State Senate Dist. 33 Debate Report

On Monday, May 13, 2024, there was a debate by 3 of the 4 candidates running for OK SD33, the seat currently belonging to State Senator Nathan Dahm, who will term out at the end of the current session. Christi Gillispie, Shelley Gwartney, and Tim Brooks came to tell the citizens of District 33 why they should be the next Oklahoma State Senator from Broken Arrow.

In a randomly drawn order, Christi Gillispie began her introductory remarks with a story about herself as a child, “putting the fish back in the fishbowl” contrary to instructions from authority. Tim Brooks talked about the foundational American principles of “Life, Liberty, and Property.” Shelley Gwartney talked about her work with Moms for Liberty and Oklahomans for Health and Parental Rights (OKHPR) in promoting parents’ rights when it comes to protecting their kids and ensuring civilization’s future.

From left to right: Shelly Gwartney, Tim Brooks and Christi Gillispie

Only 3 of the 4 candidates participated, although all were invited; Bill Bickerstaff sent word that he would not be there due to a personal emergency. This debate was hosted by Gabe Wooley for HD 98 and Josh Stenros of Citizens for Liberty and held at the Water’s Edge Winery & Bistro in the Rose District of Broken Arrow. The moderator for the evening was FOX 23’s Rick Maranon. The audience was encouraged to submit questions, selected at the end of the moderator’s questions.

Gillespie displayed a letter she received from President Ronald Reagan when she was 12 years old and talked about getting 100% in 12th grade in her government class when asked why she was THE Conservative Republican to vote for in this race of 4 Conservative Republican candidates.

Brooks emphasized that although they were all Conservative, the way they planned to go about their public service would vary greatly.

Gwartney spoke about her background and experience, positioning her to be the best person for the job.

The candidates were asked an interesting question, written with the help of Oklahoma Representative JJ Humphrey, “What is a RINO, and what will you do to avoid becoming one?”

Gwartney said her team had discussed this and after giving us a clear definition of the acronym for Republican In Name Only, talked about how she and her prayer team asked themselves what could possibly have happened to the people we’ve seen who, once we’d gotten them elected, proceeded to act and vote in ways inconsistent to what they said while running for office, so that she might avoid falling into the same traps. She also emphasized staying in contact with her constituents.

Gillispie emphasized on how putting God first would prevent that from happening. (Was she implying that our current Senators and Representatives do not do that?)

There were a few concerning answers as well. For example, Gillespie implying that the grassroots lumping candidates into the category of “Establishment” once they had run a campaign and been in office for a term already, failing to realize that the difference between Grassroots and Establishment is the type of governance each stand for, Bottom Up leadership as opposed to Top Down control. It has nothing to do with whether you’re a newcomer or an incumbent/current office holder.

Brooks seemed very focused on everyone “playing nice together” and working with other Republicans. Compromise, maybe? He did have good points about excellent legislation being struck down or overturned by the liberal Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Gwartney talked about her passion for supporting State Superintendent of Education Ryan Walters and cleaning up the public-school systems and Oklahoma DHS.

Also, it appears that Gillespie has completely forgotten about her previous issues with the First Amendment. The video is popular on social media (click here to view).

Overall, the candidates gave good answers to some tough questions. I doubt anyone’s mind was changed by those answers as most in the room showed an active interest in their preferred candidate.

It’s up to the individual voters to research candidates and vote for who best embodies YOUR values. Links to each candidate’s campaign online are provided in this review. Please, don’t choose a candidate based on who someone else knows (or think they know) or who established authority or pundits favor.

Democracy requires an informed electorate. Do your research and use your own policy standards.

As Ronald Reagan famously said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

Cheryl Wilburg

About the author: Cheryl Wilburg is a local writer and editor, Second Amendment activist, and legislative advocate.

Based in Tulsa, Wilburg is active statewide in Republican and Conservative organizations. She may be contacted at

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