State senator announces for governor on steps of Capitol

Saturday, November 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ State Sen. Enoch Kelly Haney, an American Indian sculptor whose warrior statue will crown the Capitol, announced Friday he is running for governor, saying he wants to improve health care, public education and cultural awareness.

Haney, a Seminole and Muscogee Indian whose family followed the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma seven generations ago, is the first full-blood Indian to run for governor, campaign officials said.

``Oklahoma has the potential to become a worldwide destination for business, education and culture,'' Haney said, standing near a Christmas tree on the steps of the Capitol.

``This new millennium provides us an exciting opportunity to expand our vision to create a prosperous Oklahoma and a higher standard of living for all Oklahomans.''

Haney, of Seminole, is the third Democrat to enter the race to replace Gov. Frank Keating next year. Keating cannot run again because of term limits.

Haney has served in the Legislature since 1980 when he was elected to the House. He now is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

``As governor of Oklahoma, I will continue to be an advocate for the hardworking people of our state,'' he said. ``I will be the voice of those who feel that they have been shut out of government decisions that affect their lives.''

The senator declined a $50,000 artist commission the state offered for his sculpture, titled ``The Guardian.'' He modeled the piece in clay and created a form for the 4-ton bronze piece that will sit atop a Capitol dome now under construction.

The statue's beads are the kind found in Oklahoma rivers and lakes. A circle on the warrior's shield represents the ``wheel of life,'' an Indian belief that all things are equal in value and balance.

The figure will carry a lance stuck through part of his clothing and into the earth, symbolizing a warrior who will not give his ground.

The sculpture is pegged for completion by Nov. 16, 2002, Statehood Day.

Haney, 61, said Friday that he would propose new incentives to encourage business development in rural Oklahoma towns and entice production companies to make films in the state. He also said he wants to conduct ``a serious review of the tax policies that affect Oklahoma businesses.''

The senator said he supports health care reform that would allow Oklahomans to choose their own doctors.

He wants to decrease class sizes at Oklahoma schools, increase salaries for teachers and provide more support for the state's vo-tech program.

Haney touted his vote to cut taxes on prescription drugs and said he would vote to cut the state sales tax on groceries. He said he would support a state lottery only if it funds education or prescription drugs for senior citizens.

Haney was a leading force behind a planned Native American Cultural Center near downtown Oklahoma City. The center will inform visitors about legends, myths and truths involving American Indians.

Haney, who grew up in Seminole, attended Bacone College in Muskogee and received a fine arts degree from Oklahoma City University.

He joins Democrats Sen. Brad Henry of Shawnee and businessman Vince Orza.

Republican candidates for governor are U.S. Rep. Steve Largent; Jerry Regier, Cabinet secretary for health and human services; and Jim Denny, the father of two children injured in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Gary Richardson, a Tulsa attorney, is running as an independent.

The primary election is Aug. 27, and the general election is Nov. 5.

Largent, a former pro football star, is resigning his 1st Congressional District post on Feb. 15 to devote his time to the governor's race. He is the early favorite, despite never having run a statewide race.

Haney said he has raised $250,000 so far and believes he will have widespread support from tribal leaders and businessmen. He acknowledged beating Largent would be difficult.

``If it were an easy race,'' he said, ``a lot more people would be in it.''