Pictured: Gov. Kevin Stitt gives Second Inaugural Speech.
Republicans Sweep State Offices
Kevin Stitt was a surprise winner in the 2018 Republican primary, having never before held public office, and in fact not having even been involved much in the political process at all. Stitt ran as a businessman and a political outsider. Surprisingly, he did not even vote in the 2016 intensely-fought Oklahoma Republican Presidential Primary in which Senator Ted Cruz of Texas won over businessman Donald Trump.
Stitt received an accounting degree from Oklahoma State University in 1996 and after graduation worked in the mortgage loan industry. He started Gateway Mortgage Group in 2000 “with only $1,000 and a computer.” Gateway grew into an enterprise employing over 1,100 people, and had 145 offices in 40 states. Following his election, he converted the company into a mortgage bank.
Since Stitt was opposed for the Republican nomination by three challengers in 2022, the possibility that he might be pushed into the August 23 Runoff Primary Election was present. But, he managed to capture the nomination with an impressive 69.06 percent of the vote on June 28. Stitt, 49, has been a mostly conservative governor and was the target of dark money groups which spent millions of dollars in opposition to Stitt’s reelection.
Stitt faced several challengers in the General Election, including State School Superintendent Joy Hofmeister who won the Democratic Party nomination. Hofmeister. was elected as a Republican in 2014, defeating incumbent Republican Janet Barresi in the primary. Hofmeister, 57, took increasingly liberal positions while in office, especially after her reelection in 2018. It was therefore no big surprise that she announced in 2021 that she had changed her registration to Democrat and would run for governor. She could not have run for reelection as Superintendent due to Term Limits. Hofmeister won the Democratic Nomination for governor with 60.73 percent of the vote.
Hofmeister focused her campaign mostly on calling Stitt corrupt, without specifying exactly what he was supposed to be corrupt about. The leaders of Oklahoma’s five largest Indian tribes endorsed Hofmeister. Although Stitt is a tribal member himself – Cherokee Nation – he has been in conflict with the tribes over the renewal of tribal gaming compacts with the state. Stitt has sought higher casino fees from the tribes. Stitt and the tribes have also been at odds over criminal prosecutions following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 McGirt ruling. While most tribal leaders are members of the Democratic Party, polls show most members side with the Republican Party.
In addition to Stitt and Hofmeister, there were two other candidates on the November ballot.
The Libertarian Party candidate, Natalie Bruno, has been a digital marketer and advertiser in Oklahoma for several years working for companies like Cox Media, Tyler Media, Gatehouse Media, the Oklahoman, and is currently the Director of Digital Strategy at Skyline Media Group. Bruno, 37, was the Marketing Director for Presidential/Vice-Presidential Libertarian Party campaign in 2020. She was the only Libertarian Party candidate to file.
Former State Senator Ervin Stone Yen, 67, of Nichols Hills initially said he would challenge Governor Stitt for the Republican nomination. But, in 2021 he announced that he had changed his registration from Republican to independent. This was not his first party change. He was registered as a Democrat before changing to Republican prior to his run for the Oklahoma Senate. Yen was elected to the state senate in 2014 and served one term before being defeated for reelection in 2018. He was the first Asian American to serve in that body, and also the most liberal Republican to serve in the Senate with a cumulative average of just 24% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index published by the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper.
Most pre-election polls showed a tight race, and several had Stitt behind. But, Gov. Stitt was easily reelected on November 8 with 55.45% of the vote. Hofmeister finished in second place with 41.79%. Bruno received 1.41% and Yen 1.36 percent.
Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell, 42, of Tulsa was elected to the office in 2018. The former Oklahoma Republican Party chairman and small business owner was the youngest state Republican Party chairman in the country at the time of his election to that post. In 2010, he helped Oklahoma Republicans secure all five congressional seats and every statewide elected office simultaneously for the first time in Oklahoma history. In 2013, former Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus appointed Pinnell as the RNC’s National State Party Director to serve as the chief liaison between the RNC and state parties. Pinnell traveled to all 50 states and played an integral role in Republicans taking control of the United States Senate in 2014 and helping Donald Trump win the White House in 2016. Pinnell did not receive a challenger for the Republican nomination last year. But, he faced a Democrat and a Libertarian candidate on the November ballot.
Melinda Alizadeh-Fard, 60, of Edmond was the only Democrat to file. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University at Commerce in 1984 and a law degree from the Oklahoma City University School of Law in 1999. She has had her own law office for the last 20 years, and since 2017she has served as an associate immigration attorney for Stump and Associates in Oklahoma City. She was an administrative law judge for 13 years and general counsel for the Oklahoma Public Employee Association from 2004 to 2006.
