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Stitt, Hofmeister battle set, O'Connor loses AG primary, several races advance to runoff

Democratic candidate for Governor Joy Hofmeister celebrates her primary election victory on June 28, 2022.
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Democratic candidate for Governor Joy Hofmeister celebrates her primary election victory on June 28, 2022.

The general election battle for Oklahoma Governor will feature incumbent Republican Kevin Stitt and Republican-turned-Democrat and current State Schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.

The outcome of both primaries was practically a given. Each of the winners addressed their watch party attendees once the result was clear.

“People all over the country right now — they’re waking up and noticing the differences between a red state and a blue state. Never been bigger differences. Friends, let’s keep Oklahoma red,” said Stitt at his election watch party.

Hofmeister gets the nod on the Democratic side by defeating former state lawmaker Connie Johnson.

“This is a day that I’m truly humbled to say I am so proud to be the Democratic nominee for governor of Oklahoma,” said Hofmeister at her watch party.

Hofmeister flipped her party affiliation from Republican to Democrat last fall claiming Stitt had hijacked her former party. She has criticized Stitt's handling of the pandemic and referred to his leadership as divisive and ineffective.

The governor, endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has largely held to familiar party lines on guns, abortion and more.

Even in a ruby red state where more than half of voters are registered Republicans and just a third are registered Democrats, Hofmeister is expected to give Stitt some competition in the general election.

Stitt has also touted that he would sign every bill in opposition to abortion that came to his desk and he's arguably done that. In May, he signed into law a bill that was deemed at the time as the most restrictive abortion bill in the country, which effectively banned all abortions beginning at fertilization.

But Stitt's administration has come under fire over the misspending of pandemic relief funds, accusations of "grossly improper" pressure put upon the state's pardon and parole board and out-of-control spending in the Swadley's BBQ scandal.

Stitt is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, but his tense standoff with Oklahoma tribes following the McGirt v. Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling in 2020 has drawn the ire of many, including those inside his own party. During a legislative fight with the governor last month, one GOP lawmaker classified Stitt's behavior toward tribes as "racist and hateful."

Mullin, Shannon head to runoff to fill Inhofe's Senate seat

Congressman Markwayne Mullin racked up a large portion of the early and absentee vote in the Republican primary, but did not clear the 50-percent mark. He will face former state House speaker T.W. Shannon in an Aug. 23 runoff.

Both are enrolled citizens of tribal nations — Mullin is Cherokee and Shannon is Chickasaw. If either is elected, they will become the only current Indigenous U.S. Senator, and just the fifth in the history of the Senate.

The two candidates outlasted a field of 13 to fill the remainder of Jim Inhofe's term. Inhofe is retiring at the end of the year.

Other candidates included state senator Nathan Dahm, Inhofe's chief of staff hand-picked successor Luke Holland and Scott Pruitt, who led the Environmental Protection Agency under President Trump for less than two years, before months of ethics scandals and investigations led to his resignation.

The eventual Republican nominee will face former Democratic Congresswoman Kendra Horn, Libertarian candidate Robert Murphy and Independent candidate Ray Woods in the November general election.

Lankford wins primary, as Democrats face runoff

In Oklahoma’s other Senate race, incumbent Senator James Lankford’s nomination was called shortly after polls closed, as he easily defeated Tulsa pastor Jackson Lahmeyer.

The Democratic challenger will be decided in an August runoff between Stilwell-native cybersecurity professional Madison Horn and Oklahoma City lawyer Jason Bollinger.

Lankford, Libertarian Kenneth Blevins and Independent Michael Delaney await the Aug. 23 Democratic runoff winner in the November general election.

CD2 runoff set as Frix, Brecheen emerge in Republican primary

State representative Avery Frix and former state senator Josh Brecheen have advanced to the runoff election for Congressional District 2.

The seat, which is currently held by Senate candidate Markwayne Mullin, represents much of the eastern part of Oklahoma. Frix and Brecheen were the top two vote getters out of a field of 14 Republican candidates, which included the former chairman of the Oklahoma GOP, law enforcement officers and other current and former state lawmakers.

