Mayor, city council, school board seats to be decided across Oklahoma on Tuesday
65 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties are holding special elections and primaries on Tuesday, Feb. 8 for mayor, school boards, city council and other local races. You can view a full list of races here.
OPMX has compiled a rundown of some of those races, along with breakdowns of some propositions facing voters across the state.
One big race to watch is Oklahoma City’s mayoral race, which has four candidates on the ballot, including incumbent David Holt and challengers Carol Hefner, Jimmy Lawson and Frank Urbanic. Below is more information on each of the candidates, including links to their candidate website to learn more about them.
- Incumbent: David Holt
David Holt is an attorney, businessman and Republican politician who became OKC’s 36th mayor in 2018. He is the first Native American mayor of Oklahoma City. Holt is known for his work on MAPS 4, a sales tax funded initiative that was approved by voters in 2019. The temporary penny sales tax for funding MAPS 4 projects ends in 2028. Holt has faced wide-ranging criticisms, notably regarding policing and racial justice and coronavirus restrictions. You can learn more about David Holt here.
- Challenger: Carol Hefner
Carol Hefner is a conservative businesswoman who is vice president of her family-owned real estate development firm. She has served on several boards and commissions and was the co-chairperson of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign in Oklahoma. Hefner was also the former fundraising chairman for the Oklahoma Republican Party and the inaugural coordinator for Gov. Kevin Stitt in 2019. She has falsely claimed that many persons experiencing homelessness have been bussed to Oklahoma City from California. On social media, she has compared then-President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler and made controversial statements about Islam and slavery. You can learn more about Carol Hefner here.
- Challenger: Jimmy Lawson
Jimmy Lawson is currently the director of permitting services at the Oklahoma Workers Compensation Commission and a professor at Rose State College, where he teaches finance and economics. Lawson is a graduate of John Marshall High School and a friend and advocate of former death row inmate Julius Jones. You can learn more about Jimmy Lawson here.
- Challenger: Frank Urbanic
Frank Urbanic is a criminal defense attorney and a United States Air Force combat veteran who has served for more than 22 years. He identifies as a conservative Republican who has served as a GOP precinct chair and district chair, and also served as a member of Oklahoma County’s GOP Executive Committee. In late 2020, Urbanic filed a lawsuit against Oklahoma City and Gov. Kevin Stitt over coronavirus restrictions that temporarily prohobited restaurants and bars from serving food and beverages after 11 p.m. You can learn more about Frank Urbanic here.
If the leading candidate earns a majority of the votes, they will be sworn-in to a four-year term as Mayor in April. If no candidate receives a majority, the two candidates with the most votes will face a runoff election on April 5.
Norman City Council has multiple races this election. The council, which is made up of nine members, has five elections to watch including for: Mayor, Ward 2, Ward 4, Ward 6 and Ward 8. Norman has been in the spotlight many times since the COVID-19 pandemic began for being the first city in the state to implement a mask mandate and the city council’s decision to divert more than $865,000 from a proposed police department’s budget increase to pay for social services to help the city's homeless, mentally ill and other vulnerable populations. Below are a list of candidates for mayor and links to their candidate pages to learn more about them.
- Incumbent: Breea Clark
Norman’s incumbent mayor, Breea Clark, is running for her seat again for another three-year term against a swath of challengers. In 2019, Clark became the youngest woman to hold the office following a stint serving as councilor of Ward 6. In Clark’s tenure as mayor, she has withstood a recall attempt and faced death threats over coronavirus restrictions and a reallocation of proposed police funding following calls for reform. Clark says if reelected she will prioritize affordable housing and homelessness solutions, and pass a stormwater utility proposal. You can read through her priorities for Norman going forward here.
- Challenger: Larry Heikkila
Larry Heikkila is a conservative candidate, Baptist deacon and former city employee. He is also the chair of the Cleveland County Excise Board and Equalization Board, and served in the U.S. Navy. Heikkila’s campaign priorities include changing the way the city handles homelessness and increasing funding for the Norman Police Department. He has been endorsed by Norman’s Fraternal Order of Police. You can learn more about Heikkila and his priorities for Norman here.
- Challenger: Nicole Kish
Nicole Kish is an optometrist and co-founder of Unite Norman, a group that was formed in opposition to the current city council. The political newcomer, who was endorsed by Gov. Kevin Stitt in what is supposed to be a nonpartisan race, has made increasing police funding a priority for her campaign for mayor. She has sworn to not impose mask mandates or issue lockdowns to businesses if elected. Kish’s website describes her as a fiscal conservative, pro-police and limited government candidate. You can learn more about Kish and her priorities for Norman here.
- Challenger: A.E. Stephenson-Leuck
A.E. Stephenson-Leuck, who is retired, has made unfounded claims that casinos in Norman are the reason for a rise of homelessness in Norman. She has also said she decided to run for mayor after the reallocation of proposed police funding in 2020. Stephenson-Leuck told The Oklahoman she has been relying on public forums to promote her campaign.
