State Offices on 2018 Ballot
By: Constitution Staff
In non-presidential election years, the governor’s office, a host of secondary statewide offices, and one seat for the Corporation Commission are all up for election. In 2018, the candidate filing period will be April 11-13. The Primary Election will be held on June 26, the Runoff Primary Election on August 28, and the General Election on November 6.
Mary Fallin, who is in the final two years of her second term, is prohibited by term-limits from seeking a third four-year term in 2018. With the seat open next year, a large number of candidates have entered the race.
Former state Senator Connie Johnson (D-Forest Park) will be making the race. She is the past vice chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party. Johnson, 64, was the Democrat nominee against U.S. Senator James Lankford when he ran for a full-term in 2014. Johnson received 29% of the vote in that race. She was among the most liberal members of the state Senate. She had a cumulative average of 12% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index published by the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper. She is opposed to the death penalty and has a solid pro-Abortion voting record. She was one of the leaders of a failed effort to get an initiative petition on the ballot to legalize the use of marijuana in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma House Minority Leader Scott Inman of Del City announced on April 20 that he would run for the post. However, he surprised everyone on October 25 with his announcement that he had abandoned the race and will resign his seat in the Legislature early next year. Rep. Inman, 38, is term-limited and could not run for reelection in 2018. He has a cumulative score of 44 percent on the Oklahoma Conservative Index, and scored 46% this year.
Former Attorney General Drew Edmondson announced in May that he will make the race. Edmondson ran for governor in 2010 instead of running for reelection, but lost in the Democrat Primary to Lt. Gov. Jari Askins who went on to lose to Mary Fallin. Edmondson, 70, drew attention in 2016 as the spokesman for the successful effort which defeated State Question 777, the so-called Right to Farm measure. The Edmondson name has been well known in Oklahoma politics, but is less of a factor now. His father, Ed Edmondson, served in the U.S. House of Representatives. His uncle, J. Howard Edmondson, served as governor and then as U.S. Senator.
State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones is term-limited and cannot run for reelection in 2018. Jones, 62, formally entered the race for Governor in May and was the first Republican to officially announce. During an appearance at the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC) on April 12, Jones acknowledged that he could not match the spending of some other candidates considering the race, but said he could make a successful campaign with a third of the funds that others might spend. Prior to his election as Auditor and Inspector, Jones served as chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party.
As long expected, Republican Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb announced that he will make the race. Lamb, 45, an Enid native, was elected lieutenant governor in 2010 and reelected in 2014, carrying all 77 counties. Prior to his election as Lt. Governor, Lamb served in the State Senate from 2004 to 2010 earning a cumulative average of 66% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index. Prior to his election to the Oklahoma Senate, he worked for former Gov. Frank Keating and former U.S. Sen. Don Nickles. He also previously worked as a U.S. Secret Service agent.
Attorney Gary Richardson of Tulsa is making his second race for the state’s top job, this time as a Republican. He ran in 2002 as an Independent candidate, and spent more than $2.3 million of his own money in that effort. Richardson, who is now 75, finished in third place behind the Democratic candidate, Brad Henry, and the Republican nominee, Congressman Steve Largent. Richardson was the Republican nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives in Oklahoma’s second district in 1978 and 1980, losing both times to Democrat Congressman Mike Synar. He was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Oklahoma serving from 1981 to 1984. He then founded a successful law firm in Tulsa.
Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett announced on May 31 that he would be a candidate for governor. Cornett spent 20 years in broadcast journalism as an anchor and reporter before making a successful run for Oklahoma City’s Ward 1 council seat. In 2004 he was elected as the city’s 35th mayor and is the first in the city’s history to be elected to four terms. He just completed a term as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and is the longest serving mayor among the 50 largest cities in America. His tenure at City Hall included the successful recruiting of an NBA team to Oklahoma City. In 2006, Cornett was a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the fifth district. In that year, Ernest Istook gave up the seat to run for governor. Cornett made it into the Republican Primary Runoff Election where he was defeated by Mary Fallin.