House incumbents Tom Cole, Frank Lucas and Stephanie Bice all easily won their primaries. Kevin Hern did not field a Republican opponent, so he did not face a primary election.

Drummond wins Attorney General nod over Stitt-appointee O’Connor

After a tight race, Gentner Drummond has won the Republican nomination for Attorney General of Oklahoma.

The Tulsa attorney and banker previously ran for Attorney General in 2018, but narrowly lost to Mike Hunter in the runoff primary. Drummond beat O’Connor in Tuesday’s race by less than two percentage points.

Throughout his campaign this year, Drummond framed himself as less beholden to political elites than his opponent O’Connor. Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed O’Connor to the AG position last year after Hunter’s resignation.

O’Connor’s campaign framed him as the more conservative candidate in this race, highlighting his pro-life, pro-death penalty, pro-gun and anti-vaccine stances. O’Connor conceded the nomination to Gentner in a speech.

State legislators from both parties raised concerns earlier this month when Stitt’s campaign spent more than $300,000 on TV ads that seemed to promote O’Connor’s candidacy. Stitt’s campaign pulled the ads, but maintains that they did not violate state Ethics Commission rules about how much money one candidate can contribute to another’s campaign.

Drummond will face Libertarian candidate Lynda Steele in the general election this November. The winner will start a four-year term in January.

Walters, Grace advance to Republican runoff for State Superintendent

State Secretary of Education Ryan Walters will face Shawnee Public Schools Superintendent April Grace in the Aug. 23 Republican runoff for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The winner faces Democrat Jena Nelson in November.

Walters led the night with 41 percent to Grace’s 30 percent. Walters is a Stitt cabinet appointee, but he’s also the executive director of Every Kid Counts Oklahoma, a nonprofit that pays him at least $120,000 a year, according to a recent investigation from The Frontier and Oklahoma Watch. Much of the nonprofit’s funds come from school privatization efforts.

The Frontier also found Walters failed to report campaign expenditures in his bid for State Superintendent — a violation of state ethics laws.

Grace is a longtime Oklahoma educator. According to her campaign website, her vision for education opposes the teaching of what she calls critical race theory. She also wants less regulation on federal education dollars coming to Oklahoma and touts how many in-person days Shawnee Public Schools had during the height of the pandemic.

Oklahoma County Jail Bond passes

Just under 60 percent of Oklahoma County voters approved of a $260 million bond package that will be used to build a new Oklahoma County Jail.

The new jail is expected to cost nearly $300 million, but the bonds will come with up to 10 percent interest over the next 30 years.

The current Oklahoma County Jail has seen many issues in recent years, with an inspection by the state health department revealing safety and sanitation concerns with both the building and the staff. So far this year, nine inmates have died in the jail.

Proponents of the bond say building a new jail will alleviate these issues, while opponents say the money should be used on programs to keep people out of jail in the first place.

Three incumbent state lawmakers lose primaries

Rep. Rhonda Baker, Rep. Logan Phillips and Sen. Jake Merrick are just a few state lawmakers targeted by dark money this cycle for opposing private school vouchers. Only Baker survived her primary, and just barely.

Baker bested Ron Lynch by just 72 votes and wins House District 60, with no other candidates remaining from other parties.

Phillips (R-Mounds) lost his reelection bid for a third term in House District 24, losing by more than 1,000 votes to Air Force veteran Chris Banning. Banning now wins the office, with no other party fielded a candidate.

Merrick (R-Yukon) lost his reelection bid for a second term in Senate District 22 by more than 800 votes to political newcomer Kristen Thompson. She will face Democrat Blake Aguirre in the November general election.

Also losing their legislative seat was Wendi Stearman (R-Collinsville), whose reelection bid for a second term in House District 11 fell short by 685 votes to cattle rancher John Kane, who now takes the seat as no other party fielded a candidate.

There were a few other close races.

Darcy Jech (R-Kingfisher) is headed to a runoff against oil and gas operator Brady Butler, as neither candidate received 50 percent of the vote in a three-person race. Jech is looking to serve a third term in Senate District 26. The winner of the runoff will win the seat as no other party fielded a candidate.

