The Edmond Sun
Cathy Cummings has always been interested in state government but rearing five children kept her out of the political arena.
“I’ve decided to throw my hat in the ring,” said Cummings, D-the Village.
Cummings hopes voters will choose her as their next lieutenant governor. She began considering running for office a couple of years ago when learning that more than 900 bills nationwide had been introduced against women, Cummings said.
“Trying to pinpoint just one — there’s too many,” she said.
Incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb has not made a formal announcement that he will seek reelection, according to his office.
“You finally get to that point where you are fed up. You feel you have to say something,” Cummings said. “I have three daughters and I am just not going to take this. I am going to get off my rear end and do something about it.”
A small business advocate, Cummings and her husband Sean have businesses next door to each other in Oklahoma City. Cathy owns Vitos Ristorante. Next door is the Sean Cummings’ Irish Pub.
Women make up only 12-13 percent of elected officials in Oklahoma, Cummings said.
“Why are not more women getting involved?” she continued. “I think it is a bullying kind of thing.”
Abortion is a hot topic, Cummings said. Her position as a Catholic mother is pro-life for her personally, she said. However, Cummings said she will defend another woman’s right to choose whether or not to have a child.
Three issues are the focus of her candidacy. She wants to increase tourism because it is the state’s third biggest money maker. The state’s education system is in dire need of reform, Cummings said.
Every child in Oklahoma deserves the right to education, but the current system is not fair for impoverished children, she said. The state’s grading system is flawed, she said.
“We’re giving these schools an A through F grade,” Cummings said. “But really if you’re in school, you might get an A for English, a B in social studies and an F or a D in science. So, how can you give one grade to a school?”
Some schools have more parents attending parent-teacher conferences, she said. Not all schools have school nurses and the same amount of counselors per student, she said.
“They are not on a level footing at all,” Cummings said. “Some of the more poor schools, the kids are hungry and cannot perform at a good level the way they should. Maybe their parents have to work the night of parent-teacher conferences.”
One out of four children in Oklahoma City don’t know where there next meal is coming from, she said.
Cummings went undercover as a lunch lady working at Taft Middle School in Oklahoma City. Taft is the test kitchen for Oklahoma City Public Schools. Students need a balanced diet to perform effectively, she said.
“The food was horrible — not all of it — but there were definitely things that needed to be improved,” she said. “They’re not actually cooking anything. They’re reheating frozen processed foods, a lot of starches.”
One way to help education is to increase the standard of living in rural communities, she said. A year ago she and her husband created the website, daytripok.com, to boost Oklahoma’s tourism. The Cummingses visited all 77 counties in the state of Oklahoma, highlighting points of interest for economic growth. In fact, Cummings plans to walk across Oklahoma to promote the state.
“I think there is so much that we have to offer that people don’t know about,” Cummings said. “Oklahoma is full of energy — 4 million smiles — that’s what we have to sell.”
Go to the Blackberry Festival in McLoud if you want to step into a Norman Rockwell painting, she said. The blackberries are so big they explode in your mouth, she said.
“And turtle races are just down home family friendly,” Cummings said. “I just think we have a lot of that to offer.”
The Rattlesnake Festival in Apache is another example of a family day trip that is affordable, she said.
Cummings likes hands-on involvement with Oklahomans. In November, she and her husband spent a month living on minimum wage salaries of $7.25 an hour. She worked the equivalent of a $7.25 an hour job at an Oklahoma City grocery store.
Working minimum wage had them choosing between food, prescriptions, utilities and other basic needs. Sean and Cathy lost weight and not on purpose. She sold blood for $35 so that her son could drive to Tulsa to play in a football game.
“We really had to come up with ideas to try to figure out how to do Thanksgiving for our kids,” she said. “It was nearly impossible. We were living like peasants in Mexico.”
Cummings believes the state should raise the minimum wage benefit to $10.50 an hour. As a business owner, the suggestion of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is too high, she said.
“It certainly can’t stay at $7.25,” she said. “…I know as lieutenant governor I can’t make policies, but I can shed light on it,” she said.
Candidates may file for statewide elections at the state Capitol April 9-11. The primary election is June 24 with a runoff primary election set for Aug. 26. The general election is Nov. 4.
TO LEARN more about Cathy Cummings, go to http://www.voteforcathy.com.