(OKLAHOMA CITY) First-time politician Erin Brewer announced in August her candidacy as a Democrat for Oklahoma Senate District 47, which covers part of the northern Oklahoma City metro. The incumbent Greg Treat is term limited.
Brewer is a former small business owner and nonprofit fundraiser. She is also a board member of a statewide education advocacy organization, the Parents Legislative Action Committee.
She recently spoke with The Click about her candidacy as well as her passion for Oklahoma’s public schools and criminal justice reform.
The Click: What really pushed you and made you want to run for office after your years in advocacy?
Erin Brewer: I feel really compelled personally —that I have a responsibility to be a part of making our community better. And I feel like I’m in the time of my life when it makes sense when I have good experience to bring to the state capitol between the nonprofit and the for-profit, and my kids’ experience, my justice reform and the advocacy work. It just feels like it’s time to bring all of that together in kind of a different role.
What issues are you most passionate about?
I’m really passionate about public education. And I feel like, particularly with our new state superintendent, Ryan Walters, we are facing danger-level concerns. And we have seen his negative, incendiary rhetoric cause bomb threats and threats of personal violence against educators. And we see nothing from him that would be a plan to make our schools any better than they were when he took office.
What would you do to make public education better as a state senator?
I think the number one thing is we’ve got to have quality teachers in the classroom. There are many things we could do to bring teachers who are qualified back to our classrooms. I think it begins with positive rhetoric from state leaders. I think it’s that coupled with pay and benefits, and those are pretty simple. But the second factor is we’ve got to make sure we have a pipeline of young teachers that are graduating with education degrees and are trained.
You and your husband owned RedPin Bowling in OKC’s Bricktown Entertainment District for nine years, employing people transitioning out of the criminal justice system. Why did that become a priority for you as a business owner?
I profess to be a person who believes in grace and forgiveness. And here was an applicant standing in my doorway, saying, “I’m asking for your grace and forgiveness and for this opportunity for a second chance.” And so I had to put my faith in action. … I’m embarrassed that I had any hesitation at all. That should never have happened. And what we found is that the employees that we recruited from these halfway houses were probably our best employees.
Name three things you think are needed for a better future for Oklahoma.
We have to have great schools, period. I think that public schools equal the playing field. For so many kids, it is the place where they find a caring adult and a hot meal. And it is their opportunity to overcome some generational cyclical issues. Public schools benefit our economy.
We need to diversify our economy. We have an incredible energy sector in Oklahoma, and we should be proud of it, and we should make sure it flourishes. But we should also allow other industries to thrive, too. We can do all of that.
And then we just need to be supporting families. We need better access to health care. I think it’s crucial to our workforce. I think it’s crucial to people being willing to move here or stay here.
The Oklahoma State Senate primary election is June 18, 2024. Visit oklahoma.gov/elections for more information.