John Talley (R-Anadarko) emerged victorious in his primary battle for House District 33, beating Brice Chaffin by just 205 votes.

In a race for the Democratic stronghold of Norman’s House District 44, local musician Jared Deck advanced as the Democratic nominee, defeating former Norman City Council member Kate Bierman. Deck will advance to the general election and face Republican RJ Harris. For the last 12 years, HD44 has been served by Democrat Emily Virgin, who is term-limited.

Other elections on Tuesday

Byrd wins reelection as State Auditor and Inspector

State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd won reelection Tuesday, beating challenger Steven McQuillen. Byrd has been in the spotlight recently for her audit of Epic Charter Schools, while McQuillen was supported by the founders of Epic Charter School. Winning more than twice as many votes as McQuillen,

Byrd received more than twice as many votes as McQuillen and will reclaim the seat for the next four years, as no other parties fielded candidates.

Russ, Jolley head to runoff in State Treasurer race

Term-limited state representative Todd Russ will face former State Tax Commission Chairman Clark Jolley in the Republican runoff. Russ secured a vote of 48.5% while Jolley secured 34% of the vote. Because neither candidate won more than 50%, Republican voters will choose their nominee on Aug. 23.

Russ is currently serving his sixth term in the state House, representing Cordell. He said his 35 years of banking experience have prepared him to take on the position. If elected, he said he plans to look into the state’s Unclaimed Property Program, according to NonDoc.

Jolley has served 12 years as a state senator and as the State’s Secretary of Finance. If elected, he plans to advance the Treasurer office’s use of technology.

Former Oklahoma County Clerk David Hooten missed the runoff election with nearly 18%. He recently resigned from his position as Oklahoma County Clerk after he was accused of sexual harassment by an employee.

Current State Treasurer Randy McDaniel announced last June that he would not be seeking reelection in order to prioritize his family. The candidate who takes over McDaniel’s seat will oversee about $22 billion of state money each year.

Incumbent Osborn, term-limited Roberts head to runoff in Labor Commissioner race

Republicans narrowed their candidate field for a new Labor Commissioner during primary elections. The chosen nominee would oversee workplace rights and safety issues within Oklahoma.

Incumbent Leslie Osborn will try to defend her seat in the August runoff when she faces term-limited state representative Sean Roberts. Osborn secured a vote of 48% to Roberts’ 38%.

Osborn is wrapping up her first term as labor commissioner and previously served a decade in the state legislature as a representative. In an interview with NonDoc, Osborn said she was proud to have helped develop the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Consultation Service Program.

Roberts is currently serving his sixth term in the state house. He sponsored a bill this legislative session that would have required Oklahoma voters to re-register to vote.

Challenger Keith Swinton missed the runoff election once again with 14%. He previously ran for Labor Commissioner in 2018.

David, Thomsen head to runoff in Corporation Commissioner race

Senator Kim David is headed to a runoff against former Rep. Todd Thomsen to fill a seat on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. The seat is currently held by Dana Murphy, who is term-limited and cannot run for a third six-year term.

The OCC is the regulatory agency for the state, particularly for oil and gas, public utilities and transportation.

David, who received 45 percent of the vote, is at the end of a 12-year run as a state Senator out of Porter in eastern Oklahoma. Thomsen served in the state House from 2006 to 2018, including a stint as the chair of the Utilities Committee and on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He received nearly 27 percent of the vote.

Oklahoma County District Attorney race

Oklahoma County voters selected Vicki Behenna as the Democratic candidate for District Attorney on Tuesday. On the Republican side, Oklahoma County Commissioner and former state lawmaker Kevin Calvey fell just barely short of the 50 percent, and is headed to a runoff against Assistant District Attorney Gayland Gieger.

Oklahoma County Commissioner races

Former House lawmaker Anastasia Pittman will advance to a runoff election with incumbent Carrie Blumert in the Democratic race for Oklahoma County Commissioner in District 1. Pittman received nearly 600 votes more than Blumert, but did not secure 50 percent of the vote. The winner of that runoff will face Willard Linzy, defeated LaTonya Williams in the Republican race for District 1.

