State Offices Attract Candidates
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 was 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 was prohibited by term-limits from seeking a third four-year term in 2018. With the seat open for the first time in eight years, a large number of candidates have entered the race. There are 15 candidates running, including ten Republicans, two Democrats, and three Libertarians. This is the largest field of candidates to run for the office since 1986.
With ten Republican candidates in the race, it is unlikely that one candidate will receive over 50 percent of the vote and secure the nomination in the June 26 primary election. So, the big question is, which two candidates will earn a spot in the runoff primary on August 28.
State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones is term-limited and could not run for reelection in 2018. Jones, 63, was the first Republican to officially announce for the race. During an appearance at the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC) last year, Jones acknowledged that he would not be able to match the spending of some of the 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. He is from Cache in western Oklahoma.
Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, 46, is an Enid native, but now lives in Oklahoma City. He 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 published by the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper. 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. Richardson, who is now 77, 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 then appointed by President Ronald Reagan as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, upon the recommendation of Senator Don Nickles, serving from 1981 to 1984. He then founded a successful law firm in Tulsa.
Former state Rep. Dan Fisher, 58, of El Reno decided not to run for reelection to the Legislature in 2016, 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 average of 94 percent on the Oklahoma Conservative Index. He is pastor of the Trinity Baptist Church in Yukon. While he has staked out a conservative position on a host of issues, he says that ending abortion is the most important issue.
Mick Cornett, 59, spent 20 years in broadcast journalism as an anchor and reporter in the Oklahoma City market 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 was the first in the city’s history to be elected to four terms. He decided to concentrate on the gubernatorial race and did not run for reelection this year. He just completed a term as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and in that position lobbied to keep President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). In 2006, Cornett was a candidate for the Fifth District in Congress. 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.
Kevin Stitt, 45, is new to the political scene. 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, serves 100,000 customers, and originated 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.
The remaining three Republicans in the race were surprise entries during candidate filing and little is known about these candidates. Eric Foutch, 44, is from McCloud. Christopher Barnett, 34, is from Tulsa. Blake Cowboy Stephens, 57, is from Tahlequah.
Two candidates filed for the Democrat nomination. Former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew 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, 71, 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. Edmondson is the more moderate of the two candidates seeking the nomination.
Edmondson is being challenged for the Democrat nomination by former state Senator Connie Johnson (D-Forest Park). She is the past vice chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party. Johnson, 65, was the Democrat nominee against U.S. Senator James Lankford when he ran for a full-term in 2014. She received 29% of the vote in that race. Johnson was among the most liberal members of the state Senate. She had a cumulative average of just 12% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index. 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.
With the return of the Libertarian Party in 2016 as a recognized political party in the state, three candidates are competing for the party nomination. 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. In order to maintain ballot status, a recognized party must now 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. Their 2016 presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, received 5.75 percent, which secured the party a place on the ballot for 2018. 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.
Joseph Maldonado, 55, filed for office as “Joe Exotic,” his professional name. He 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, made a run for president in 2016 as a write-in candidate, also using the Joe Exotic moniker. Although he suffered the loss of his “husband”due to a self-inflected gun accident last October, he decided to still make the race.
Rex Lawhorn, 46, 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, 46, is an evidence specialist for the Oklahoma City police department. He ran for Oklahoma County Clerk in 2016 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 could not run for reelection in 2018 and is seeking the Republican nomination for Governor. With the post open in 2018, four Republicans, two Democrats, and an Independent are running.
Since there are four candidates running for the Republican nomination, the nomination might not be determined until the August 28 runoff primary if one candidate does not receive more than 50 percent of the vote in the June 26 primary.
Former Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman and small business owner Matt Pinnell was the first candidate to announce for the 2018 race. Pinnell, now 38, 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.
Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy of Edmond won another six-year term in 2016. She can continue to serve in the position while running for Lieutenant Governor. Murphy, 58, was first elected in 2008 in a Special Election to fill the remainder of the term of Denise Bode, who resigned. She won reelection in 2010 for a full six year term. Since she did not have a Republican challenger in 2016, and the Democrat withdrew from the race, she has a large campaign fund that can be transferred to this race.
State Sen. Eddie Fields (R-Wynona), 51, 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 last year’s session.
