In this episode of Capitol Insider, KGOU’s Dick Pryor and eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley discuss the results of the August 28 primary runoff. More incumbents were defeated, but looking at non-legislative races complicates the picture. Plus, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson ramps up his campaign for the general election, hoping to sway Republicans who voted for Mick Cornett in the primary runoff.
Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics, policy and elections. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol News Director Shawn Ashley. Shawn, Labor Day is the traditional start of the fall general election season, and last Tuesday's primary runoff was a tough night for incumbents.
Shawn Ashley: It certainly was. Republican voters threw out six more incumbent legislators. These are all legislators who voted against House Bill 10 10XX, the revenue-raising measure back in March. But, at the same time, they nominated Kevin Stitt to be their gubernatorial nominee, and Stitt has expressed opposition to that piece of legislation. So it's sort of hard to figure out what they're doing there. Perhaps it was a move against incumbents, but that doesn't seem to be the case either. If you look at the statewide races... For example, Republicans nominated Joy Hofmeister, Mike Hunter and Bob Anthony to retain their offices. And Bob Anthony has already served 30 years on the Corporation Commission. So Republicans were really all over the place.
Pryor: It's hard to find a through line.The latest results make it very difficult to determine what Republican voters are seeking in candidates. Now our Oklahoma Engaged polling shows a significant number of voters, including Republicans, favor tax increases, especially for education, and that runs counter to the typical thought.
Ashley: Oh that's certainly the case Republicans have been an anti-tax party in Oklahoma for a number of years. And we saw that battle fought in 2017 and 2018 in the legislature with efforts to raise revenue that were eventually successful. But, as we noted a moment ago, 12 of the 19 individuals--all Republicans--who voted against that revenue-raising measure had been voted out of the legislature, and most of the others who voted against it aren't running. There are only two or three left who were part of that group.
Pryor: Now that the candidates for governor are set the tactics and tone of the campaign ahead are coming to light.
Ashley: That's right. What are seeing so far is that Kevin Stitt is continuing his push to align himself somewhat with Donald Trump, having received an endorsement from President Trump on Thursday.
Pryor: Which is what you do in a Republican primary.
Ashley: Oh that's certainly the case, but he's taking it now into the general election itself. And you'll recall part of the Republican primary between Kevin Stitt and former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett was a discussion of who liked Trump the most, because Stitt criticized Mick Cornett for not endorsing the president when he was running as a candidate. At the same time we're seeing Drew Edmondson on the on the Democratic side beginning to roll out his general election message. Ironically he has sort of taken some of the words away from Kevin Stitt it looks like on the business of Oklahoma. Now they're going to be talking about two different things in the end, I believe, but Drew Edmondson seems to be targeting some Republicans who might be willing to move away from Stitt and vote for him.
Pryor: Well, sure enough, Drew Edmondson is appealing to voters of both parties. It seems that he is moving more to the middle, which is what you do for a general election. While Kevin still seems to be moving over and staying on the right side of the spectrum. And interestingly Mick Cornett did not mention the Republican nominee, Kevin Stitt, in his concession speech.
Ashley: That's right. He did not. And he told Chris Casteel at the Daily Oklahoman that he wants to meet with Kevin Stitt after the dust has settled from the primary runoff election. He didn't rule out endorsing him, but he didn't exactly embrace the idea either it didn't seem. And keep in mind that Mick Cornett, a Republican, did not endorse the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, in the 2016 election. And now Donald Trump has endorsed Kevin Stitt.
Pryor: With the appearance of an anti-incumbent mood as it relates to the legislature, what does that say about the possible direction of the legislature after the general election in November?
Ashley: Well it could be very very interesting. On one hand, we will certainly have a lot of new people coming into the legislature. But what we don't know for sure is exactly how different they may be from the people they are succeeding. If you look at the 12 who have lost elections thus far and you look at their opponents there are a lot of similarities. It's only a matter of degrees. The final issue of course seems to be the vote on House Bill 1010XX that did in at least 12 of those incumbents.
Ashley: All right, thanks Shawn. You're very welcome. That's Capitol Insider. If you have questions e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us on Twitter: @kgounews. You can also find us online at KGOU.org and eCapitol.net. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.
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