State Representative Pat Ownbey (R-Ardmore) announced via press release Sunday that he would not be seeking reelection in 2018.
Ownbey is now in his tenth year serving as representative of District 48. He could have chosen to run for a final two years before reaching his term limit in the state house.
"My sincere thank you to everyone who has supported our efforts over the years. This job has never been about one person,” Ownbey said in the release. “It has always been about those who reside in District 48 regardless of party affiliation. I am truly humbled and honored to be a part of such a great district, and I will continue to work on behalf of my constituents and the rest of our state until my term has been completed."
Ownbey began his legislative career serving as a member of a bipartisan task force to reform the Department of Human Services. That work led to a restructuring of DHS, and prompted the Oklahoma Institute of Child Advocacy to award the four House members with the Protector of Children award. Since that time, he has authored a number of bills improving foster care and child welfare, according to the release.
Ownbey has also authored several pieces of legislation directly affecting those who live in southern Oklahoma. One authorized the building and completion of the new lodge at Lake Murray State Park while another will result in the first state-run veteran's cemetery in Oklahoma to be located in Ardmore, according to the release.
The news release said Ownbey ultimately decided not to seek reelection late in the summer.
"My decision ten years ago to run for office was made with a lot of prayer and input from others. That's the case with today's announcement. Kathy and I made this decision in late summer. Now that special session is over we believe this is the right time to share the news with others. This allows anyone who might consider running for this seat plenty of time to make an informed decision prior to the April filing date."
Carter County GOP Chairwoman Donna Hughes said she was aware of Ownbey’s opt-out for “a while” now, and that the party will have to labor in replacing the respected representative.
“I think he is a super person, and we’ll have to work hard to replace him,” Hughes said. “But I know that there are good people who will serve our district and area well, and we’ll just have to see who steps up to the plate.”
Carter County Democratic Party Chairman Kyle Lawson said the news of Ownbey opting not to seek reelection caught him off-guard. He praised the representative’s open-mindedness and willingness to hear from the other side of the aisle.
“I think that Pat Ownbey has worked extremely hard,” Lawson said. “He is somebody that no matter where he stood on something, he always listened not just to listen, but to weigh in on his voting. I hope whoever comes into play carries on his torch improving foster care.”
Lawson said the Carter County Democratic Party has already formed a committee seeking viable candidates to represent District 48, but is still in the process of identifying people.