Buckle up for the next 365 days. Oklahomans are exactly one year out from the 2022 general election, when voters will decide who fills national, state level and local offices.
While the official filing period for Oklahoma’s 2022 election is not until April 13 through April 15, multiple candidates have already formed campaign committees for statewide and federal offices. Conventional wisdom would indicate that anyone planning to run for such a major elected position needs to be at least raising money and increasing their name identification one year out from Election Day. (The 2022 primary election is scheduled for June 28, with the runoff election date set for Aug. 23.)
Oklahomans intending to seek statewide office are required to register with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, while federal candidates must register with the Federal Election Commission. By searching for offices or candidates and clicking on their filings, you can see the amounts of money raised and spent so far.
Early campaign committee registrations show two hotly contested GOP primaries for the (functionally) open seats of attorney general, superintendent of public instruction and corporation commissioner. But no Democrat has formed a committee yet in those races, perhaps triggering coattail concerns for the party’s eventual gubernatorial nominee.
While several of Oklahoma’s mundane statewide elected offices — lieutenant governor, insurance commissioner, labor commissioner — may avoid contentious primary challenges, the state’s incumbent governor and an incumbent U.S. senator will be fighting off opponents from their right flanks.
Below, find summaries of who has formed campaign committees in hopes of making Oklahoma’s next general election one year out.
Six candidates challenging Gov. Kevin Stitt so far
Six gubernatorial candidates have formed campaign committees with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission to challenge Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (Republican) next November. The candidates include former State Sen. Dr. Ervin Yen (first a Republican, now an independent), State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister (elected twice to statewide office as a Republican, but now running as a Democrat), former State Sen. Connie Johnson (Democrat), marketing executive Natalie Bruno (Libertarian) and naturopathic doctor and retired Tulsa Police Sgt. Mark Sherwood (Republican).
Paul Tay, who was a Tulsa mayoral candidate in 2014, also announced a gubernatorial campaign in June of this year. However, he was arrested in August and charged with rape, kidnapping and assault.
Stitt, who was elected with no political background to serve as Oklahoma’s governor in 2018, will be running for a second term.
Yen was the first to announce that he would be challenging Stitt, filing his campaign committee with the ethics committee in November 2020. He initially filed to run as a Republican, but he announced in October that he would be withdrawing his Republican voter registration and running as an independent, saying, ” I have not changed, the party has.”
Yen served one term as a Republican state senator from 2014 until he lost his reelection bid to GOP challenger Joe Howell in 2018. An Oklahoma City anesthesiologist, Yen has been critical of Stitt’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and told NonDoc last year that the governor’s goal of using privatized managed care to implement the state’s Medicaid program also bothers him. Yen was a registered Democrat until 2009, state records show.
Hofmeister announced in October that she will be making her run for governor as a Democrat after switching her political party affiliation from Republican. Hofmeister has served as state superintendent of public instruction since 2014 and is ineligible for reelection to that post owing to term limits.
In a Facebook post from Oct. 7, Hofmeister stated, “While I’m changing my party affiliation, I am not not changing my values or who I am.” In a campaign video, Hofmeister mentioned health care, infrastructure and rural broadband as some of her top priorities.
The 2022 election will mark Johnson’s second run for governor after losing the Democratic nomination in 2018 to former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson. Johnson served as a state senator from 2005 to 2014. During her July campaign launch in Oklahoma City, Johnson said she plans to make “strategic investments to advance a robust economic, education and health agenda for all Oklahomans.”
Bruno formed her campaign committee in June of this year. Top issues for Bruno, according to her campaign website, include respecting the SCOTUS decision regarding Indian County reservations, leaving vaccination and masking decisions up to individuals, treating abortion as an individual decision, making health care more affordable, expanding Oklahoma’s cannabis industry, improving education and making innovations to the state’s criminal justice system.
A Tulsa-based naturopathic doctor and retired member of the Tulsa Police Department, Sherwood formed his campaign committee in September. This will be his first time running for a public office, and he has aligned himself with other far-right candidates, including U.S. Senate GOP challenger Jackson Lahmeyer. He believes the 2020 presidential election was “hijacked” and that Donald Trump should and will be reinstated as presdient.
