By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
A friend and fund raising event was recently held for Oklahoma House District 88 candidate Paula Sophia at the District House Coffee Shop in the Plaza District.
The hosts included Oklahoma City Council Members Ed Shadid and Pete White, progressive philanthropist Bob Lemon, and his daughter Robyn Lemon Sellers and attorneys Pete Schaeffer, Mark Henricksen and Richard Ogden.
State Senator Al McAffrey, a candidate for US Congress, was present as well as City Council members John Pettis and Meg Salyer.
The band “Thirteen Seeds”and renowned local poet Lauren Zuniga entertained the supportive audience.
A former Deacon of the Episcopal Church, a 22-year Oklahoma City beat cop and veteran of Operation Desert Storm, Sophia is also a writer and poet. She read three selections that reflected her life as a veteran, a police officer and a pastor.
Sophia has been endorsed by The City Sentinel, the Red Dirt Report, and Okie Funk author, Kurt Hochenauer.
Several organizations including Emily’s List, Sally’s List and the Victory Fund & Institute in Washington D.C. have expressed their support for Sophia. Former HD 88 opponent Mark Faulk is now campaigning for her.
“Paula Sophia’s experience as a police officer in Oklahoma City provides her with a unique perspective on the issues facing District 88,”said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO at the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. “It is crucial that her community has an advocate that represents them authentically in the State House.”
Sophia said, “More folks are seeing every day that this campaign is about lifting all voices in HD 88. The momentum is building for us to send a message to corporate interests that want to silence the progressive values of our district.
“My candidacy has continually been underestimated. People didn’t think that I had a chance, but I’ve made the run-off.”
Jed Green, field manager for Sophia’s campaign, announced that they had identified enough voters in the district to win the Aug. 26th runoff election.
Sophia will face Jason Dunnington in the runoff to determine the winner who will claim the HD 88 seat. There is no Republican candidate in the securely progressive house district.
Paula made history as the first openly transgender police officer in Oklahoma City history. “I’m just me. I’m part of the diversity of District 88,”she said.
Councilman Shadid said, “There are 700,000 transgenders in America and we have never had a transgender elected. That matters to me and that would be historical.”
Sophia said the question has been raised whether or not she can get anything done as a legislator.
Sophia said, “I faced that question before as a police officer. I faced it for 14 years and I retired with honor. The Chief came to my retirement reception and said that I was a high caliber officer and that he was proud to have had me as a police officer in Oklahoma City.
“I’ve been called to public service my whole life. One thing I learned how to do is listen, to understand, and build common ground with people that don’t always agree with my ideals.”
Paula and her wife, Pam, live in The Paseo district. Paula has two children, David (23) and Joanna (16).
“I have over two decades invested in this area. I know the district really well.”
Sophia says she wants to become a legislative voice for social justice and for the downtrodden. Her key issues are criminal injustice, education and a living wage.
Sophia’s plan to address Oklahoma’s prison problems is three fold: Put an end to for-profit prisons, treat addiction as a public health issue, and decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Shadid said, “It would be nice if we had one true progressive voice who is not looking for the next political seat, or advancement, but would speak for the disenfranchised – would challenge the legality when the legislature goes too far; would not walk out on votes on same sex marriage, but would fight and be strong. Paula is that voice.”
Sophia said. “I want to serve Oklahoma and be a positive voice and not just a novelty candidate.”
Access Paula Sophia’s campaign and upcoming events at paulasophiahd88.com.