By James Beaty
The District 7 state Senate race pits two candidates vying to fill the seat which will be left empty when current Democratic state Sen. Richard Lerblance, of Hartshorne, finishes his current term this year.
The race pits Republican candidate Larry Boggs, of Red Oak, against Democrat J. Paul Lane, of McAlester, with both seeking the four-year term of office in Senate District 7. Lerblance, who would have had to step down from the office in two years because of term limits, decided not to seek re-election to the post.
Lane won the Democratic primary in June, defeating fellow Democrat Roger Shirley, of Indianola, to advance to Tuesday’s General Election.
Boggs, the only Republican to file for the post, automatically moved to Tuesday’s General Election since he didn’t have a GOP opponent this summer.
Both candidates have served with the U.S. Air Force.
Lane believes one of the main issues in the election is who will be the best candidate to fill the post.
“The bottom line is serving the people,” he said.
Lane believes he’s qualified to hold the Senate seat because “I’ve spent my life pretty much in service.”
Boggs currently owns and operates the Abbott Ranch, between Wilburton and Red Oak.
He said areas in which he’s concerned include water, land, small business and education.
“As a small business owner, I recognize the critical importance of saving existing businesses and bringing new business to rural Oklahoma which will provide future jobs for our children and grandchildren,” Boggs said.
Lane, after attending the U.S. Air Force Academy, spent his military career in the Air Force.
Many of those years were spent flying on Air Force 2, designated for the nation’s vice presidents. Lane said he often flew with George H. Bush, Dan Quayle and Al Gore when they held the vice president’s office.
During those years, he performed a number of tasks, including gathering information and making decisions, Lane said. Many times, his commander asked him to represent the Air Force, including during meetings with defense contractors, he said.
Lane is a 1970 McAlester High School graduate. After attending the Air Force Academy and serving in the military for 28 years, he retired as a lieutenant colonel.
He’s currently teaching history at Puterbaugh Middle School.
Asked earlier in the campaign what he’s been hearing about from voters, Lane said, “Government services and education is number one, with water right behind it.”
Lane said he will work toward bettering the economic situation in southeastern Oklahoma and trying to create jobs.
Referring to water, Lane said his position “is trying to protect it. Once you grant water rights to somebody else, they really don’t have concerns about your needs.”
The issue concerns whether water from southeastern Oklahoma — primarily from Sardis Lake and the Kiamichi River Basin — should be piped to either Texas or Oklahoma City.
Lane said he’s thankful to the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations for stepping forward and trying to protect water rights for southeastern Oklahoma through the courts.
“They stepped forward when we didn’t have any organized representation,” Lane said. “The primary interests that had been represented were Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.
“On the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, we don’t have anybody at the table,” Lane said, referring to the fact that no one from southeastern Oklahoma is serving on the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.
“We all want to have our voices heard,” Lane said. “The whole point is to have somebody speak to our concerns.
He believes his record indicates he would serve the people well as state senator.
“Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve been considered reliable and trustworthy,” said Lane.
Regarding water issues, Boggs said earlier this year he’s one of those who has long worked to prevent selling Sardis Lake water to outside interests.
“I’ve been in on that fight since the beginning,” Boggs said. He said his grandfather had owned land in “the Narrows” in the Sardis Lake area, so he’s well aware of the issues regarding the lake.
“As a rancher, I understand the importance of our rural natural resources,” Boggs said. “I will work to protect the water and land we rely on. Losing these resources would threaten our way of life and that’s something we cannot support.”
Speaking on education, Boggs said, “We need to keep control in local school boards.
“I am a grandparent and understand that what works for Oklahoma City and Tulsa schools does not necessarily fit the needs of rural southeastern Oklahoma’s children.”
Boggs said he’s been active in a number of areas. He’s served on several boards, including the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau state board of directors as the District 5 representative, and on his local emergency management services board.
“I am not a politician, but an average citizen who will be a strong voice for our rural conservative values,” Boggs said.
“I work hard and I will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of my friends, neighbors and the people of District 7. You can count on me to be an advocate for southeastern Oklahoma.”
Boggs is a 1964 Wilburton High School graduate. He said he also attended Eastern Oklahoma State College and East Central University.
After military service in the U.S. Air Force, he spent years working as a general contractor before turning to managing his ranch full time.
As with other Senate and House districts across the state, Senate District 7 has been redrawn in the aftermath of the 2010 Census. It includes all of Pittsburg, Latimer and Haskell counties, part of Hughes County and a portion of Okfuskee County.