On his campaign website, Sherwood states that Oklahoma is under attack from the “rogue Biden Communist regime.” Sherwood’s campaign issues include election integrity, abolishing abortion, stopping Second Amendment infringement, ensuring “critical race theory” isn’t taught in schools, banning mandatory vaccines, masks or lockdowns and the deregulation of business and agriculture.
Lieutenant governor limited to Pinnell at this point
Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell has formed his committee to run for reelection and, at this point, is the only candidate in the race.
As lieutenant governor, Pinnell serves as the president of the Oklahoma State Senate as well as secretary of tourism, wildlife and heritage, in which role he oversees the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation.
Before Pinnell was elected in 2018, he served as director of state parties for the Republican National Committee from 2013 to 2017. He was also chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party from 2010 to 2013.
Pinnell’s campaign issues include education, advocating for small businesses, increasing tourism to the state, increasing government accountability and recruiting more people to become foster parents.
A primary matchup for attorney general
Current Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor and attorney and businessman Gentner Drummond have both formed campaign committees as Republicans for the AG election next November.
In 2018, O’Connor was nominated by former President Donald Trump to fill a federal judge position. However, the American Bar Association committee deemed him “not qualified” in the areas of professional competence or integrity for a federal judicial nomination. Subsequently, O’Connor never received a confirmation hearing. Throughout the saga, O’Connor received strong support from Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) and U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK).
“We are missing out on an opportunity to place a person of the highest integrity and competence on the federal bench to serve all Oklahomans,” Inhofe said in January 2019.
During his four months in office so far, O’Connor has requested that the U.S Supreme Court overturn its McGirt ruling, has filed a brief requesting the Supreme Court overturn Roe vs. Wade and, most recently, has filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration’s vaccination requirements for federal contractors.
Drummond has been the senior attorney at the Drummond Law Firm, in Tulsa, since 1998 and the principal shareholder and director of Blue Sky Bank since 2003. He ran a campaign for Oklahoma attorney general in 2018 but lost in the GOP runoff election to Hunter.
A former U.S. Air Force captain, Drummond lists campaign goals on his website, including the protection of Second Amendment rights, protecting the state against federal overreach and protecting victims of sexual assaults by clearing the state’s rape-kit backlog as quickly as possible.
Hunter had formed a campaign committee in November 2020, but it has since been terminated, with some funds returned to donors and other dollars used to pay off his substantial 2018 campaign debt to himself.
UPDATE: Three seek to count beans as state treasurer
Despite filing a campaign committee with the Ethics Commission in January 2020, Oklahoma State Treasurer Randy McDaniel announced June 1 — six days after Hunter announced his resignation — that he would not be seeking reelection.
Oklahoma County Commissioner David Hooten formed his campaign committee with the Ethics Commission on June 30.
A trumpet player and former restaurateur, Hooten previously ran as a Democrat for the State House of Representatives in 2004, but he was removed from the ballot by the Oklahoma Election Board for not meeting voter registration requirements. In 2014, Hooten ran for State Senate as a Republican, but finished fourth in the primary (with 11.2 percent of the vote) behind eventual winner Ervin Yen. In 2016, Hooten ousted embattled Oklahoma County Clerk Carolyn Caudill and won reelection in 2020, despite criticisms that Hooten’s firing of prior clerk employees had resulted in a settlement costing the county $175,000.
Term-limited State Rep. Todd Russ (R-Cordell) formed his campaign committee for state treasurer on July 31. Russ is the chairman of the the Appropriations and Budget Transportation Subcommittee and serves on the full Appropriations and Budget Committee, the Common Education Committee and the Insurance Committee. Russ has more than 35 years of banking experience and has worked in management consulting for businesses and banks since 2008. He served as the president and CEO of Washita State Bank from 2003 to 2008.
In 2016, Russ drew national headlines and was forced to apologize after saying that Native Americans are “predisposed to alcoholism” during debate over a measure eventually passed by voters to modernize Oklahoma’s alcohol laws.
Former Republican State Sen. Michael Mazzei had formed a campaign committee with the Ethics Commission in July, but he ended his campaign owing to what would have been a conflict arising from his association with Raymond James Financial.
