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Voter Guide: Who and what’s on the ballot for the November 8th general election

Political mailers from Oklahoma’s 2022 midterm elections.
Kateleigh Mills
Political mailers from Oklahoma’s 2022 midterm elections.

Oklahoma’s Nov. 8 General Election will decide many statewide, federal and local races. Because of recent changes, voters will now have the option to vote early on the Wednesday before the election — in addition to the Thursday, Friday and Saturday before as well. You can look up your early voting location by county via the Oklahoma State Election Boardhere.

KGOU, in collaboration with StateImpact Oklahoma and local public radio reporters, highlight some of the races that will be on the ballot below. We also answer a few election-related questions too.

The race to be Oklahoma's Governor

Four candidates are seeking to be Oklahoma's Governor on Nov. 8. From left to right: Republican and incumbent Gov. Kevin Stitt, Democrat Joy Hofmeister, Independent Ervin Yen and Libertarian Natalie Bruno.
Four candidates are seeking to be Oklahoma's Governor on Nov. 8. From left to right: Republican and incumbent Gov. Kevin Stitt, Democrat Joy Hofmeister, Independent Ervin Yen and Libertarian Natalie Bruno.

Conventional wisdom would say incumbent Gov. Kevin Stitt would breeze to victory against his Democratic challenger Joy Hofmeister.

But a series of independent, nonpartisanpolls are painting the picture of a tight race. Hofmeister and Stitt are within the margin of error of each other in several polls.

The pair have plenty of policy differences. Though Hofmeister was a Republican for much of her political career, she switched parties after Stitt and Hofmeister broke off on policies related particularly to masks and keeping schools open amid skyrocketing case counts.

They've disagreed on issues likehealth care andtribal sovereignty.

In amid-October debate, Stitt touted his conservative credentials, while Hofmeister continued with her moderate tone at the Will Rogers Theater in Oklahoma City.

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

Stitt often invoked President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party throughout the night’s debate. Hofmeister touted herself as an independent thinker who joined the Democrats after the state GOP was “hijacked,” by the governor, she said.

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

Libertarian Natalie Bruno and Independent Ervin Yen are also on the ballot. But neither were invited to the state’s lone gubernatorial debate because of their low polling numbers.

Stitt Cabinet appointee takes on former teacher of the year for State Superintendent

Democrat Jena Nelson (left) and Republican Ryan Walters (right) are vying to be Oklahoma's next State Superintendent for Public Instruction in the Nov. 8 election.
Democrat Jena Nelson (left) and Republican Ryan Walters (right) are vying to be Oklahoma's next State Superintendent for Public Instruction in the Nov. 8 election.

State Secretary of Education Ryan Walters is taking on 2020 Teacher of the Year Jena Nelson to be the next State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Hofmeister is term-limited.

Walters – Gov. Kevin Stitt’s appointed Secretary of Education – has made himself a champion of conservative causes like enforcing Oklahoma’s so-called critical race theory banHouse Bill 1775 andbarring transgender students from using the restroom corresponding with their gender identity.

Nelson has made a name for herself by advocating for public education throughout the race, and a couple polls have even shown her witha slight lead over her opponent. A Democrat hasn’t won statewide office in Oklahoma since 2006.

Lt. Governor candidates face voters for the first time this election season

Incumbent Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell is seeking reelection for the second highest office in the executive branch.

Pinnell came into office for his first term alongside Gov. Kevin Stitt in 2018. Pinnell is being challenged by Democrat Melinda Alizadeh-Fard, who has a law degree from Oklahoma City University and has worked as an immigration attorney, social worker, and administrative law judge. Also on the ballot is Libertarian Chris Powell, a former Marine Corps Reservist with combat experience during the first Gulf War. He is a previous chair of the Oklahoma Libertarian Party.

All three candidates for Lt. Governor will be facing voters for the first time this election cycle. The primaries for all three parties were canceled because the candidates were unchallenged for their parties’ nominations.