Former state Rep. Dan Fisher of El Reno decided not to run for reelection to the Legislature last year, after serving only two terms. He complained that the legislative system was rigged and prevented he and other conservatives from accomplishing conservative reforms. He had a cumulative score of 94 percent on the Oklahoma Conservative Index. He is pastor of the Trinity Baptist Church in Yukon. While he is not expected to compete financially with most of the other candidates, he is expected to have the largest grassroots support.
Kevin Stitt, 44, officially announced for Governor in October, becoming the sixth Republican to join the race. He 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.” Today, Gateway employs over 1,100 people, has 145 offices nationwide, and is licensed in 40 states and serves 100,000 customers. The company estimates that it will originate more than $6 billion in mortgages in 2017. Stitt says he’s willing to match contributions to his campaign, and expects to spend about $2.5 million of his own money on the race.
With the return of the Libertarian Party in 2016 as a recognized political party in the state, several candidates will offer themselves for the party nomination. If their nominee does not earn at least 2.5 percent of the vote in the 2018 race, they would again lose ballot status as a party. Their 2016 presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, received 5.75 percent, which secured the party a place on the ballot for 2018. In order to maintain ballot status, a recognized party must poll at least 2.5 percent of the vote for their nominee for president in the presidential election years, or their candidate for governor in gubernatorial election years. Previously, a party had to poll at least 5 percent. The Libertarian Party lost their status as a recognized party after their candidate in the 2000 presidential election, Harry Browne, received less than the 5 percent threshold. At least three possible candidates have expressed an interest in running for the Libertarian Party nomination for governor.
Joseph Maldonado, also known professionally as “Joe Exotic,” is an animal handler who owns the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park south of Oklahoma City and is also an entertainer, actor, and musician. Maldonado, 54, made a run for president last year as a write-in candidate using the Joe Exotic moniker. Although he suffered the loss of his “husband”due to a self-inflected gun accident in October, he says he will still make the race.
Rex Lawhorn of Broken Arrow is a telecommunications technician. He has been involved in state and federal levels of politics as an activist. He was chairman of the Americans Elect Party which was briefly on the ballot in Oklahoma. He is currently the Oklahoma State Director for the Our America Initiative and is involved in various other grassroots causes.
Chris Powell of Oklahoma City ran for Oklahoma County Clerk last year 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.
Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb was elected to the office in 2010 and reelected in 2014. He is term-limited and cannot run for reelection in 2018. As previously noted, he is now seeking the Republican nomination for Governor. With the post open in 2018, a number of Republican candidates are entering the race. No Democrat nor Libertarian candidates have announced for the post.
Former Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman and small business owner Matt Pinnell was the first candidate to announce for the 2018 race. Pinnell was the youngest state Republican Party chairman in the country at the time of his election, In 2010, he helped the Oklahoma party secure all five congressional seats and every statewide elected office simultaneously for the first time in Oklahoma history. In 2013, former Republican National Committee 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. In that role, 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.
On July 25, state Senator Eddie Fields (R-Wynona) announced that he was running for Lieutenant Governor. Fields is a rancher and small businessman from Osage County. He was first elected to the Oklahoma Senate in 2010 after serving one term in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He was reelected in 2014. While he could run and be reelected in 2018, due to the 12-year legislative term limits, he would not be able to complete a full term because of his time in the House. He has a cumulative average of 53% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index and scored only 16% in this year’s session.
Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy of Edmond announced as a candidate on July 26. Murphy, 57, won another six-year term last year and will remain in the position during the campaign. She was first elected in 2008 in a Special Election to fill the remainder of the term of Denice Bode who resigned. She won reelection in 2010 for a full six year term. Since she did not have a Republican challenger last year, and the Democrat withdrew from the race, she has a large campaign fund that can be transferred to this race.
Dominque Damon Block Sr. of Oklahoma City filed with the Ethics Commission to raise funds for his campaign. In 2010 he was a Republican candidate for the Oklahoma House of Representatives in District 88.
