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A pastor, teacher, doctor and professor. It’s no joke; it’s the race for Oklahoma City’s Ward 2 council seat.

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A pastor, teacher, doctor and professor. It’s no joke; it’s the race for Oklahoma City’s Ward 2 council seat.

Councilman Ed Shadid — the doctor — is up for reelection after his first term and drew three challengers: John Riley, a teacher at Northwest Classen High School; James Cooper, a professor at Oklahoma City University; and Major Lewis Jemison, a pastor at St. John Missionary Baptist Church.

Shadid is one of Oklahoma City Council’s more visible members due to his minority stances on tax incentive votes and last year’s high-profile mayoral bid against incumbent Mick Cornett.

However, in this race, the Ward 2 councilman is the incumbent. In recent months, he has shown his political strength and the city council and candidates that he is ready for a March 3 election.

Last month, Shadid played a role in drawing attention to proposed oil drilling near Lake Hefner. The company pulled out following protests and public opposition. Shadid also was the lone council member to attempt to reverse a Downtown Design Review Committee vote to permit demolition of nine buildings.

“I feel like my work is about empowering people, the kind of people who don’t always feel like they have a voice,” Shadid told Oklahoma Gazette in an interview last month.

In a city in which large capital projects, tax incentives and a close relationship between the city and the business community has led to much urban redevelopment, Shadid is sometimes viewed as a contrarian.

It’s a role he embraces.

“I’m worried about the direction we are headed when we don’t stop and ask ourselves if we are handing out too much (incentives),” said Shadid, who has been critical of new TIF districts and the city’s potential involvement in funding a new convention center hotel.

Some of those looking to unseat Shadid attempt to paint him as a deterrent to progress.

“Where Ed lacks vision, I have one,” Cooper said. “Where he says ‘No, because,’ I say ‘Yes, if.’ He has created divisiveness and unnecessary conflict. I have a different approach.”

Cooper, an adjunct professor of English at the University of Central Oklahoma and Oklahoma City University, where he also teaches film studies, is openly gay and actively supports LGBT rights.

Shadid also has solid support from the LGBT community.

“I believe that my base is young people, LGBT folks, senior citizens, women, African-Americans, young professionals, all types of people,” Cooper said. “Maybe I’m being just too optimistic, but I think we are all invested in this city’s future, no matter the demographic.”

Like Cooper, Jemison accused Shadid of being divisive.

“During the past few years, we have seen a great deal of polarization and separation on the council where there should be teamwork and unity,” Jemison said. “I certainly understand that not everyone can agree on everything all of the time; but our disagreements should strengthen us, not hinder us.”

Last year, a telephone push poll conducted by Promark Research Corporation asked Ward 2 voters their opinion of Jemison and painted him as a pro-business candidate and Shadid as anti-business.

Riley teaches American history and coaches track at Northwest Classen High School. He also is a second lieutenant in the 45th Infantry Brigade of the Oklahoma Army National Guard and previously served in the United States Army.

“Public service has always been important to me as a public school teacher and as a member of our armed forces,” Riley said. “I consistently tell my students about the difference they can make in the community, and running for city council is a chance for me to lead by example.”

Ward 2’s southern boundary is NE 23rd Street, and the ward includes several uptown neighborhoods around Classen Boulevard and Western Avenue.

The election is March 3. If no candidate receives 50 percent or more of the March 3 vote total, the two highest vote recipients head for an April 7 runoff.

Other elections

Three other council wards are up for election in March. Ward 6 features incumbent Meg Salyer and challengers Bob Waldrop and Dario Alvarado. In Ward 8, Councilman Pat Ryan is not seeking reelection and three candidates — Mark Stonecipher, John Ederer and Steve Curry — have filed. In Ward 5, Councilman David Greenwell was the only candidate to file, which means he wins the reelection unopposed. Check back with Oklahoma Gazette for profiles of ward races.

Council seat

Oklahoma City council races are nonpartisan, meaning candidates are not divided by political party on the ballot. Each council member is paid $12,000 annually, and there are no term limits.

Voter registration deadline is Feb. 6 for the March 3 election.

Print headline: No joke, Ward 2’s election candidate roster is varied and colorful as the city council readies for the March 3 election.

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