county commissioner
Al McAffrey, left, faces Carrie Blumert, right, in an Aug. 28 runoff for the Democratic nomination for Oklahoma County Commissioner District 1. (NonDoc)

Voters will decide the Democratic nomination for Oklahoma County Commissioner District 1 during the Aug. 28 primary runoff election. Al McAffrey and Carrie Blumert are competing for the nod, and the winner will face Republican Brad Reeves in the general election.

County commissioners are responsible for handling a county’s real estate, property tax dollars and county road maintenance. Oklahoma counties are separated into three districts, and each district elects its own commissioner.

Willa Johnson has served as Oklahoma county commissioner for the first district since 2007 but chose not to run for re-election this year.

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Blumert: People ‘frustrated with business as usual’

Blumert works for the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, which she says has given her insight into county government.

“I’ve seen how city government and county government can work together,” Blumert said in an interview last week. “And I’ve seen ways I think we can work together a lot better.”

Compared to her opponent, McAffrey, Blumert is a newcomer to elected politics, but she does not view that as a drawback.

“A lot of people are very frustrated with business as usual,” she said. “The feedback that I get when knocking doors is that people are ready for fresh leadership.”

McAffrey: ‘I have the qualifications’

McAffrey was elected to serve House District 88 in 2006, where he twice won re-election before then representing Senate District 46 until 2014. He was the first openly LGBT Oklahoman elected to the Legislature.

“The experience I’ve had in the State Senate and as a small businessman myself, I have the qualifications to run and to be able to take care of the people,” McAffrey said.

McAffrey also emphasized his institutional knowledge of state government, saying his experiences and relationships would allow him to navigate Oklahoma County politics. He cast doubt on his opponent’s ability to do the same.

“I don’t know my opponent,” McAffrey said. “She works for the county health department, but I don’t know what other experiences she’s had in business or working in political circles.”

Blumert said her number one issue is improving the Oklahoma County Jail.

“Most of those inmates probably need access to mental health services and addiction recovery programs, rather than just sitting in our jail,” she said.

Blumert described Oklahoma County’s criminal justice system as “behind the times.” As commissioner, she said she would work to modernize the entire system to ensure consistent record keeping and expedited sentencing processes.

Blumert nearly won primary outright

Of the 15 candidates who filed to run for Oklahoma County offices in 2018, Blumert is the only woman.

“In a year when there’s this big rush of women running for the Legislature, there hasn’t quite been a rush of women running for county government,” Blumert said. “I’d love to change that. I’d love to get more women, no matter their age, to consider running for county government in the future.”

In the June 26 primary, Blumert received 45.8 percent of the vote while McAffrey received 27.4 percent. With that hill to climb for the runoff, McAffrey said he has been increasing his presence in northeastern Oklahoma City as well as knocking doors in his old senate district and the Mesta Park area where he has lived for years.

“We’re asking for more volunteers to come in an help us canvas the areas,” McAffrey said. “Because one person cannot do it themselves.”

McAffrey said Johnson, current Oklahoma County Commissioner from District 1, has done an excellent job.

“I’d like to carry on what she’s done,” McAffrey said.

(Update: This story was updated at 7:38 a.m. Tuesday, July 24, to adhere to Associated Press style in a specific reference.)