Mike Hunter resigns
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks during a primary election debate Saturday, June 23, 2018, at the Tower Theatre in Oklahoma City. (Michael Duncan)

Days after filing for divorce from his wife of 40 years, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter resigned this morning.

“It has been a distinct and absolute privilege of a lifetime to serve as the state’s attorney general,” Hunter said in a statement. “Regrettably, certain personal matters that are becoming public will become a distraction for this office. The office of attorney general is one of the most important positions in state government. I cannot allow a personal issue to overshadow the vital work the attorneys, agents and support staff do on behalf of Oklahomans.”

Minutes after Hunter announced his resignation, Chris Casteel and Nolan Clay of The Oklahoman published an article stating they had confirmed an extramarital affair with another state employee:

The Oklahoman submitted questions to Hunter on Tuesday night about an extramarital affair that the newspaper confirmed through people familiar with the situation. The sources said the affair was with a state employee, who did not work in the attorney general’s office.

Hunter was appointed attorney general by then-Gov. Mary Fallin in February 2017. Quickly, he launched lawsuits against opioid manufacturers that placed Oklahoma in a national spotlight. A former Republican state representative, he won election to a full term in 2018, defeating Gentner Drummond in the GOP primary and Mark Myles in the general election.

“I thank those who entrusted me to fulfill this role, and I am very sorry that I will no longer be here. I also extend a very heartfelt appreciation for those employees who chose public service and to work for the office,” Hunter said. “The employees in the Attorney General’s Office are dedicated, driven and go to bed every night and wake up every morning with the safety of Oklahomans as their magnetic north. I truly appreciate everything they do.”

Hunter controversially settled Oklahoma’s case against Purdue Pharma while a national, multi-defendant lawsuit was forming against Purdue. How Hunter handled the funding from the settlement aggravated state legislators. Assisted by private law firms, Hunter found a national spotlight during Oklahoma’s trial against Johnson & Johnson. The ruling in that case has been appealed.

Subsequently, Hunter also appointed Pat Ryan as special prosecutor to examine the sexual misconduct investigations of former OU President David Boren and former OU Vice President Tripp Hall. Ryan announced earlier this year that he would not be seeking a grand jury indictment. Neither Ryan nor Hunter has answered questions about what the investigation found.

More recently, Hunter had appointed former Labor Commissioner Melissa Houston as special prosecutor for the investigation into Epic Charter Schools.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt will appoint a replacement for Hunter, who did not always agree with the governor’s position on tribal gaming compact issues.

“The attorney general informed me of his resignation this morning, and I respect his decision to do what he thinks is best for his office and the State of Oklahoma,” Stitt said in a statement. “I know he is going through a difficult time and I wish him, his family, and the employees of his office well.”

Whoever Stitt appoints will inherit numerous legal cases and negotiations related to the recently affirmed Indian reservations in eastern Oklahoma.

Nearly simultaneously to Hunter’s resignation announcement, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Hunter’s request for a stay in the case of Shaun Bosse, a non-Indian man whose murder conviction in the death of a Chickasaw family was overturned by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. The case functionally affirmed the Chickasaw Nation’s historic boundaries as an Indian Country reservation.

Background on Mike Hunter

Hunter’s wife, Cheryl Hunter, is also an attorney. She served on the board of the State Regents for Higher Education during the administration of Gov. Frank Keating, for whom Mike Hunter served as secretary of state.

Hunter had already begun fundraising for his 2022 re-election campaign, with his latest Ethics Commission report showing he had raised more than $226,000. The report also shows that his campaign has carried over $787,500 in debt from personal loans to his 2018 campaign.

Read the Mike Hunter divorce petition

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(Update: This article was updated at 11:34 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 1:40 p.m. Wednesday, May 26, to include additional information.)