By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
Voters in House 94 will have two choices on election day.
Rep. Andy Fugate (D-Oklahoma City) is seeking a second term for the district that includes Del City and parts of south Oklahoma City. Republican Lauren Rodebush is the lone challenger in the race.
Fugate said he has helped improve civility in the House and increased bipartisan cooperation.
“I established healthy relationships with most of the members in both parties by discussing issues openly and in good faith,” he said. “Historically, debates over bills have been used to undermine the author or to grandstand. I spent most evenings studying legislation and began emailing authors questions in advance so they could prepare. Members who had been there for many years said they’d never had anyone do something like that.”
Because of the work Fugate put in to build relationships and trust, he was asked to serve on the Health Care Task Force last fall.
“We spent several months studying proposals to improve Oklahoma’s health outcomes,” he said. “Along the way, I had three bills passed through the House and co-authored dozens of other quality pieces of legislation. In the end, improving civility is really about making the government work better for the people.”
If re-elected to a second term, Fugate says he will focus on quality public education, mental health treatment and government effectiveness.
Fugate wants to provide excellent education for all students.
“I believe in great schools for all Oklahoma students, no matter which zip code they live in or how much money their family makes,” he said. “I have stood up against every attempt to divert funding from public education and will continue to do so.”
In the area of mental health treatment, Fugate says the state should use savings from past prison reforms to invest in mental health and substance abuse treatment.
“The state estimates we saved at least $120 million since those reforms,” he said. “We haven’t spent a penny of those savings on mental health or substance abuse treatment. That’s outrageous.”
Fugate says government can become more effective through building relationships, knowledge and experience.
“I spent over 30 years working as a volunteer at the Capitol with high school students, teaching them about our government, the current issues, and the processes used to make change,” Fugate said. “That’s why as a freshman I authored HJR 1030 to rewrite the calculations used for the Rainy Day Fund. I discussed this novel approach with the original creators of the Rainy Day Fund, retired Midwest City Senator Jim Howell and former Governor George Nigh. Both thought it was a great way to shore up our state’s finances and make the government more effective.”
Fugate says he’s received largely positive responses from voters whether its at a city council meeting or knocking on doors.
“I firmly believe it’s our responsibility to meet people where they are,” he said. “… I enjoy sharing with constituents what I have been working on and hearing about their hopes, their challenges, and especially their ideas. I’m a far more effective legislator because of those who I’ve met while knocking doors.”
Fugate believes he and his opponent may be more alike than different but has not seen published policies on Oklahoma issues. He said he agrees with Rodebush’s stance on healthcare reform but disagrees about the role of a legislator.
“The legislator role is not a leadership role,” he said. “At the Capitol, there are really just three leaders: the Governor, the Speaker, and the Senate Pro Tem. The rest of us are responsible for the hard work of governing, working each day to make choices about how government works and to study the impact of the changes we propose. Not every member is willing to do that. I am.”
Fugate is a Del City native. He and his wife Jamie have two children who attended Mid-Del Schools. Prior to his election, Fugate worked as the director of new media technology for the Oklahoman. He has also played an active role with several non-profit organizations over the years including the United Way, and Mid-Del Public Schools Foundation.
Rodebush said one her top priorities as a legislator would be healthcare reform, especially for skilled nursing facilities and home health as it relates to the rehabilitation department and therapy services.
She said COVID-19 is the biggest issue facing House 94 and the nation. It’s impacted everything from the economy to how people connect and communicate.
“Officers have faced increased resistance, maintaining relationships through Zoom and FaceTime,” Rodebush said. “People that are needing to go to see a specialist are having a harder time getting in. Kids are missing their friends and our elderly are more isolated than ever. It is important to find good in each day, despite the negative environment.”
Rodebush rejects the notion chaos, intolerance and violence have become the norm. She said she’s enjoyed meeting with residents this campaign season, including many who disagree with her views.
“I’ve learned that for the most part, regardless of party affiliation, people are willing to listen to what I have to say,” she said. “And even though we may not agree with one another, all my in-person conversations have been amicable even amongst disagreements.”
If elected, Rodebush says she will present detailed plans to improve rehab within nursing home and home health.
“Right now, services are being restricted due to various reasons, but there is no excuse for patients to miss more visits per week than they are seen,” she said.
Rodebush also said as a member of the majority party, she could provide more effective representation than Fugate.
“Right now, (Rep. Andy) Fugate is in a super minority, which means he cannot even block legislation with parliamentary procedures,” she said. “When spending decisions or any decision for that matter is being negotiated, the Republicans don’t have to or need to consult with Democrats in order to pass or defeat legislation. Therefore, having a Democrat as your representative means the district is not getting any new funding, road projects, infrastructure improvements, etc. that are funded by the state or a quasi-state entity.”
Fugate disagrees with the notion, saying healthy relationships between members of the House can lead to civility and bipartisan cooperation.
“It begins with healthy relationships and showing that you don’t oppose ideas just because they came from the other side,” he said. “Prior to my election, the legislature spent years focused more on finger-pointing than they did on trying to do what’s right for the people. The past two years have been completely different because many of us have worked diligently to make it different.
Rodebush moved to Del City in 2017, but her family has deep roots in the community. Her husband Jonathan’s great grandparents Norman and Betty Sanders moved there in 1953.
Lauren and Johnathan have two children and recently celebrated 11 years of marriage. Lauren graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s in health and exercise science, and from OCCC with professional degree as a physical therapist assistant. Johnathan earned an MBA from SNU and operates a small business.
Lauren works as a physical therapist assistant.