Chris Powell, 50, of Bethany (a community in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area) was the only Libertarian Party candidate to file. Powell is an evidence specialist for the Oklahoma City police department. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1985 to 1995. In 2016 he ran for Oklahoma County Clerk under the Libertarian Party banner and received over 89,000 votes, which is more votes than the Libertarian Party presidential candidate received in the county. He has been active in the state party since 2000 and has served as chairman and vice chairman. He won the Libertarian nomination for Governor in 2018 and received 3.44 percent in the General Election. He currently serves on the Bethany City Council.
Pinnell was reelected in November with 64.87% of the vote. Alizadeh-Fard came in second with 31.02% and Powell received 4.12 percent.
Auditor and Inspector
Cindy Byrd, 49, of Coalgate was elected Auditor and Inspector in 2018. Byrd is a CPA and has spent over two decades in state government. Before her election to the post, she served as Deputy Auditor and Inspector. She ran for reelection in 2022 and had a challenger for the Republican nomination. She won the nomination in the Primary with 70.04 percent of the vote. Since no other candidates filed, the office was filled in the June 28 Primary Election.
In 2021, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announced he was resigning effective June 1. Hunter was elected to the post in 2018. On July 23, Governor Kevin Stitt announced the appointment of John O’Connor to serve as the Attorney General. Under the Oklahoma Constitution, the Governor has the authority to fill the position should the office be vacated prior to the term’s expiration.
O’Connor, 67 of Tulsa ran for election to a full term in 2022. He was challenged for the Republican nomination, and narrowly lost to Gentner Drummond who took the nomination with 50.87 percent of the vote.
Drummond 58, of Hominy challenged Hunter for the 2018 GOP nomination and narrowly lost to Hunter in the Runoff Primary Election. Drummond served as an Air Force pilot during the Gulf War, and is an attorney, rancher, and businessman. He is the principal owner of Blue Sky Bank. He had not previously been active in the Republican Party and had contributed to Democrat candidates who ran against Sen. Jim Inhofe, Sen. Tom Coburn, and Congressman Jim Bridenstine. He also contributed to Joe Biden in August of 2020.
No Democrats filed for the post, but Lynda Steele, 31, of Warr Acres (a community in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area) filed as a Libertarian. Steele served over 12 years in the Oklahoma Army National Guard and in 2016, after the laws changed to allow women on the gun line, she became the first female artilleryman in Oklahoma. She founded a group called Furnishing Fatherhood. Steele is strongly pro-choice on abortion.
Drummond won in November with 73.76% of the vote. Without a Democrat candidate on the ballot, Steele garnered 26.24%, which was the highest percentage of the statewide vote received by a Libertarian candidate in the November election.
Incumbent Republican State Treasurer Randy McDaniel, elected in 2018, did not run for reelection in 2022. Prior to his election as State Treasurer, McDaniel served in the Oklahoma House. McDaniel began his career in banking and then worked for more than twenty years as a financial advisor for both individuals and institutions. Three Republicans, a Democrat, and a Libertarian filed for the open office.
Since three serious Republicans were running, the nomination was not settled until the Runoff Primary Election on August 23. The top two finishers in the June 28 Primary Election were State Rep. Todd Russ and former State Senator Clark Jolley. Russ finished first in the June 28 primary and went on to win the GOP nomination in the August Runoff Primary.
Todd Russ could not run for reelection to the Oklahoma House in 2022 due to Term Limits. He had a 68% cumulative average on the Oklahoma Conservative Index. Russ, 61, of Cordell has more than 35 years of banking experience. He served as President and CEO of Washita State Bank in Burns Flat from 2003-2008. He sold the majority of his bank stock and began management consulting with banks and businesses in 2008. During his banking career, Russ served as a director of the Oklahoma Bankers Association (OBA) and Chairman of OBA’s Small Bank Council.
Since only one Democrat filed he went directly to the November ballot. Charles De Coune, 50,of Oklahoma City ran as an independent for Treasurer in 2018 and received 28.42 percent of the vote. There was no Democrat in that race and he finished second to McDaniel, and ahead of the Libertarian candidate. He ran as a Democrat for Oklahoma County Court Clerk in 2020, but lost in the General Election. De Coune was educated in Belgium before moving to the U.S. as an exchange student. He moved to Alva, Oklahoma in 1994 to attend Northwestern Oklahoma State University. After two years he transferred to the University of Central Oklahoma to study Finance. As a UCO student, he interned with Merrill Lynch and with Northwestern Mutual Life. He then became a Financial Analyst at MidFirst Bank. After serving two years as the Chief Operating Officer for an Oklahoma City charter school, he joined the Oklahoma Water Resources Board as its Lending Manager.
Gregory Sadler, 49, of Newalla was the only Libertarian to file. In 2020, he unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the Oklahoma Senate. Sadler is an account manager at a printing company. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Iowa in 1998.