Both of Oklahoma’s U.S. Senate Seats are up for grabs

Both of Oklahoma’s U.S. Senate seats are up for election this November.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe announced his retirement earlier this year, spurring a special election to fill the rest of his term. In addition, Sen.James Lankford is up for reelection.

In the race to fill Inhofe’s seat, GOP CongressmanMarkwayne Mullin is running against a familiar Democratic challenger - former CongresswomanKendra Horn, a Democrat who flipped Oklahoma’s Congressional District 5 in 2018 - but lost in a 2020 reelection bid.

Mullin will likely be the favorite in November in deep red Oklahoma, where the majority of registered voters are Republican. Horn ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination for Inhofe’s seat this election season. Also on the ticket is Libertarian Robert Murphy and Independent Ray Woods.

Murphy, who ran in 2016 for the U.S. Senate, was also an Independent candidate in 2014 for CD-5.Woods, a 2014 Independent candidate for the U.S. Senate, lives in Cleo Springs.

Oklahoma voters will decide whether Inhofe’s seat will remain red. It has been held by him since 1994 - when Democrat David Boren resigned to take over as president at the University of Oklahoma.

In the other Senate race, incumbent Lankford is running for re-election against Stilwell-native and cybersecurity professionalMadison Horn, a Democrat and political newcomer. Also in the race is Libertarian Kenneth Blevins and Independent Michael Delaney.Blevins is a welder and pipefitter from Tulsa.Delaney’s website says he’s running as an Independent Progressive.

Lankford has held the seat since 2015. Oklahoma U.S. Senatorsare elected to serve six-year terms.

Who and what you’re not voting for this November

Supporters of State Question 820 turn in signatures to the Oklahoma Secretary of State in July 2022.
Yes On 820 Campaign
Supporters of State Question 820 turn in signatures to the Oklahoma Secretary of State in July 2022.

While Oklahomans have big choices to make at the polls this November, some politicians and issues won’t be on their ballots.

Though it made frequent headlines over the last year, the fight to get recreational cannabis on this year’s ballot fell through.

State Question 820 seeks to legalize cannabis for adults over 21, and it would allow some drug offenders the chance to have their cannabis convictions reversed and criminal records expunged.

Though backers collected 69,000 more signatures than needed, an outside vendor tasked with verifying the signaturestook so long that it was too late for the initiative to be included on this year’s ballot. SQ 820 will now appear on a special election ballot in March 2023.

As for who isn’t on the ballot this year, the list includes nearly 70% of the state’s legislative elections, due to a lack of contested positions. Most of those uncontested seatsbelong to GOP members — a Republican will fill 74 of the 87 already-decided legislative seats. Voters will decide just 31 out of 101 House races, and seven out of 24 Senate races this November.

Republicans heavily favored in Oklahoma’s five Congressional districts

Oklahoma Republicans hold all five Congressional districts. Other than a2018 upset victory for former one term Congresswoman Kendra Horn, it’s been like that consistently in recent history.

The races look like this:

  • Congressional District 1: Incumbent Republican Kevin Hern faces off against Democrat Adam Martin and Independent Evelyn Rogers.
  • Congressional District 2: The seat is being vacated by Markwayne Mullin as he runs for Senate. Former state senator Josh Brecheen won acrowded GOP primary. He’ll take on Democrat Naomi Andrews and Independent “Bulldog” Ben Robinson.
  • Congressional District 3: Incumbent Republican Frank Lucas faces Democrat Jeremiah Ross. Lucas has been in Congress since 1994.
  • Congressional District 4: Incumbent Republican Tom Cole will take on Democratic challenger Mary Brannon.
  • Congressional District 5: Incumbent Republican Stephanie Bice, who defeated Horn in 2020, will face a challenge from Democrat Joshua Harris-Till and Independent David Frosch. Her district was reshaped during redistricting in 2021, whichmakes a Democratic upset more difficult.