Former state senator Scott Pruitt was elected Attorney General in 2010 and was reelected in 2014. Due to term-limits, Pruitt would not be able to run for a third term in 2018. He had already dismissed speculation concerning a possible run for the first district seat in Congress, but expressed a strong interest in a run for governor. However, in the weeks following the presidential election, President-elect Trump announced that Pruitt was his choice to head the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt fought overreach by the EPA, filing lawsuits against the agency. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate for the cabinet level department on February 17 and resigned as Oklahoma Attorney General.
On February 20, Governor Mary Fallin appointed Secretary of State Mike Hunter to the post. Hunter served as first assistant attorney general under Pruitt until last year when Fallin named him Secretary of State and special legal counsel. Hunter had served as first assistant attorney general for Pruitt from June 2015 until October 2016, serving as chief legal adviser and overseeing a staff of over 200 lawyers, law enforcement agents and support staff. From 2010 to 2015, Hunter was the chief operating officer of the American Bankers Association (ABA). Prior to joining the ABA, Hunter was secretary of the Commissioners of the Land Office, a $4 billion public land and investment trust in Oklahoma. From 2002 through 2009, Hunter was executive vice president and chief operating officer of the American Council of Life Insurers. He also served as Oklahoma’s Secretary of State under then-Gov. Frank Keating. He was chief of staff to then-U.S. Rep. J. C. Watts Jr., of Oklahoma, from 1995 to 1999. While in private practice he worked as an energy and real estate lawyer. He also served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1985-1990 where he had a cumulative average of 61% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index. He received his law degree from OU and his undergraduate degree from Oklahoma State University. He is running for election to the office in 2018. No other candidates have announced for the post.
Former state representative Ken Miller was elected State Treasurer in 2010 and reelected in 2014 and is term-limited. Only one candidate, a Republican, has announced thus far. Rep. Randy McDaniel announced on July 10 that he will be seeking the office. McDaniel, a Republican from Edmond, serves as the Chairman of the House Banking, Financial Services and Pensions Committee. He has worked for more than two decades in the financial services industry as a financial advisor. After earning a degree in Economics from the University of Oklahoma and a graduate degree from Cambridge University, McDaniel began his career in banking and then worked for more than twenty years as a financial advisor for both individuals and institutions. In his capacity as a financial advisor, McDaniel managed hundreds of millions of dollars for a diverse group of clients. In the Legislature he authored and passed a series of pension reforms. McDaniel has a cumulative average of 72% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index, but received a 30% score in this year’s session.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Joy Hofmeister defeated Janet Barresi, the Republican incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction, in the June 2014 Republican Primary Election and defeated the Democratic candidate John Cox, in the November General Election. Her reelection campaign for 2018 appeared to be in jeopardy last year when Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater filed charges against Hofmeister and several others for illegally colluding with an independent expenditure group to win election in 2014. Prosecutors alleged Hofmeister used the group, Oklahomans for Public School Excellence, to accept illegal excessive donations and illegal corporate donations. Charged with her in the conspiracy counts were Fount Holland, her chief campaign consultant, and Stephanie Dawn Milligan, the political consultant for Oklahomans for Public School Excellence. Also charged in the conspiracy counts were two former leaders of state education organizations – Lela Odom, who in 2014 was the executive director of the Oklahoma Education Association, and Steven Crawford, who was the executive director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration. Prosecutors allege they helped create and fund the group which raised $300,000 to play ads critical of Barresi. In an unexpected move, Prater dropped the charges this summer. However, he said the investigation was not closed and he left the door open to refiling the charges at a later date. Hofmeister, 52, announced that she will be running for reelection. No other candidates have announced for the position.