Dominque Damon Block, 37, of Oklahoma City is a private investigator. In 2010 he was a Republican candidate for the Oklahoma House of Representatives in District 88. Block, who is a Black, is probably the most conservative of the Republican candidates. However, it will be difficult to complete with the media campaigns of the other candidates.
Since there are only two Democrats making the race, the winner of the June 26 primary election will secure the Democrat nomination and advance to the November election. Anna Dearmore, 65, of Okmulgee was a 2016 Democratic candidate for District 16 of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, losing in the primary election. She has more than 30 years experience in marketing the tourism industry and brokering real estate. State Sen. Anastasia Pittman (D-Oklahoma City) was term-limited and could not run for reelection in 2018. Pittman, 47, has a cumulative average of 26% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index and scored only 23% in last year’s session. She is a public relations consultant and tutor.
There is also an Independent candidate in the race. Ivan Holmes, 81, of Oklahoma City is a former chairman of the Oklahoma Democratic Party. He is a retired college professor and ran for Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2014, losing in the Democrat primary. He advances directly to the November election ballot.
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. There are three Republicans and a Libertarian running for the office.
Oklahoma Deputy State Auditor Cindy Byrd, 45, officially declared as a 2018 Republican candidate at the State Republican Convention last May. Byrd, is a Certified Public Accountant and has spent more than 20 years in state government. Charlie Prater, 66, of Edmond, is an accountant and a former healthcare company executive. John Uzzo, 73, of Tahlequah, is an accountant.
Since there are three candidates running for the Republican nomination, the nominee might not be determined until the August 28 runoff primary if one candidate does not receive more than 50 percent of the vote in the June 26 primary. The Republican nominee will then face the Libertarian candidate. John Yeutter, 63, of Tahlequah is an accountant and financial planner.
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). He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate for the cabinet level department last year and resigned as Oklahoma Attorney General.
Gov. Fallin appointed Secretary of State Mike Hunter to fill the post. Hunter, 61, 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.
Gentner Drummond, 54, of Hominy is an attorney, rancher, and businessman. Angela Bonilla, 41, of Owasso is an attorney.
Since there is only one Democrat running, Mark Myles, 61, of Oklahoma City, he will advance to the November general election. He is an attorney and ran unsuccessfully for the Democrat nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2010.
Former state representative Ken Miller was elected State Treasurer in 2010 and reelected in 2014 and is term-limited. Only one Republican filed for the office. State Rep. Randy McDaniel, 50, of 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 last year’s session.
No Democrats filed, but Charles De Coune, 46,of Oklahoma City, filed as an Independent. He is a loan manager. The two candidates will advance to the November election.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Joy Hofmeister, 53, of Tulsa is the current Superintendent of Public Instruction and is running for reelection. She defeated Janet Barresi, the Republican incumbent in the 2014 Republican primary and defeated the Democratic candidate John Cox, in the general election. Her reelection campaign for 2018 appeared to be in jeopardy last year when Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater filed charges against her and several others alleging they were 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. Prosecutors alleged they helped create and fund the group which raised $300,000 to pay for ads critical of Barresi. However, the charges were dropped last summer. She was supportive of the recent teacher strike.
Linda Murphy, 66, was the Republican candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1994 and narrowly lost the election to Democratic incumbent Sandy Garrett, taking 49.5 percent of thevote. She was appointed by Governor Frank Keating as Secretary of Education. She later served as Deputy Commissioner of Labor; Administrator of the Eastern Oklahoma Department of Labor; member of the State Job Training Coordinating Council; and served on the Governor’s School-to-Work Council, and the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women. She was also the Republican nominee against Garrett in 1998. She is a longtime columnist for the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper, writing on education issues.
There is a third Republican running for the post, Will Farrell, 32, of Tulsa.
Dr. John Cox, 54, of Peggs, is a career government educator and will again be the Democrat nominee for the post. He lost to Hofmeister in the November 2014 general election. He is in his 24th year as a school superintendent and his 32nd year in the field of education. He also serves as an adjunct professor of education at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. Cox earned a doctorate at Oklahoma State.
There is also an Independent candidate, Larry Huff, 76, of Oklahoma City is a retired teacher. He advances directly to the November general election ballot.