What does Oklahoma’s registered voting population look like?

The Oklahoma State Election Boardreleases new annual voter registration statistics on Jan. 15 and Nov. 1 of each year, and also provides monthly reports.

As of Nov. 1 - nearly 2.3 million Oklahomans are registered to vote ahead of the November 8th election. There was a net increase of more than 77,000 registered voters since the last annual report in January. There has also been a net increase of more than 175,000 voters since November 1, 2018.

Republicans now make up 51.19% of the Oklahoma's voting population - while Democrats make up 29.95%. This is the first time that official voter statistics show Democrats at less than 30% of registered voters.

Independents make up the third largest group in Oklahoma's voting population at 18% - and Libertarians make up .86%.

In the two largest counties - Oklahoma and Tulsa counties - there has been significant growth in Independent voters - while also seeing decreases in the Republican and Democratic party in those counties.

This section was updated after the Nov. 1 yearly report came out.

Oklahoma’s Attorney General Race

State Attorneys General are responsible for acting as public advocates for things like consumer protections, antitrust, utility regulation - but they also are responsible for enforcing federal and state laws and representing the state and state agencies in court. They are also known to issue formal opinions which interpret state laws and filing amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court and bringing civil enforcement actions.

This year, the race for Attorney General in Oklahoma is largely unopposed. Republican Gentner Drummond is running against Libertarian Lynda Steele - with no Democratic challenger. It is likely Drummond will win the seat - considering Republicans make up over half of Oklahoma’s voting population - despite growth in the Libertarian party over the last several years.

Drummond has been vying for the seat for some time. He ran against former Attorney General Mike Hunter in 2018 and again this year against current incumbent John O’Connor - beating him in the runoff. Drummond also has support from several tribal leaders at a time when the relationship between tribes and state leadership are tense over issues like tribal sovereignty, gaming compacts and tribal jurisdiction.

Drummond, an air force captain, hasoutlined three priorities on his website - protecting second amendment rights, protecting against federal overreach and proposed clearing a backlog of rape kits.

LibertarianLynda Steele, an army veteran, is running for the seat for the first time.Steele has proposed reform of Oklahoma’s Family Court system, has said they respect tribal sovereignty, and has said she will fight for Oklahoma’s growing cannabis industry and patients.

The race for Oklahoma’s top elected financial officer

Three candidates are running for state treasurer after Republican incumbent Randy McDanieldeclined to seek reelection.

Thestate treasurer manages Oklahoma’s finances, which are comprised of taxpayer money. The office’s responsibilities include releasing regular financial reports and overseeing the state’s Unclaimed Property Program that reunites people with their mislaid assets.

Democratic candidate Charles de Counehas campaigned on government accountability. In aBallotpedia candidate survey, de Coune said as state treasurer, he would fight for transparency and opportunities for public input on the state legislature’s financial decisions. De Coune also ran in 2018 butlost to current Treasurer McDaniel with only 28.4% of the vote.

Libertarian candidate Greg Sadler also emphasizes his commitment to government transparency. According tohis campaign website, Sadler believes in spending “the absolute least amount of taxpayer money.” Sadler also ran for the state senate in 2020 but lost to Republican Shane Jett.

Afterwinning August’s run-off primary against former State Sen. Clark Jolley, State Rep. Todd Russ is the Republican candidate for treasurer. Unable to seek reelection to the state legislature due to term limits, Russannounced his bid for treasurer last year.Russ’s campaign has highlighted his experience as a banker and his roles on financial committees in the state legislature.Russ told NonDoc that if elected, he intends to examine the state’s Unclaimed Property Program.

Only three Republicans have ever served as Oklahoma’s state treasurer, but the GOP has held the office since 2011.

Oklahoma County District Attorney

Vicki Behenna (D) and Kevin Calvey (R) face off to become Oklahoma County's next District Attorney on November 8th.
Vicki Behenna (D) and Kevin Calvey (R) face off to become Oklahoma County's next District Attorney on November 8th.

