Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge will become Gov. Mary Fallin’s new chief of staff Nov. 1, according to the governor who held a press availability to announce staff changes just after 3 p.m.
“Chris has been an integral part in my cabinet,” Fallin said.
She announced that first assistant attorney general Mike Hunter will replace Benge as secretary of state.
Benge, conversely, will replace Denise Northrup, a longtime Fallin confidant and political operative. Northrup will become the chief operating officer for the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.
“She’ll be a great asset for OMES,” Fallin said. “I’m looking forward to her joining that team.”
In addition, Fallin announced that her deputy general counsel, Jennifer Chance, will become general counsel.
“One of my top goals as governor has been to make sure the government operates as efficiently and effectively as possible,” Fallin said.
Hunter, who served as secretary of state under former Gov. Frank Keating, spoke Monday and emphasized the need “to get the policy right” moving forward.
“I’m not shaking up my staff. I’m refreshing my team,” Fallin said to press questions, citing OMES as an important and relatively young agency that will benefit from Northrup’s experience.
‘I have accepted his apology’
Fallin took questions from media, who largely asked about her support of embroiled GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump who is attempting to recover from a damning tape of vulgar language about women that surfaced Friday.
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“He has apologized. I have accepted his apology,” Fallin said. “The comments were made over 11 years ago. In the end, what I look at is the platform and the positions that candidates are running on.”
Fallin noted that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is flawed as well. Fox 25’s Phil Cross asked Fallin to compare the elements of Clinton’s policy that offend her to Trump’s comments.
“I’m not going to say which one is worse,” Fallin said. “Both candidates are flawed. Both candidates have made mistakes.”
The Oklahoman’s Rick Green asked whether she, as Oklahoma’s first female governor, had encountered sexist and vulgar remarks in her career.
“Of course I’ve encountered them,” the governor said. “Sometimes I’m offended by what I read on the internet — by what I read in the press.”