Melissa Houston is currently serving as Labor Commissioner and is not running for the seat in 2018. She was appointed to the post by Gov. 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, is running for the Republican nomination. “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. 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) is also running for the Republican nomination. 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, 54, has a cumulative average on the Oklahoma Conservative Index of 51% and scored a lowly 19% in last year’s session.
The third Republican in the race is Keith Swinton, 54, of Norman. For the past 28 years he has worked for the United States Postal Service’s National Center for Employee Development. He is also a mechanical engineer and inventor. Since there are three candidates running for the Republican nomination, the nominee might not be determined until the August 28 runoff primary if one candidate does not receive more than 50 percent of the vote in the June 26 primary.
There are only two Democrats in the race, so the winner of the June 26 primary will advance to the November election. Sam Mis-soum, 30, of Tulsa, is a businessman and a testing engineer. Fred Dorrell, 63, of Broken Arrow, is a human resources professional.
The Republican and Democrat nominees will face Independent candidate Brandt Dismukes, 63, of Oklahoma City who will be on the November general election ballot.
John Doak was elected State Insurance Commissioner in 2010 and reelected in 2014 and is term-limited in 2018. Two Republicans and one Democrat filed for the post.
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, 57, 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% last year.
Donald Chasteen, 53, of Inola, is the other Republican in the race. The winner of the June 26 Republican primary will move on to face the lone Democrat in the race. Kimberly Fobbs, 52, of Tulsa is the chair of the Tulsa County Democratic Party, and is a business consultant. She was the Democrat nominee for a state Senate seat in 2016.
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 in 2018. There are three Republicans, four Democrats, and an Independent running for the seat.
Bob Anthony, 69, is running for a sixth term. 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. Anthony is the grandson of C. R. Anthony, the founder of one of Oklahoma’s greatest department store chains. In 1988, Anthony ran for a seat on the Corporation Commission and won that race easily. When Anthony took office at the Commission, he found a cesspool of corruption. William “Tator” Anderson, a utilities lobbyist was bribing commissioners, and he attempted to bribe Anthony. Anthony worked undercover with the FBI which enabled federal prosecutors to send Anderson and a fellow commissioner to prison. He was reelected by large margins in subsequent elections in 1994, 2000, 2006, and 2012.
Former Oklahoma Senate Pro-Tempore Brian Bingman is challenging Anthony for the Republican nomination. Bingman, 64, began his career as a petroleum landman for Continental Oil Co. (now Conoco-Phillips) soon after graduating from college. Today, he is vice president of land and operations for Uplands Resources. He served 12 years in the Oklahoma Legislature, and served as the Senate leader for six years before being term-limited from office. He was one of the more moderate Republicans in the Legislature with a cumulative average of 59% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index and scored only 40% during his final session in 2016.
Harold Spradling, 83, of Cherokee, is the third Republican in the race. He is a retired businessman and social worker. He was a candidate for the Oklahoma House in 1994.
With four candidates competing for the Democrat nomination, the nominee might not be determined until the August 28 runoff. Blake Cummings, 58, of Maud is an oil/gas consultant. He was the Democrat nominee for the Fourth District seat in Congress in 2008. He was a candidate in last year’s special election for the vacant Oklahoma House District 28 seat, and lost in the primary. Ashley Nicole McCray, 34, of Norman, is an historian and Native American community activist. Beau Williams, 67, of Edmond, is an attorney. Ken Reich, 76, is from Idabel.
Independent candidate Jackie Short, 66, of Oklahoma City will be on the November general election ballot.
In The News
Races for Congress
The U.S. Congress is composed of two chambers. Senators serve six-year terms with only a third of...
Statewide Secondary Offices
In addition to the governors office, a host of secondary statewide offices, and one seat for the...
Race for Governor Continues
Mary Fallin was prohibited by term-limits from seeking a third four-year term in 2018. With the seat...
Medical Marijuana Approved by Voters
There was only one state question on the June 26 primary election ballot, and it was approved by...
What Type of School Would Oklahomans Select?
Leaders in the public-education community often point out (correctly) that the vast majority of...
A Few Modest Proposals
As candidates for office, from statewide to state house, search for votes, they might want an idea...