Voters around Oklahoma will head to the polls today for a variety of elections and decisions. In particular, voters in Oklahoma County will select a sheriff and decide the fate of a couple of economic measures. Meanwhile, a House seat formerly held by a conservative is said to be neck-and-neck in Cleveland County.
First up in our list below, three candidates have been vying for the title of Oklahoma County Sheriff since former Sheriff John Whetsel stepped down in March following the release of a damning audit.
Next, State House District 46 is an oblong district that includes far northwest Norman, curves down south of State Highway 9 and runs all the way to the town of Noble. Voters in HD 46 will select a replacement today for former GOP Rep. Scott Martin, who resigned to become president and CEO of the Norman Chamber of Commerce following this year’s legislative session. The winner will be sworn in ahead of the anticipated Sept. 25 special session of the Oklahoma Legislature.
Last, voters in Oklahoma City will be handed three ballots at their polling places. In addition to a separate ballot for the sheriff race, voters will vote yes or no on 13 bond measures (embedded below) and then two questions about sales/excise tax rates. Of those, one would be a permanent 0.25 percent increase and the other would extend the existing 1 percent sales tax for MAPS 3 projects. Those new taxes would pay for some of the infrastructure measures listed among the other ballot’s bond projects, as well as the fire and police bond projects in particular.
Confusing much? The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber has led calls to vote yes on “all 15,” while Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid has critiqued parts of the package as “unimaginative, redundant and regressive.”
1Oklahoma County Sheriff candidate: P.D. Taylor
(Editor’s note: Scroll to the right to see all candidates and issues.)
A member of the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office since 1997, acting-Sheriff P.D. Taylor (Republican) brings experience but also the burden of guilt by association with regard to the flailing county jail. Twenty-five inmates have died in the jail during the past 20 months.
“There’s a total culture mindset that is being changed, and you can’t do that overnight,” Taylor said during NonDoc’s sheriff debate Aug. 23 at the Tower Theatre in OKC, at which all three candidates appeared.
2Oklahoma County Sheriff candidate: Mike Hanson
Oklahoma County Deputy Mike Hanson (Democrat) has been with Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office since 1986. In 2014, he was demoted from lieutenant to sergeant as part of a disciplinary action. More recently, Hanson oversaw courtroom security during the Daniel Holtzclaw trial in December 2015.
“I have witnessed the buddy system to a point of destruction,” Hanson wrote on a candidate questionnaire the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. “There must be test and review boards for all positions and the list should not be changed for other reasons.”
3Oklahoma County Sheriff candidate: Ed Grimes
Running as an independent candidate, former Canadian County Undersheriff Ed Grimes previously served in the Oklahoma City Police Department. In both the chamber questionnaire and at NonDoc’s debate, Grimes noted that criminal justice reform would be key to improving the county jail.
“There’s a lot of people who don’t need to be in that jail, but they get stuck there,” Grimes said during the debate.
4HD 46 candidate: Darin Chambers
Republican Darin Chambers has a business background, having worked for ICG Commerce and other companies. The U.S. Navy veteran has received strong support from business groups and former OU football coach Barry Switzer.
5HD 46 candidate: Jacob Rosecrants
Democrat Jacob Rosecrants is a Norman teacher. Rosecrants ran previously in 2016, getting 40 percent of the vote against Martin. Rosecrants has seen teachers and other education advocates rally around his campaign.
6Economic measure: General obligation (GO) bond
Approval of Oklahoma City’s GO bond package would allocate $967 million over a 10-year period for city-wide improvements ranging from street repair to public safety. The package will appear as 13 separate items seeking individual approval. In 2007, voters approved a GO bond package that invested $835.5 million into OKC.
7Economic measure: permanent quarter-cent sales tax
The approval of a permanent quarter-cent sales tax would generate money to pay for the bond that would increase the number of OKC’s police officers and firefighters. If approved, this measure is estimated to generate $26 million annually, according to City of OKC.
8Economic measure: temporary penny sales tax
Meanwhile, the temporary one-cent sales tax actually would extend the existing MAPS 3 sales tax, which is expiring. If approved, the temporary tax is estimated to generate $240 million in just over two years, which would be put toward street improvements in OKC.