McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

February 22, 2014

Condit says he's ready to stand again for District 18

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — State Rep. Donnie Condit, D-McAlester, says he wants to return to the state for a third term as the District 18 state representative.

“I want to let the constituents know I am excited and ready to go and work for the citizens of District 18 and the state of Oklahoma,” Condit said.

Condit currently serves on the Public Safety and Appropriations and Budget Committee as well as the Common Education and General Government committees.

“I’m vice-chair of the Senior Services and Long-term Care Committee,” Condit said.

He said there aren’t many Democrats currently serving as vice-chair of House committees at the current time. Both the state House and Senate are Republican-dominated.

So how did Condit obtain the vice-chair position on the Senior Services and Long-term Care Committee?

“I asked — and I have a good working relationship with the majority party,” he said.

Condit said one of the main areas on which he plans to concentrate during the current legislative  session concerns the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. His district includes Oklahoma State Penitentiary and the Jackie Brannon Correctional Center in McAlester

In addition, the Mack Alford Correctional Center in Stringtown is only a few miles from the District 18  boundaries, as is a private prison in Holdenville, Condit said.

“There are a lot of challenges within the DOC,” Condit said.  “The last figure I had, OSP was staffed at about 68 percent.”

That means the maximum-security prison in McAlester is operating with 32 percent less — virtually one-third — fewer personnel than needed.

“They are woefully underpaid,” Condit said.

The state representative said he will continue to stand for what he believes are the best interests of the employees and the state as a whole.

“We are continually fighting the use of private prisons,” Condit said. “We firmly believe the state can run a prison system more efficiently than a private prison can.”

Condit said he’s also concerned about what he considers the low pay of state employees in general, including teachers.

“I have another major concern in public education,” Condit said.

“I see charter schools and vouchers taking money away from public education and we’re not increasing the money,” Condit said, referring to money he thinks the state legislature should allocate to public schools to replace the money sent to charter schools and vouchers.

For example, when 2009 is compared to today, public schools in Oklahoma get $200 million less annually, Condit said

However, there are now more than 27,000 more students  in Oklahoma public schools today than in 2009, he said.

“If funding levels today were what they were in 2009, McAlester would get $130 more per student, he said.

 That would have meant $550,000 more in the school’s budget, said Condit.

Another area of concern is the condition of the infrastructure in the area, especially county roads, Condit said.

He also spoke of another challenge, which he said he fights all the time.

At the time of the 2000 Census, 52 percent of the state’s population lived in rural areas, and the remaining 48 percent lived in urban areas.

“In 2010, that flipped,” said Condit. “We now have 52 percent in metropolitan areas and 48 percent in rural areas.”

“Slowly and slowly, we’re getting less representation,” he said, referring to representation for rural areas.

House District 18 covers a wide territory, including parts of McAlester and Pittsburg County, mostly on the western side. Pittsburg County towns or communities in District 18 also include Ashland, Canadian, Crowder, Indianola, Kiowa and Savanna.

In addition, District 18 covers portions of McIntosh County, including parts of Eufaula, and well as Stidham and Hanna.

It also includes much of Hughes County, including Stuart,  Atwood, Calvin, Lamar and the east side of Allen.

To the south, the district covers all of Coal County, including Coalgate and Tupelo.

“My district overlaps into four state Senate districts,” Condit said.

District 18 covers all three area codes in use in Oklahoma, but it has no new car dealership, no Walmart and no Indian casinos, he said.

Before winning election to the state House, Condit served as the Ward 2 McAlester city Councilor for more than five years.

He also served as a teacher and administrator for more than 30 years at McAlester Public Schools before retiring.

Condit and his wife, Karen, who is also a retired educator, have three children.

The primary election for political parties to nominate their candidates for the state house seats is June 24. If there are candidates from more than one political party following the June primary, the primary winners will then face each other in a Nov. 4 general election.

Condit and his wife, Karen, who is also a retired educator, have three children.

Some people have a misconception that state representatives go the state Capitol only to pass or vote on bills, Condit said He does that, but he also likes to offer a more personal service.

“I like helping people,” Condit said.

He pointed to the recent renaming of a section of State Highway 113 in honor of the Indianola Warriors at Indianola Public Schools. He said he presented the legislation at the request of Indianola students, who had been told by an instructor, Ron Sullivan, that they could contact their state representative to get things done.

“I consider myself a liaison between the citizen and the state,” Condit said. “Many times, a phone call from my office can cut through red tape.”

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.