachers and parents who actually know that individual child.” He believes schools are overstaffed because of federal and state mandates and wants to see teachers paid more, although he doesn’t think increasing teacher pay alone is the solution to poor academic achievement. He would like to see the state Legislature and Congress “allow teachers to run their classrooms and practice their craft,” he told The Oklahoman.
Taxes: Powell is in favor of decreasing tax credits and incentives and consolidating or eliminating certain state agencies to save money. Powell believes if the state were to better prioritize its spending – particularly by eliminating tax deductions and incentives – then tax increases such as a  gross production tax hike would have been more acceptable. Powell is skeptical of income and corporate taxes, preferring consumption taxes because people have control over whether to engage in taxable behaviors. Powell favors eliminating tax increment finance districts and taxing wind and oil and gas at the same rate.
Criminal justice: Powell views criminal justice reform as a priority and as a fiscal and fairness issue. He said the state’s prison population should consist only of “burglars, rapists and those who are harming others.” In November, he told the Red Dirt Report that he would work to reevaluate criminal justice priorities and sentencing guidelines. He supports  alternative treatment options for those with drug addiction and mental illness.
Economy: Powell supports eliminating licensing and certification requirements for a number of occupations and would cut regulations on businesses.
Health and social welfare: Powell backed the state question on medical marijuana. He is opposed to outlawing abortion, saying unsafe, “back alley” abortions would be performed in response to a statewide ban. He believes the federal government lacks the authority to ban abortion nationwide, and the issue should be left to individual states. However, Powell wouldn’t oppose state-level restrictions that lead to a states’ rights-focused court challenge of Roe v. Wade. He opposes expanding Medicaid.

Quick Q&A
What do you like and dislike in terms of funding government?
(University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma)

The debate
Supporters say:
Powell is a proven Libertarian leader who espouses its principles of individual liberty and responsible government in a level-headed way, making him the best choice to appeal to a range of voters. His priorities align with the state’s biggest issues – ones that established parties have failed to resolve: criminal justice reform, education and “prioritizing our spending in a way that makes sense,” he told KOCO News5.
Critics say:
Powell’s approach is rooted in a philosophy that most Oklahomans consider too extreme. His simplistic view of “big government” means he will regard most investments in education, economic development and health care with skepticism, impeding the state’s progress.

Accomplishments
Former state Libertarian Party chair; U.S. Marine Corps veteran of the first Gulf War.

Key political moments
Powell ran for Oklahoma County clerk on the Libertarian Party ticket in 2016 and got more than 89,000 votes, making him the party’s most successful candidate to date.

Donors
(Jan. 1, 2017-Oct. 29, 2018)
Top political action committee donors to campaign (donations over $5,000)
None.
Top Donors: Chris Rufer, $2,000 Chris Powell, $1,667.
Number of individual donors giving maximum $5,400 donation (state individual donor limit is $2,700 per election): 0.
Number of donors giving at least $2,000: 1.
Independent expenditure groups supporting candidate:
None.

Religion
Raised by his parents in the Nazarene church, Powell describes himself a Christian without a permanent church home.
“Over the years I’ve had different jobs with shift work, and have gotten out of attending church terribly regularly,” he said. “There are a number of different churches where I’ve gone to services over the years, usually Nazarene, but also Baptist. We’ve even attended Unitarian services from time to time.”
Powell sees faith as a private matter that should not interfere with public policy or governing in any manner. “As far as any specific policy decisions being decided by faith, that’s not really how government should operate. Government is supposed to serve all of the people, regardless of faith.”

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