Paula Sophia, a retired Oklahoma City police officer and a well-known local writer, is the clear choice for State Representative in the city’s diverse, artistic and progressive House District 88.
Sophia faces her opponent, Jason Dunnington, in an Aug. 26 Democratic runoff election that will determine the winner of the overall race since no Republican or Independent is running for the position.
Dunnington, by all accounts, is a sincere candidate and decent person, but he doesn’t offer as much as Sophia in terms of her work experience with people on the day-to-day neighborhood level and the deep manner in which she embraces and lives a life of diversity and tolerance. In his online campaign material, Dunnington describes himself as a former pastor, cites his time spent as a student at Southern Nazarene University in Bethany and points out his father is a SNU dean. I consider the Nazarene Church a right-wing religious institution opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage and, like most right-wing religious organizations, basically in favor of at least some forms or shades of theocracy. Surely, many HD 88 voters will be skeptical of someone who bases his appeal for support on his ultra intense right-wing religious background, something he calls his “great heritage.”
This is what Sophia, pictured right, will bring to the job: Intelligence, vast historical knowledge of Oklahoma City because of her award-winning police work in a 22-year career and the ability to serve the varied interests of her constituents in a district considered one of the most liberal in the state.
As a prose writer and poet, often seen wearing a signature beret, she will also bring style and difference to a staid legislature now dominated by ultra conservatives intent on denying people equal rights and underfunding education at all levels.
As someone who struggled with gender conflict as she eventually transitioned from a man to a woman, Sophia will bring empathy and understanding to those constituents in need of help for a variety of reasons or those constituents who don’t feel part of the conservative Oklahoma status quo or who define or want to define themselves outside of the rigid, cultural codes of heteronormativity.
Sophia, I should note, is a former graduate student of mine, and I know her, on one level, as an excellent creative writer, a novelist who brings her characters to life with precision and psychological realism in her book Shadowboxer. On another level, I know her as someone completely dedicated to her community as I’ve followed her life and career on social media and in the local press and through her own writing.
Along with her police career, Sophia is an Army veteran who served in Desert Storm. She has two children and lives with her wife, Pam, in the Paseo District of Oklahoma City.
She’s a perfect blend of artistic inspiration and the pragmatic. An inspired writer. A down-to-earth beat cop helping neighbors and fighting crime. She embodies what we might call the soul or spirit of HD 88, an eclectic area of Oklahoma City known for sending liberal, open-minded politicians to the statehouse.
As a State Representative, Sophia will undoubtedly be a progressive voice in the legislature in the tradition of Al McAffrey and Kay Floyd. Taking on the conservative majority can be frustrating and sometimes just incredibly boring, but Sophia has repeatedly shown she has the right stuff and long-term tenacity to fight for progressive values, such as adequate education funding and equal rights.
With large majorities in the House and Senate, Republicans run state government right now. The few progressive voices we do have at the legislature are often drowned out by all the conservative dogma and ideology. I believe Sophia has a better chance of getting heard in all the right-wing posturing. Her election would send a message of equality and tolerance in a way Dunnington’s election could never match. For that reason alone, and given the state legislature’s massive conservative majorities, she deserves the position, but it’s her superior qualifications that really make her the indisputable choice.
HD 88 voters should make an important political statement and keep their district a vibrant, thriving area of Oklahoma City by sending Paula Sophia to the state Capitol on Aug. 26.