Adistrict attorney is the top law enforcement official in their local county or district.

They prosecute criminal cases and assist a grand jury, if required. They’re tasked with giving legal opinions and advice to the Board of County Commissioners and other civil officers. District attorneys are elected to 4 year terms by the voters in the county or local district they serve.

The Oklahoma County District Attorney race is between RepublicanKevin Calvey and Democrat Vicki Behenna.

Calvey, who is a county commissioner, is being investigated by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations -despite claiming it was over at a debate in mid-October. The OSBI was asked to investigate the Calvey campaign by currentOklahoma County District Attorney David Prater in June - after accusations about using public money for campaigns were brought forward by a county employee. A campaign spokesman told The Oklahoman the investigation is a “thinly-veiled hatchet job” by Prater.

Vicki Behenna is a federal prosecutor who worked on the prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombing and for theOklahoma Innocence Project - which helps to identify and remedy cases of wrongful convictions. She currently works in private practice.

Both Calvey and Behenna participated in a debate, hosted by NonDoc, News 9 and The Oklahoman, where theyfound common ground on marijuana decriminalization - but also sparred over ethics, competence and other issues like the county jail and prosecuting police accused of excessive force.

ANews 9 SoonerPoll in late September showed the candidates in a “statistical tie” with 35.8% saying they’d vote for Behenna, while 33.3% said they’d vote for Calvey. The poll was made up of likely voters in Oklahoma County - with 51% who were Republicans and 36% who were Democrats.

The winner of the race will take over for Prater who plans to retire in 2023.

As utility prices rise, Oklahoma’s race for Corporation Commissioner heats up

Republican Sen. Kim David faces Democrat Warigia Bowman, a law professor at the University of Tulsa, in the race to replace outgoing Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy. While Bowman’s website and campaign material uses Warigia Bowman she appears on ballots as “Margaret Warigia Bowman.”

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission regulates utility and telecommunications companies, as well as oil and gas drilling.

David has been amember of the Oklahoma Senate since 2010 anddescribes herself as a conservative, a "military mom" and a small business owner, running the property management companySweetgum Properties, Inc. She worked in petroleum marketing for about a decade after graduating with a degree in petroleum geology.

Bowman served as an attorney in the environmental division of the U.S. Department of Justice before teaching law classes on water, natural resources and energy at TU. As a candidate,Bowman proposes modernizing Oklahoma’s electric grid by conducting a grid audit, diversifying the state’s energy portfolio with renewables and expanding broadband access.

Independent Don Underwood is also running for Corporation Commissioner. Underwood does not have a campaign website or social media page.

Labor Commissioner Race

Candidates vying to be Oklahoma’s Labor Commissioner would oversee workplace rights and safety issues in the state.

Incumbent Labor Commissioner Leslie Osborn secured the Republican nomination after winning a run-off election against former state legislatorSean Roberts. Osborn, who’s wrapping up her first term, previously served 10 years in the state legislature as a representative. If re-elected, Osborn said she would expand efforts to educate high school students on skilled worker career tracks, such as plumbing and electricity, to fill those workforce shortages, according toThe Oklahoman.

Democratic candidate Jack Henderson cites his 12-year experience as a Tulsa city councilor and 37-year membership with alabor union as his qualifications for the office. In aFacebook post, Henderson said he’d work toward repealingOklahoma’s right-to-work law if he were elected. Under theNational Labor Relations Act, right-to-work laws limit collective bargaining agreements between unions and employers from only benefiting union members.

Libertarian candidate Will Daugherty, his party’s state chairman, said he’d like to get rid of occupational licensing fees for businesses until they make a profit, according to theTulsa World. He also said he’d push for lower taxes on businesses that pay their employees higher wages.

The candidate who wins the office will serve as the head of the state’s Department of Labor.


