Dr Ervin Yen is angry with Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic, so angry he thinks Stitt should lose his job.
And Yen intends to be the one who tries to take it.
While Republicans in other states have criticized governors for over-acting during the public health crisis, Yen, a 65-year-old anesthesiologist and former senator, is moving in the opposite direction. He is alarmed that the head of his home state has not done more as the coronavirus continues to ravage their state and is campaigning for the governor to challenge Stitt in the 2022 GOP primary, even though the governor has yet to say whether he will run. again.
“The more deaths I see each day, the more impressed I am with our government’s lack of response,” Yen told The Daily Beast.
The odds of winning are already long for Yen, who served a term in the State Senate and lost his re-election effort in a 2018 GOP primary after spending his time in power under fire for his work to increase childhood immunization rates.
“I’m sure if an election were held today he would have beaten me,” Yen said of Stitt. “Not many people know me in Oklahoma, but a whole bunch of people know the governor. But in two years, things could be drastically different.
Even though he can’t beat him, Yen is determined to try and influence Stitt’s approach to the pandemic.
In his campaign ad, Yen made it clear that the state “desperately needed a mask mandate covering all 77 counties”, later saying “it would save lives.”
“At least maybe I can help influence what (Stitt) does,” Yen said in an interview this week. “At the most, maybe I could be a governor and do great things for this state, especially the health of the Oklahomans.”
The governor’s office referred questions about the yen run and the governor’s criticism to a campaign consultant who then declined to comment, but added that “the governor has yet to announce his intentions for 2022.”
Federal officials on the White House Coronavirus Task Force warned in their Nov. 8 report that the state was “in the red zone for cases,” placing it at the “22nd highest rate” at the nationwide for new cases per 100,000 population, while her test for positivity was the “11th highest” in the United States.
“The unwavering spread of COVID across Oklahoma continues with new hospital admissions, inpatients and intensive care patients at record levels, indicating a deeper spread across the state,” said the working group in the report. “The most recent trends, showing steep slopes for all indicators, require immediate action, including mask requirements to reduce the severity of morbidity and mortality among Oklahomans.”
Stitt took a lax approach to restrictions throughout the pandemic and rushed to start reopening the state when that action became something of a Republican proving ground in late April. Stitt himself tested positive for COVID-19 in July, but even that hasn’t dissuaded him from ignoring the recommendations of the White House Coronavirus Task Force to require masks statewide in the weeks that followed.
The effort for Yen right now appears to be an “uphill battle,” said Matt Motta, a political scientist at Oklahoma State University who studies US politics and public health.
“Dr. Yen’s entry into the race shows that some Oklahomans are unhappy with Governor Stitt’s performance, ”Motta said. “But campaigning on the coronavirus alone won’t be enough to earn him this job. He’s going to have to make other distinctions with the governor.
Reclaiming the Yen State Senate in 2014 gave him the distinction of being the first Asian American to win a seat in the Oklahoma legislature, according to KGOU radio. Yen also denounced the push to privatize Medicaid and may go the extra mile to stand out on the governor’s health policy in the long wait until primary, although the pandemic was the topic the doctor focused on. largely concentrated in the deployment of its campaign.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Stitt was joined by medical professionals amid warnings of “significant increases” in key coronavirus parameters as they advocated for people to wear masks even without being this is a government requirement. Stitt echoed this call and urged people in his state not to become complacent. But moments later, he still resisted going as far as a state-wide mask warrant, despite telling reporters at the same event, “We really need to flatten that curve.”
“Regarding the mandate, I’ve been very clear that I don’t think it’s the right to do it,” Stitt said. “It’s a personal responsibility, it’s imploring people to do the right thing.”
Even before the pandemic, public health was not Stitt’s strong suit. During Stitt’s 2018 presidential race, The Daily Beast reported that the Republican made questionable comments about vaccines, telling an audience, “I believe in choice and we have six kids and we don’t vaccinate. , we do not vaccinate all of our children. So we definitely choose which ones we’re going to do. And it depends on the parents. We can never impose that.
Stitt’s campaign then mocked the story on her website, although she quotes it accurately, highlighting an editorial from a local newspaper which the campaign said showed, among other things, that the children of Stitt were in fact vaccinated.
While in the state Senate, Yen attempted to pass a law he described as “the obvious” that “Oklahoma will only have a medical exemption for vaccines prescribed by school. ” This push, he said, “was not at all close to success.”
“I actually ran into all kinds of attacks because of it,” Yen said.
Yen was beaten by 20 points in a June 2018 GOP primary, although his challenger lost the seat by 19 points to a Democrat in that year’s general election, according to national election results.
This defeat was not far from the minds of some local observers as he announced his candidacy for governor. Robbie White, the chairman of the Oklahoma County Democratic Party, doubted Yen’s chances, saying, “I don’t really see him as a big factor, and I could be wrong.
“He’s a big supporter of vaccines, which makes me happy,” White said. “And he’s a doctor who follows science, which is also very important. But in Oklahoma, that doesn’t win you a vote in the Republican Party.
Linda Huggard, the wife of the Oklahoma County Republican Party state committee, has so far said she still sided with the governor.
“I can’t see Dr. Yen gaining virtually any traction at all with me or anyone in the Republican Party,” said Huggard, who is also the Republican Fifth District congressional vice president.
The Yen campaign has not really taken off. Although Yen received media coverage in Oklahoma as he began his campaign following the 2020 election, it still lacks some of the features one would expect from a well-deployed deployment. organized. There was no campaign ad video and although Yen said this week that his campaign had been granted a domain name, the site was not operational when he announced it.
His first deposit also appears to have been made with state ethics in mind, as his campaign transferred around $ 159,000 in campaign funds from a 2018 State Senate committee that had to be dissolved to the new account created for the governor last week.
“I thought if I did this on election day, it might send a good message to our governor,” Yen said. “Here’s a governor who in my mind is trying to be a mini-Trump and the very day Trump loses he gets a Republican challenger.”
But even with that in mind, the doctor admitted he voted for Trump, although he said the president “failed COVID.” Pressed to find out why he voted for Trump given the way the president has handled the pandemic and treated medical professionals, Yen said he was “torn apart.”
“I knew in Oklahoma he was going to win,” he says. “And the way I voted made no difference.”
-With additional reports from Sam Stein
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