Oklahoma State Senate
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
For Immediate Release:
September 19, 2003
(July 6, 1954 - September 19, 2003)
Senator Leftwich Leaves Legacy of Distinguished
Public Service to Oklahoma
Leftwich lost his battle with cancer on Friday, the
South Oklahoma City Democrat left the state an important
legacy of public service and legislation that made Oklahoma
a better place to live, work and raise a family. The 49-year-old
lawmaker died at approximately 10:30 this morning. He was
initially diagnosed with cancer in January 2002. He is survived
by his wife Debbe and their sons, Kurt and Kevin.
Born to John V. and Paulyne Leftwich on July 6, 1954, at
Tinker Air Force Base, Senator Leftwich was a lifelong student
of history and of politics. As a student at Choctaw High
School, he served as a legislative page. Senator Leftwich
recalled looking at the photographs of legislators hanging
in the halls of the Capitol and wondering if his would be
there one day, as well as if he would ever play a part in
making history. He undeniably did.
Leftwich won a seat in the House of Representatives in 1982
and, in his first term, made history by passing a critical
piece of campaign reform legislation.
At that time, it had been legal for a candidate to raise
money and then convert those funds to personal use.
Senator Leftwich recalled one candidate who raised money,
dropped out of the race, paid income tax and left the state.
His legislation made that practice illegal.
While in the House, Leftwich also authored legislation aimed
at protecting consumers from what he felt was an excessive
amount of rate increases being approved by the Oklahoma
Corporation Commission in the mid-1980s. His “Ratepayers’
Bill of Rights” didn’t win final approval, but
he did continue to work tirelessly on behalf of consumers
throughout his political career.
Senator Leftwich was also concerned about public safety
and especially local neighborhoods. After winning his first
term in the Senate in 1990, he focused on the growing problem
of gangs. At the time, he had to fight both members of the
legislature and the law enforcement community who didn’t
think Oklahoma had a gang problem.
But after the shooting death of Capitol Hill wrestling star
Tommy Byas, more and more people began to see that Senator
Leftwich was right—and legislation named for Byas
He also authored Oklahoma’s Telemarketer Registry
bill and, just this last session, wrote and passed legislation
making Oklahoma an early Presidential Primary state. His
prediction that the presidential primary bill would draw
political candidates to Oklahoma was an accurate one.
In fact, the Democratic Presidential Candidate’s Forum
held last month in Stillwater marked his final public appearance.
During his legislative career, Leftwich served three terms
in the House of Representatives and was in his fourth term
in the State Senate, having been re-elected in 2002. Senator
Leftwich was chairman of both the standing committee on
Transportation as well as the Appropriations Subcommittee
on General Government and Transportation.
Reflecting on his role in the Legislature and that of elected
officials, Senator Leftwich once said, “One of the
things I learned about leadership—it’s not just
some dry exercise in how much you know. They’ve got
to know how much you care before they care how much you
know. It’s empathy. It’s sort of opening up
and reaching out to people. It’s really about proving
that you care and meaning it.”
Senator Leftwich proved how deeply he cared time and time
again. He not only accomplished much good on behalf of our
state, but he also played an important role in shaping both
Oklahoma’s history and its future. His wisdom and
experience are irreplaceable.
Funeral arrangements are pending with Branstetter-Merritt
Funeral Home, 7720 S. Pennsylvania, in Oklahoma City.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions
be sent to the Carl Albert Foundation, 531 Couch Drive,
Ste. 200, OKC, 73102.
For more information, contact:
- (405) 521-5774