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PM NewsBrief: Oct. 20, 2022

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022.

Governor Debate

Oklahoma’s major party candidates for governor faced off in their lone debate Wednesday night.

Governor Kevin Stitt asked voters to keep him in office and attacked his Democratic opponent Joy Hofmeister for her ties to her new party.

“Folks, Oklahoma’s turnaround, it is working. We simply can’t go backwards. We know what will happen if we put Biden’s party back in charge."

Hofmeister told attendees Stitt took that line because he doesn’t understand Oklahomans.

“He reads off a national script and is out of touch with Oklahomans and the actual needs and solutions that are right here.“

The pair sparred on issues related to education, healthcare access and tribal sovereignty. But shook hands and were cordial following the debate. The race is getting closer. Recent polling shows they are within the margin of error of each other.

Oklahoma’s fourth execution

57 year old Benjamin Cole was executed at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary on Thursday, 20 years after he killed his baby daughter Brianna.

Leading up to the execution, Cole’s attorneys argued he should not be executed because he had brain damage and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia since his trial, though Cole was determined to be competent for execution.

This execution follows the Pardon and Parole Board denying Cole a recommendation of clemency and the Supreme Court of the United States denying an emergency appeal the night before.

23 more executions are scheduled through the end of 2024.

Tribal issues in governor debate

During the debate between incumbent Governor Kevin Stitt and his Democratic challenger Joy Hofmeister both were asked about how they will work with tribal leaders over jurisdictional issues that have arisen over the McGirt decision.

Governor Stitt was asked about whether or not he would be willing to meet with leaders of the Five Tribes-he responded by inviting them to his office the following morning. Stitt said he has an open door policy despite not meeting with leaders of the five largest tribes since 2021. Tribal and state relations remain tense after the Supreme Court ruling in 2020 that said the Muscogee Nation's reservation was never disestablished.

That ruling eventually applied to five other tribes in the state, Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton said in a statement that "Hofmeister has demonstrated that she understands unity is the right path forward"

Hofmeister said she plans on repairing state and tribal relations if she is elected. "Let me say this to every member of a sovereign tribe in Oklahoma. I will not betray the trust we have established. We can have a win win and we can do what is right for all Oklahomans.

Earlier this month, leaders of the state's five largest tribes endorsed Hofmeister in her bid for Governor.

Missing mental health funds

One Oklahoma nonprofit is working to hold legislators accountable for not adhering to a criminal justice reform initiative passed in 2016.

Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform will participate in an interim study concerning the Legislature’s failure to account for funds saved from reclassifying simple drug possession and some minor property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.

The nonprofit says the funds, which were meant to be used for substance abuse counseling and other mental health services across the state, add up to over $70 million.

The study was requested by Republican Representative Justin Humphrey. The first session will be held on Monday, October 24 and the second will be held two days later on October 26.
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