Russ won in November with 64.77% of the vote. DeCoune finished second with 30.68%, and Sadler received 4.55 percent.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Joy Hofmeister was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2014, and was reelected in 2018.She could not run for reelection in 2022 due to Term Limits. She changed her party registration from Republican to Democrat in 2021 and became the Democrat nominee for Governor in 2022. Four Republicans and a Democrat filed for the open seat.
Oklahoma Education Secretary Ryan Walters, 36, of Edmond filed for the Republican nomination. Governor Stitt appointed Walters to his cabinet as Education Secretary in 2020. He also served as executive director of Every Kid Counts Oklahoma. He previously taught history at McAlester High School, and advanced placement U.S. History at Millwood High School in Oklahoma City and McAlester High School. Last year, as Education Secretary, he sent a letter to the Stillwater Public Schools Board instructing them to put an end to their bathroom policy which allowed students to use whichever bathroom that aligned with their chosen gender identity. He has been a leader for School Freedom legislation that would allow state funding to follow the student and pay tuition at non-government schools. He finished in first place in the June 28 Republican Primary, and went on to defeat April Grace, the Shawnee Public Schools Superintendent in the Runoff Primary Election on August 23.
Jena Nelson, 44, of Edmond was the only Democrat to file. Nelson was named Oklahoma Teacher of the Year in 2020 and has taught at Deer Creek Public Schools for the past five years. She has spent 16 years in government education, teaching subjects such as English and theater. She currently serves as student support coordinator and teaches academic enhancement at Deer Creek Middle School. Prior to her time at Deer Creek, Nelson taught at Edmond Public Schools, Putnam City Public Schools, and in East Baton Rouge Louisiana.
The teacher’s unions and education establishment spent millions of dollars opposing Walters in the Primary and General Election. But, Walters won in November with 56.78% of the vote. Nelson received 43.22 percent. Expect a major shift of focus in Oklahoma education with Superintendent Walters.
Commissioner of Labor
Republican Leslie Kathryn Osborn, 58, of Mustang was elected Labor Commissioner in 2018. Previous to her election she served ten years in the Oklahoma House. As chair of the Appropriations and Budget Committee during the 2017 Legislative Session, she spearheaded passage of tax and fee increases, some of which were ruled unconstitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. She had a cumulative average on the Oklahoma Conservative Index of 51%, placing her in the RINO (Republican In Name Only) category. Osborn ran for reelection in 2022 and had two challengers for the GOP nomination. She finished first in the June Primary, and went on to win the Republican nomination over State Rep. Sean Roberts in the August Runoff.
Jack Henderson, 71, of Tulsa was the lone Democrat to file. He is a former Communications Engineer at AT&T. In 2004 he was elected to the Tulsa City Council and served multiple terms, but was defeated for reelection in 2016.
Will Daugherty, 28, of Yukon was the only Libertarian to file. He is development manager for FirstLight Home in Care in Oklahoma City, which provides in-home senior care services. He is the current chair of the Libertarian Party.
Osborn was reelection in November with 65.66% of the vote. Henderson finished second with 29.33% and Daugherty received 5.01 percent.
Glen Mulready, 61, of Tulsa was elected Insurance Commissioner in 2018. Prior to his election, he served eight years in the Oklahoma House and led efforts to reform the state’s insurance regulations. During his time in the Legislature he had a cumulative average of 61% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index. Also prior to his election, he worked in the insurance industry for more than 33 years. He spent 13 years on the executive teams of Oklahoma’s two largest health insurance companies and for eight years was self-employed as an independent agent. Mulready filed for reelection in 2022 and since no other candidates filed for the office, he will serve another four-year term.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission regulates oil and gas drilling, electric and gas utilities, trucking, pipelines, and telecommunications in Oklahoma. There are three Corporation Commission seats with six-year staggered terms. So, every two years one of the seats is up for reelection. The seat held by Republican Dana Murphy was up for election in 2022. Murphy could not run for reelection due to Term Limits. Four Republicans, a Democrat, and an independent filed for the open seat.
Senate Majority Leader Kim David (R-Porter) could not run for another term in the Legislature due to Term Limits. During her service in the Legislature she has been a strong supporter of the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) which produces hydroelectric power. “For the past decade, I’ve fought to ensure Oklahomans have reliable, affordable energy and strong infrastructure,” David said. “Serving on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission is the next step in continuing this important work while growing jobs and opportunities in our state.” Senator David, 61, had a 60% cumulative average on the Oklahoma Conservative Index. She finished first in the June primary and went on to win the Republican nomination over former State Rep. Todd Thomsen.
Margaret Warigia Bowman, 53, of Tulsa was the only Democrat to file. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College in 1990 and a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1994. She earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2009. She is an associate professor of law and the director of sustainable energy and resources law at the University of Tulsa College of Law.
Don Underwood, 71, of Inola filed as an independent. He did not have a campaign website or social media page, and did not issue information about his campaign.
David won in November with 63.50% of the vote. Bowman finished in second place with 30.89%, and Underwood received 5.62 percent.
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