In the Democratic race for Oklahoma County Commissioner in District 3, Cathy Cummings, a former city council member of The Village, defeated Jay Bridwell, an Air Force veteran. Cummings will await the Republican candidate, whom will be decided in an Aug. 23 runoff between Myles Davidson and Amy Alexander. Former Oklahoma County Sheriff P.D. Taylor failed to qualify for the Republican runoff by 368 votes.

Sand Springs voters approve $16 million bond proposal

Voters in Sand Springs approved all four propositions on the ballot, totaling $15.7 million. The bonds will fund street improvements, replace aging storm sires, a new animal shelter and dog park and other park improvements. The improvements at Page Park include new playgrounds, fitness equipment and a splash pad, while Case Community Park will see lighting and trail improvements.

ORIGINAL POST

Tuesday's primary election will help narrow the candidate pool for several federal and state offices — such as governor, superintendent, attorney general and all seven of Oklahoma’s delegates in Washington, D.C.


Most of Oklahoma's state legislative races will be determined by the end of today

Updated: 3:40 p.m.

There are 125 legislative seats open in this year’s election — all of the House seats and half of the Senate seats. But come November, only 37 will be on the ballot.

Nearly half of the races won’t get a vote at all. In 55 of them, only one candidate registered, so they won automatically.

Of the ones that will get an election, about half will only show up during Tuesday’s primary, as all of the candidates belong to the same party. A handful of those races have multiple candidates running in the primary, and could go to a runoff later this summer.

Church fire reroutes some McAlester voters

Updated: 12:10 p.m.

A fire engulfed the First Assembly of God Church in the southeastern Oklahoma town of McAlester on Tuesday morning.

The church is the polling place for two precincts in the city — 7 and 40. Officials are directing those voters to instead cast their ballot at the Pittsburg County Election Board, 109 E Carl Albert Pkwy.

The church says there are no injuries or deaths associated with the fire.

Check your polling place

Updated: 5:00 a.m.

The state election board has some tips for voters.

After the recent redistricting process, some Oklahomans may be voting in different districts than they’re used to, or at different polling places. To make sure you’re going to the proper place to vote, visit the OK Voter Portal online, or call your county election board. Voters can only cast a ballot at their assigned polling location.

Sample ballots are also available at that OK Voter Portal website.

And another reminder: Oklahoma requires proof of identity to vote, so bring a valid photo ID from the state, federal, or tribal government, or your voter ID card. Otherwise, you’ll have to cast a provisional ballot that won’t be counted until after election day.

Volunteers needed

As Oklahomans head to the polls today for primary elections, they may need to be patient as county election boards are hurting for volunteers.

At least three of Oklahoma's county election boards still need volunteers. Since 2020, Cleveland County and Oklahoma County election boards have noticed a significant drop in volunteers. While the pandemic is a major reason why, Cleveland County election officials say another problem is volunteers signing up and not showing up on the day of the election. Cleveland County needs volunteers, and Oklahoma County needs precinct officials.

In western Oklahoma, the Custer County election board is struggling to get to 100% staffing due to a lack of Democratic volunteers.

Find information on how to become a poll worker volunteer here.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

Ryan LaCroix joined KOSU’s staff in 2013. He hosts All Things Considered, Oklahoma Rock Show, Oklahoma Rock Show: Rewind, and Oklahoma Music Minute.
Logan Layden is a native of McAlester, Oklahoma. He's a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a Master's in Journalism and spent three years as a student employee, covering the state capitol and local host of All Things Considered for KGOU. Logan was hired as a reporter for StateImpact Oklahoma from its creation in 2011 through 2017.
Kateleigh Mills joined KOSU in March 2018, following her undergraduate degree completion from the University of Central Oklahoma in December 2017.
Catherine Sweeney grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and attended Oklahoma State University. She has covered local, state and federal government for outlets in Oklahoma, Colorado and Washington, D.C.
Beth reports on energy and environmental topics for StateImpact Oklahoma.
Hannah France started her work in public radio at KBIA while studying journalism at the University of Missouri. While there, she helped develop and produce a weekly community call-in show, for which she and her colleagues won a Gracie Award. Hannah takes interest in a wide variety of news topics, which serves her well as a reporter and producer for KGOU.
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