Tommie Johnson
Oklahoma County sheriff candidate Tommie Johnson speaks during a debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. Johnson made starting a body camera program a key priority in his campaign. (Michael Duncan)

Despite being criticized by his opponent for having worked fewer years in the law enforcement profession, Republican Tommie Johnson III defeated Democrat Wayland Cubit on Tuesday in an open race for Oklahoma County sheriff. Johnson will become the county’s first Black sheriff.

“I am honored and humbled to be elected Oklahoma County sheriff,” Johnson said in a statement sent to NonDoc. “My opponent waged a solid campaign and, even though our race was contentious, Wayland Cubit has my respect both as a man and an officer. I look forward to pioneering a new era in law enforcement in which public safety and community respect go hand-in-hand.”

While Cubit prevailed in absentee and early voting totals, Johnson received strong support in Election Day returns. With more than 96 percent of precincts reporting at the time of this post’s publication, Johnson held 52.4 percent of the vote and led Cubit by more than 13,000 votes.

Cubit, 51, has served in the Oklahoma City Police Department for more than 20 years and has led a variety of initiatives, most prominently around community policing.

Johnson, 31, has served in the Norman Police Department for seven years. He defeated incumbent Oklahoma County Sheriff P.D. Taylor in August’s Republican runoff election. Taylor, a longtime Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office employee who worked under former Democratic Sheriff John Whetsel, ultimately endorsed Cubit for the November election. Taylor cited Cubit’s experience as a defining factor.

Johnson, Cubit clashed in debate

Wayland Cubit
Oklahoma County sheriff candidate Wayland Cubit speaks during a debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. (Michael Duncan)

Johnson and Cubit squared off in an Oct. 22 debate hosted by NonDoc and streamed by News 9. The two candidates clashed over law enforcement experience and the presence of federal immigration authorities at the the county jail but found common ground on body cameras and increasing the department’s funding.

The two men spoke critically of each other throughout the debate, though they rarely looked at one another on stage, even though they were only feet apart.

Despite their contentious discussions during the debate, Cubit and Johnson ultimately took an unusual step by holding a joint press conference in the final week before Election Day. Both men spoke in opposition to State Question 805, which proposed a constitutional limitation on sentence enhancements for crimes that are currently not defined as “violent” in state statute.

Johnson said his top priority would be the implementation of body cameras for Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office deputies.

“The top priority for the Oklahoma County sheriff is to get body cams,” Johnson said. “The ability to have evidence that is directly reflective of everything that happens on scene is of the utmost importance. It outrages me that the deputies of the department don’t have them.”