Oklahoma City Public School board meeting
Oklahoma City Public School board meeting

Oklahoma City Public Schools isasking voters for almost $1 billion to make infrastructure improvements across the district. The bond issue would increase property taxes within OKCPS boundaries from 18 mills to 26 mills. That would represent a rise of $8 per $1,000 of assessed value. The bond would pay for some big projects: five new schools, a new multisport stadium and a bevy of renovations across the district.

Citizens of the McCurtain County community of Hochatown in far southeastern Oklahoma will vote on whether to incorporate their tiny tourist town. The vote willtheoretically end a decades-long debate in the community about whether to incorporate. Money has poured into the town from south of the Red River as it has grown into a tourist destination. Incorporation would mean more local control within the community and allow residents to collect lodging and sales taxes, paying for fire and police protection and other public services. The would-be town has fewer than 300 residents, according to The Oklahoman.

In Moore, voters will decide whether to keep a 3.875% sales tax in place. The tax pays forpublic safety improvements and has funded police and fire department vehicles as well as street repairs in the past. If approved, the tax would continue through March 2027.

Collinsville voters will have the chance to approve a half cent sales tax that would go toward funding anew fire station on the west side of the growing suburb and a potential police station expansion.

In Kay County in the far northern part of the state, voters will decide on a sales tax increase to help fund rural fire departments. The proposition there has been criticized by Ponca City commissioners, who havedeclined to pass a resolution supporting it. Supporters have said it would help fund improvements for fire and EMS services throughout Kay County.

Voters will decide which Oklahoma Supreme Court justices keep their seats

Oklahoma voters don’t get to choose who gets to become a state supreme court justice, but they do get to decide who remains one. November’s ballot will include retention votes for those serving the state’s highest court.

On the federal level, Supreme Court appointments are for life, but not in Oklahoma. Each of the justices face a retention vote, which means they can be removed from the bench.

Four of them are up for retention vote this year: Justices Dana Kuehn, James R. Winchester, Douglas L. Combs and Dustin P. Rowe.

Four of the state’s nine Supreme Court seats are geography based; the justice represents a district. Kuehn represents the Tulsa area, and Winchester represents southwest Oklahoma. Both Combs and Rowe are at-large members, which means they represent the whole state.

The positions are technically nonpartisan. On the federal level, the president has full authority to choose their justices, but in Oklahoma, a judicial nominating commission gives the governor a list of candidates. Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed Kuehn and Rowe. Winchester was a Frank Keating appointment, and Combs a Brad Henry appointment.

Highlights of district judge races from across the state

Judges in six of Oklahoma’s 26 judicial districts will be elected by voters across multiple counties on Nov. 8.

District judges have general jurisdiction over the criminal and civil cases that come before the courts in their area of influence. Some districts have multiple district judge offices for the elected official to preside over.

Voters in Cleveland, McClain, and Garvin counties, which are all represented by District 21, will choose between the incumbent District Judge Michael Tupper and his opponent, Patrick Crowe.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma County, the only county represented by District 7, will choose between Kathryn Savage and James Siderias, who are both Special Judges for District 7. District 5, which covers Comanche, Cotton, Jefferson, and Stephens counties, will vote on three district judges.

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.

Oklahoma Public Media Exchange
Robby Korth grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma and Fayetteville, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Nebraska with a journalism degree.
Kateleigh Mills joined KOSU in March 2018, following her undergraduate degree completion from the University of Central Oklahoma in December 2017.
Ryan LaCroix joined KOSU’s staff in 2013. He hosts All Things Considered, Oklahoma Rock Show, Oklahoma Rock Show: Rewind, and Oklahoma Music Minute.
Beth reports on education topics for StateImpact Oklahoma.
Logan Layden is a reporter and managing editor for StateImpact Oklahoma. Logan spent six years as a reporter with StateImpact from 2011 to 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.
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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