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Lawmaker Announces Bid For State Senate

Lawmaker Announces Bid For State Senate

By Mary L. Crider


Thursday, June 4, 2009 10:29 AM CDT
SALLISAW - Oklahoma state Rep. Neil Brannon said if he is elected to the state Senate in 2010, he'll continue to work on unresolved issues, including veterans, education, health care and infrastructure issues.

Speaking to about 30 people at the Western Sizzlin' Steak House in Sallisaw, Brannon, D-Arkoma, announced his intention Wednesday to seek Sen. Kenneth Corn's open seat in the 2010 election. In January, Corn, D-Poteau, announced he'll be running for lieutenant governor, the state's No. 2 position.

Brannon, 68, is the first candidate to announce for the open District 4 seat. Senate District 4 encompasses LeFlore and Sequoyah counties. Brannon currently represents House District 3.

District 2 state Rep. Glen Bud Smithson, D-Sallisaw, introduced Brannon, his seatmate at the Capitol, as "our next senator."

Both men were first elected to the House in 2002. Oklahoma statute limits its state legislators to 12 years total service, House and Senate service combined.

"Neil Brannon has a bucketful of common sense," Smithson said.

Brannon said county residents would see a lot of him during his campaign, and if he wins, his commitment is that they'll continue to see a lot of him in the district.

He's running for the Senate because people like Roger Sharp, Muldrow school superintendent and former Carl Albert State College Sallisaw campus director, asked him to run, Brannon said.

Brannon said he's concerned that public education seems to be under attack in recent years. In this past legislative session, he said, he helped defeat a voucher bill.

Brannon said he also fought Senate Bill 834, which would have removed a lot of mandates, some of which should be removed, but it would also have dropped student graduation requirements and teacher certification requirement and left meeting federal No Child Left Behind requirements in local hands. It seemed to him to be a back door to shift funding responsibility to the local level, Brannon said.

SB 834 passed both houses, but was vetoed by the governor last month.

Brannon said he'll continue to work to protect the viability of rural school districts. Rather than restructuring or consolidating the rural districts, Brannon suggested restructuring the large Oklahoma City districts "to make them more manageable."

Brannon said the state also needs to make higher education more affordable for students.

Brannon is a retired LeFlore County educator. He said he spent 40 years in education, 25 as a school administrator and the last 17 as Arkoma school superintendent.

Brannon graduated from Fanshawe High School, attended Eastern Oklahoma State College and holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Northeastern State University. He attended Colorado State University, Oklahoma University and holds principal's and superintendent's certificates from Oklahoma State University.

He taught math and coached girls' basketball and softball at Fanshawe High School, served as administrator at Panama and Talihina schools and also served as Pocola superintendent.

During his academic career, he received the Outstanding Service Award from the Oklahoma Schools Advisory Council, was chosen five times as District Administrator of the Year for District 18 of the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators. He's received the associations Lifetime Achievement Award, served on its executive committee for seven years and on the State Superintendents Council for six years.

Although Oklahoma ranks near the top in helping its veterans, the state needs to do more, particularly for disabled veterans, Brannon said. Brannon said he has a younger brother who was wounded in Vietnam and who is still having problems as a result.

"I wasn't happy with the cut imposed by the state on Veterans Affairs this year," Brannon said.

Health care affordability continues to be an important issue, he said.

And, Brannon said, he'll continue to work to improve roads and bridges.

Brannon and his wife Gail Brannon have a daughter, Launa Kay Benson of Poteau and two granddaughters. The family attends Community of Christ Church.

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