Oklahoma Rep. Shane Stone (D-OKC) submitted his resignation letter to Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday afternoon, effective Dec. 31. In an interview this morning, Stone said he is pursuing “a different opportunity to continue public service,” and he discussed his five years in the Oklahoma Legislature.
“I’m continuing my career in public service in the public sector, but I can’t yet talk too much more about that. I will be able to somewhat soon,” said Stone, who was first elected to represent House District 89 in 2014.
Stone announced in June that he would not be seeking re-election in 2020. Tuesday, he said via press release that he could no longer offer the same dedication he did in the past.
“I will always think fondly of my time advocating for the communities in Oklahoma City that rarely get recognized at our Capitol,” Stone wrote. “We have suffered losses together, and we have celebrated victories. However, a time has come where I can no longer give the same dedication to this job that I have in the past. Because of this, I have opted to move aside and help find someone who can provide this district with the representation it needs.”
By phone Wednesday morning, Stone offered perspective for future candidates and young legislators.
“Lawmakers get a bad rap, and I understand why. I wish everybody — and especially new lawmakers — would know that everybody out there is just a person, and almost everybody is out there for the right reason,” he said.
Stone, 27, said working with fellow lawmakers required that he put aside what he thought he knew about individual colleagues.
“I don’t want to drop any names, but there were certainly a few legislators where I thought, ‘There is no way I could ever work with them because they are way off to the right or way off to the left,’ and you come to find out that, yeah, they may have some beliefs that are different, but you’ll be able to come together on some things,” Stone said. “They’re all good people, but they just view the world differently than you do.”
He said legislators should “find areas of expertise and dive in.”
“I know a lot of people say that, but I think that’s what you’ve got to do,” Stone said. “Obviously the state does a lot of things, so you can get lost trying to have a hand on everything.”
The biggest votes of Stone’s career involved the 2017 and 2018 budget battles that ultimately resulted in the largest tax increase and largest teacher pay raise in Oklahoma history.
“At the end of the day, if the people make enough noise, the system is going to work,” Stone said. “We had to be forced to work together in some ways, but we were able to work together to get that done. It really was a bipartisan effort. I remember having the conversation that led straight to the deal that we ended up striking.”
Stone said the 2017-2018 regular and special sessions featured “some miserable days during what felt like five years.” In the end, however, he said he feels good about the result.
“I think for everybody who was there at that moment, in your legislative career you knew right then that was your biggest moment,” Stone said. “That’s the kind of thing that only happens once every couple of generations. It was incredible to be part of that, and it was an honor to be part of that and to know that the impacts that decision had are going to be felt in the state for decades.”
Finding the next HD 89 representative
By making his resignation effective Dec. 31, it appears Stone will trigger state special election statutes, which specify that “no special election shall be called if the vacancy occurs in an even-numbered year if the term of the office expires the same year.”
The same statute notes that Gov. Kevin Stitt will have 30 days to call for a special election. Within 10 days of such a proclamation, a three-day candidate filing window will be followed by special primary, runoff and general election dates not less than 20 days of one another after the filing period.
That prescribed timeline means House District 89 could begin the 2020 legislative session without an elected representative if more than two candidates file. Session is scheduled to start Feb. 3, but the year’s first three monthly special election dates are Jan. 14, Feb. 11 and March 3.
Whenever the special elections are prescribed by Stitt, Stone said Tuesday he will send the State Election Board money from his unspent campaign funds to help support the special election’s cost.
“I made a comment during a debate that lawmakers who leave their seat early should help pay, to the best of their ability, for the special election to replace them,” Stone said in his press release. “I still believe that today and will act accordingly.”
Oklahoma Ethics Commission records indicate Stone has just shy of $19,000 in his 2018 campaign account, which can be given to other elective committees or nonprofit organizations.
Jose Cruz already campaigning for HD 89
Whenever a special election is set for HD 89, OCU School of Law graduate and former Congresswoman Kendra Horn staffer Jose Cruz has already been campaigning for the seat.
“I wasn’t expecting this to come so soon,” Cruz told Brett Dickerson of OKC Free Press on Tuesday evening. “But I’m glad I was able to start as early as I did back in June when I first announced, and so fundraising has been going great. The money is coming in.”
In his third-quarter Oklahoma Ethics Commission report, Cruz listed $8,770 on hand for his HD 89 race. As their numbers have shifted from rural to urban areas, Democrats believe the south OKC seat favors their party.
Even though a special election would be held in early 2020, HD 89 will be up for its normal election later in the same year.
Shane Stone receives bipartisan praise
When he announced in June that he would not seek re-election, Stone received praise from leaders of both House caucuses.
“Serving with Rep. Stone has been a true honor,” House Minority Leader Emily Virgin (D-Norman) said in a press release. “His commitment to working families not only in his district but across Oklahoma has been nothing short of inspiring. I am especially thankful for his friendship and support during my time as minority leader. The House Democrats are extremely grateful for his service to our caucus and the state.”
House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols (R-OKC) also spoke highly of Stone in the same press release.
“Rep. Stone has been a fierce advocate for South Oklahoma City,” Echols said. “He is always concerned first and foremost with doing what he believes is best for the people of his district. It has been a true honor to serve with him and count him as a friend. South OKC has been served honorably by Rep. Stone, and he will be missed.”
Stone’s resignation was announced Tuesday on Echols’ 40th birthday.