- Challenger: Bob Thompson
Bob Thompson is owner of a local eatery in Norman called Midway Deli, which he has owned and operated for 36 years. The self-described Democrat said he wants to get national politics out of local politics and that municipal governments should be nonpartisan. He has served on Norman City Council before, representing Ward 1 from 2005 to 2009. Thompson said he decided to run for mayor because of the divisiveness that has embroiled the city between the mayor, city council and Unite Norman. You can learn more about Thompson and his priorities for Norman here.
If no candidate gets a majority of the vote in the election, the two candidates with the most votes will compete in a runoff election on April 5.
The Norman Transcript recently held a forum for mayoral and city council candidates to address city issues and policies. You can find some candidates' responses from the forum here.
Stillwater has a mayoral election and two city tax propositions on Tuesday’s ballot. Incumbent Will Joyce is being challenged by Stillwater resident Marc Trotter. Below are Stillwater's mayoral candidates and brief summaries of the city’s propositions.
- Incumbent: Will Joyce
Before the Oklahoma State University alum became the city’s mayor in 2018, Will Joyce served as a city councilman. During his time as mayor, he enforced stricter COVID-19 guidelines and served on the land development subcommittee. Joyce is an attorney for global technology consulting firm InterWorks, has been on the Stillwater Medical’s board of directors and a member of the Chamber of Commerce Infrastructure Committee. Click here to learn more about Joyce’s priorities.
- Challenger: Marc Trotter
Marc Trotter is a Stillwater resident and lighting designer for theatrical performances and services. He is the co-founder of Unite Stillwater, who led an unsuccessful attempt to recall the entire Stillwater City Council over coronavirus restrictions. Trotter said in his candidacy announcement that he wants to focus on protecting people’s personal finances, property and liberty. More information on Trotter’s campaign can be found here.
To learn more about both candidates, read this Q&A from Stillwater News Press.
Stillwater city propositions:
- Transportation sales tax: Proposition No. 1 on the ballot increases Stillwater’s transportation tax from a half cent to one cent. Funds from the tax will be used for transportation infrastructure projects and improvements, from improving mobility and corridors, to repairing streets and bridges. The increase would begin on July 1 until June 30, 2032.
- Visitor tax: Voters can choose to raise the visitor tax, previously known as the hotel tax, from 4 to 7%. This tax applies to individuals who stay in a hotel, bed and breakfast or short-term rental in Stillwater. If the proposition passes, the total visitor’s tax is estimated to produce $1.3 million in the first year. The sum will be used to invest in visitor department amenities and markings for local businesses and events. This would also be the first time for the tax to be raised since its implementation in 1985.
Voters in Midwest City, Muskogee and Tuttle will also elect mayors on Tuesday.
- Incumbent Marlon Coleman will face off against challenger and councilwoman Traci McGee in the Muskogee mayoral race. Read a Q&A with both candidates in the Muskogee Phoenix.
- Incumbent Matt Dukes seeks to be reelected as Midwest City's mayor against Bill Bridges, realtor Ren Caldwell and martial arts instructor Charles Wallace.
- Incumbent Aaron McLeroy will face Judy Preston for mayor of Tuttle.
Voters in Bixby have two school bond propositions, municipal bond
Voters are asked to vote on two propositions put forth by Bixby Public Schools for a combined $114.7 million dollars to extend the school’s millage rate through 2029. A millage rate is the tax rate used to calculate local property taxes. Proposition One would pay for a new high school to accommodate the district’s projected population growth and expansions to West Elementary and West Intermediate School, as well as a new gym that will double as a safe room at East Intermediate School and other updates. Proposition Two would pay for new vehicles, including replacing outdated activity buses. Learn more about the bond propositions here. Bixby voters will also decide on a separate municipal bond developed with city leaders and Bixby Public Schools that would pay for a $43 million performing arts center.
Edmond voters to decide on Board of Education bond issue
Edmond Public Schools is expanding near Northwest 150th and Penn Avenue, and the district says they need to continue buying land to accommodate a growing population. Edmond voters will be deciding on a total $120 million bond issue divided into two propositions. The first proposition, totaled at $117 million, would pay for a swath of improvements to technology, existing building upgrades, school security and improvements to several elementary, middle and high Schools. The second proposition, totaled at $3 million, would pay for transportation vehicles to purchase small and large buses and high capacity sport utility vehicles. Learn more about Edmond’s bond issue here.
The Village residents to vote on city infrastructure bonds
Two bonds totaling $13.2 million dollars will be on Tuesday’s ballot for voters in The Village. A $9.9 million bond focuses on improving streets including sidewalks, lighting, drainage and signalization. The other bond allocates $3.2 million to constructing, renovating and repairing parks and recreational facilities. If the bonds are approved, they will be paid off over a span of 20 years.
- Voters in Wynnewood, Elmore City to decide on school bond issue
A school bond issue totaling $560,000 is up for a vote in Wynnewood and Elmore City. The school bond issue is split into two propositions on the ballot. The first proposition, totaling $210,000, would fund technology improvements in the elementary and high school for new computer labs and to replace outdated technology, such as outdated projectors and Smartboards across the district. The second proposition, totaling $350,000, would pay for purchasing new activity buses and vans to replace ones that have served the school district more than 13 years. You can learn more about these two propositions, as well as other races in Wynnewood and Elmore City here.
There are many more races and issues being decided by voters on Tuesday. You can view a full list 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.