U.S. Army Veteran, William Leonard, 29, of Miami, has formally announced his intention to run for office as a Republican Party candidate.

MIAMI – With the Oklahoma House of Representatives District 7 seat’s next general election set for Nov. 6 of this year, potential candidates are making announcements.

U.S. Army Veteran, William Leonard, 29, of Miami, has formally announced his intention to run for office as a Republican Party candidate. He says Oklahoma’s current budgeting problems brought him into politics. Leonard takes a practical look at issues from a working-class viewpoint.

“It got me started digging and the more I started digging the more I started seeing that the people who have a voice aren’t’ using it. They’re choosing to not vote or put their own personal opinions ahead of what the opinions of their constituents are,” Leonard said. “I’ve always had an interest in government not necessarily the political game but the actual government happenings. I was affected by it when I was in the Army.”

Leonard currently works as Buffalo Run Casino Host. He is a graduate of Claremore High School. Leonard is single and has a two-year-old daughter and has been living in Miami for the past two years.

“I was in the Army for four years. I’ve traveled around. I worked in Afghanistan, Egypt, Israel, Washington state and the long roundabout way brought me here through a series of fortunate happenings,” Leonard said. “I worked on helicopters, and was a crew chief on Blackhawks.”

Leonard enlisted in 2005 and finished Basic Training in 2006.

“President Obama was elected shortly after I went into the Army and I remember Congress having budgeting issue sat that point and we were being told our paychecks may not be in on time and things like that, and that’s actually what kind of got me started paying attention to it.”

Leonard said he never thought he’d be running for office, but all that’s happening especially in the state of Oklahoma he felt compelled to act.

“It just really feels like people aren’t being represented in the way that they should be,” he said. “I was raised that if nobody else is dealing with a problem, so why aren’t you? My goal is not to get in and stay in, my goal is to get in there and make a ripple, make a change and so show people what’s possible whenever we can actually work together, and return to a better Oklahoma.”

The young Republican said his upbringing enables him to work and reach out across party lines.

“I was raised in a split house, my dad was a Democrat, my Mom’s Republican…Christmas was always fun,” Leonard said with a laugh. “I look at that as kind of a benefit, I was raised to where I can see both sides of it.”

Leonard expounded upon his campaign platform and he feels loosening the economy through tax cuts is key.

"Number one I would like to see taxes lowered. It’s a well-known fact that economies thrive when taxes aren’t through the roof. Here in this county alone our taxes, on sales tax, are 9.2 percent. Most dead economies are over 8 percent. I would love to see it down to 6 or 7 percent. I don’t think a two percent drop is that high of a goal to reach.”

Leonard said as representative he would work with the community to recruit and entice companies for economic development in this district.

“I don’t believe in huge tax cuts for corporations, I believe there’s a fair way of doing it but at the same time, I don’t believe in overtaxing the middle class either. There’s a fair way to collect taxes across the board," he said.

With the state’s budget forefront in Leonard’s concerns, he feels a mass audit would uncover funds and enable the state.

Education is an important issue and Leonard feels huge appropriations can’t be made with huge holes in the budget. He said education is key in many issues facing Oklahomans.

“Education is something that’s very near and dear, I have a two-year-old and she will be starting school in the next two to three years. I know here locally Quapaw has been making budget cuts, Commerce has made budget cuts, Miami has made budget cuts, none of the teachers are getting paid what they're worth…I don’t believe superintendents should be making five and six times what the average teachers are,” Leonard said. “Superintendents need to be looking out for theirs, they need to be going to Oklahoma City and raising some questions. We need a mass audit of the entire system.”

He said Oklahomans need to know where the money is going, how it’s being spent.

Cuts to the Department of Human Services and better prioritization are issues he wants addressed.

“We’re going to cut that funding, but yet we’re going to feed into a turnpike for faster roads, and faster travel. I would much rather know that six-year-old little girl is safe and how can I know that if a DHS worker isn’t available to go and do a home check,” Leonard said.

As an unknown in local politics, Leonard says he offers a new opportunity to affect positive change and asks voters to look at his life experiences as his strengths and ability to understand issues facing many Oklahomans.

“Right now Oklahoma City seems to be overrun with people who are career politicians, just like Congress, just like the Senate, it’s either how they look at it as a birthright, or the ‘good ole boy’ system, and anywhere that you look in the country, ‘good ole boy’ systems do not work. That’s how we end up in the problems that we’re in… Money is driving politics. I come from nothing,” he said.

His aim is to create real plans to boost the economy, face the war on drugs, deal with crime rates, and new issues arising while vowing his voice and votes will reflect the constituency he serves.

“What we’re doing is not working,” Leonard said. “And it’s time that we start re-filling the pot a little bit, you know, getting out a little of the old that isn’t working and bringing in the new. Say that it doesn’t work out, say that one person isn’t able to change it, but they can at least create a ripple. We’re letting Oklahoma know we’re tired of it and we’re going to start making changes. I want to build a better state. That is the basis of my campaign, I am representing the people. My entire campaign is being run on, your state, your voice.”

Leonard is in the process of setting up his campaign website and is available on Facebook.

Leonard said he has met and verified all candidacy requirements with the Oklahoma State Board of Election and the local board.

Oklahoma House of Representatives District 7

The incumbent, Ok. State District 7 Representative Ben Loring, a Democrat, said his intentions are to file as a candidate for the next term.

Loring is currently serving his first term. He won the seat in 2016 with 7,128 votes against his Republican opponent Hoguen Apperson’s 5,505 votes.

Oklahoma State Representatives are subject to two-year terms and term limits of no more than 12 years in the Oklahoma State Legislature. The filing period for candidacy for Oklahoma House of Representatives District 7 seat is April 11,12, 1nd 13 and declarations of candidacy must be filed with the Secretary of the State Election Board in Oklahoma City.

The primary election is on June 26, runoff primary election is Aug. 28 and the general election is Nov. 6.

District 7 consists of Ottawa and Delaware counties and is one of 101 House of Representative districts in Oklahoma.

Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at mstotts@miaminewsrecord.com or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.