Auditor and Inspector
Gary Jones, a Certified Public Accountant, and former Republican State Chairman was elected State Auditor and Inspector in 2010 and reelected in 2014. He is term-limited in 2018 and is running for Governor. Only one candidate, a Republican, has announced for the position thus far. Oklahoma Deputy State Auditor Cindy Byrd officially declared as a 2018 Republican candidate at the State Republican Convention in May. Byrd, is a Certified Public Accountant and has spent more than 20 years in state government. During her tenure at the State Auditor’s office, Byrd identified waste and exposed corruption at the state and county level. Among her efforts was leading an audit in Rogers County that identified more than $5 million in fraud resulting in the indictment of two County Commissioners.
John Doak was elected State Insurance Commissioner in 2010 and reelected in 2014 and is term-limited in 2018. Only one candidate, a Republican, has announced thus far. State Rep. Glen Mulready (R-Tulsa) has 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 the last eight years has been self-employed as an independent. Mulready has also led numerous efforts to reform the state’s insurance laws in his capacity as a state legislator. He was first elected to represent House District 68 in 2010 and currently serves as the Majority Floor Leader. He has a cumulative average score of 61% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index and scored 20% this year.
Melissa Houston is currently serving as Labor Commissioner and says she will not run for the seat in 2018. She was appointed to the post by Governor Fallin after the murder of Commissioner Mark Costello in 2015. Costello, was elected in 2010 and reelected in 2014. Prior to his election, he was President and CEO of Oklahoma City-based USA Digital Communications which he founded in 1998. He was murdered by his mentally ill eldest son, Christian.
Cathy Costello, widow of the former Labor Commissioner, announced her candidacy for the post in 2018. “I do not want anyone’s vote because of the tragedy of my past. I am asking for everyone’s vote because of my vision for the future.” Costello plans to implement reforms to improve workplace safety, promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education to cultivate Oklahoma’s future workforce, and reduce the loss of wealth and productivity due to untreated mental illness. Since her husband’s death, Costello, 58, has become an advocate for reforming mental health policies. “Mental illness is the leading cause of lost workplace productivity and accounts for 30% of disability costs,” says Costello. “One in four Oklahomans suffers from mental illness which takes a tremendous toll on Oklahomans both personally and financially. The Labor Commissioner has a statutory obligation to promote the health and welfare of every worker in Oklahoma. Under my administration, mental health will be taken as seriously as physical health. It’s a win-win for employers and employees alike.” Costello said she knows about the job through the five-year “prep course” being married to the labor commissioner. They would talk about work every day, she said, especially about major decisions.
State Representative Leslie Osborn (R-Mustang)announced that she will run for Labor Commissioner in the 2018. As chair of the Oklahoma House Appropriations and Budget Committee during the 2017 Legislative Session she spearheaded approval of tax and fee increases, some of which have been ruled to be unconstitutional. Osborn has a cumulative average on the Oklahoma Conservative Index of 51% and scored a lowly 19% in this year’s session.
Former state Senator Leo Kingston, 67, is running for Labor Commissioner and has loaned his campaign $750,000. Kingston was a first-term senator when he and his wife were convicted in 1990 after a federal grand jury indicted them for defrauding the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Kingstons were accused of using “straw buyers” to obtain government-insured mortgages. Kingston claimed that a few ill-informed decisions in the operation of their real estate business led to the federal conviction. They were ordered to pay restitution of $406,171 and sent to prison. Leo Kingston served three years of an eight-year sentence. The Kingstons returned to real estate after prison and sold their business last year. They now run a website that deals with commercial real estate and mineral rights. Kingston had a cumulative average of 60% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index. A convicted felon is barred from running for office until 15 years after they complete their sentence.
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 Bob Anthony is up for election in2018. While the term-limits law for state offices only allows two terms for members of the commission, the law did not apply to the seat until 2012 when Anthony was reelected. He is therefore allowed to seek reelection in 2018 and has announced that he will run again. Anthony is the grandson of C. R. Anthony, the founder of one of Oklahoma’s greatest department store chains. In 1988, Anthony ran for the seat and won that race easily, and was reelected by large margins in subsequent elections in 1994, 2000, 2006, and 2012.
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