On Nov. 9, one day after the original publication of this post, former State Sen. Clark Jolley announced his candidacy for state treasurer, saying in his release that he has the “relevant experience” to succeed in the position. In addition to serving as Senate Appropriations and Budget Committee chairman, Jolley recently stepped down as a member of the Oklahoma Tax Commission to run for office. An attorney, Jolley has also been an adjunct professor at two private Christian universities.
Three GOP candidates for superintendent of public instruction
State Secretary of Education Ryan Walters, Shawnee Public Schools Superintendent April Grace and Peggs Public Schools Superintendent John Cox have all formed committees to run as Republicans for the open state superintendent of public instruction position.
Walters was appointed as secretary of education by Stitt in September 2020. He teaches advanced placement history at McAlester High School and Millwood High School in Oklahoma City and was a finalist for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year in 2016. Walters has been criticized for overlap in his private and public positions in the education sector. In 2019, Walters became the executive director of the education advocacy group Oklahoma Achieves, which in 2020 was absorbed by the organization Every Kid Counts Oklahoma, where Walters serves as CEO. The organization was put in charge of promoting the distributing of federal COVID-relief dollars for the Stitt administration.
Walters has been supportive of Stitt’s request for an investigative audit of the State Department of Education. He also recently posted on Twitter in support of O’Connor and Stitt’s fight against the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit regarding HB 1775, which bans teaching of certain concepts about race and gender in Oklahoma public schools.
Grace has served as the superintendent of Shawnee Public Schools since 2016 and has spent 30 years in public education as a classroom teacher, building administrator and assistant superintendent. She was named 2021 State Superintendent of the Year by the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators as well as OASA District 9 Superintendent of the Year.
Grace and other district officials have been criticized after an SPS assistant athletic director was accused of sexual misconduct with a 17-year-old boy and investigators revealed that the man, Ron Arthur, had remained employed by Shawnee Public Schools despite receiving eight admonishments for alleged verbal and sexual misconduct. A sheriff’s deputy wrote that Arthur had been reprimanded for “vulgar and sexual comments to male students and vulgar comments about female students, allegations of having inappropriately touched a male’s buttocks, sending inappropriate text messages to students and having contact with students alone when he was not allowed to per his previous reinstatements.”
While noting that she could not comment on an ongoing personnel investigation, Grace told The Oklahoman that the deputy took the admonishments out of context and that her district does not condone “the alleged behavior by Mr. Arthur or any school employee entrusted with student well-being.”
Cox has spent the past 23 years as the superintendent of Peggs Schools and has 35 years of experience in Oklahoma public schools. Cox serves as president of the Organization of Rural Elementary Schools, chairman of the Oklahoma Schools Assurance Group and treasurer of the Oklahoma Schools Insurance Group. He has also served as president of the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators.
Cox has run for the state’s top education post twice before, but as a Democrat. In 2018, he garnered 33.8 percent of the vote against Hofmeister. In 2016, he received 44.2 percent of the vote against her. The party switch has left Cox vulnerable to criticism of being a literal RINO — or Republican In Name Only.
From the State Senate to the corporation commission?
A former president pro tempore of the Oklahoma State Senate and a currently influential member of the same body are both seeking the Republican nomination for the Corporation Commission seat being vacated by the term-limited Dana Murphy.
Oklahoma Secretary of State Brian Bingman served as the State Senate’s leader prior to terming out of the Legislature following the 2016 election. A former mayor of Sapulpa, Bingman is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and ran for a corporation commission seat in 2018, losing to Bob Anthony in a runoff. Over the past year, Bingman has been Stitt’s most trusted liaison with member of the Oklahoma Legislature.
Sen. Kim David (R-Porter) is entering her final year of legislative service. She became the first female Republican to serve as floor leader of the Oklahoma State Senate, but she was replaced in that position ahead of this month’s special session. David has been a staunch supporter of the Grand River Dam Authority and of Stitt’s efforts to implement privatized managed care of the state’s Medicaid program. Her comments about managed Medicaid ruffled the feathers of some GOP colleagues in early 2021.
David and Bingman are the only two people to have formed campaign committees for the open Corporation Commission seat so far.
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So far, Byrd flying solo for state auditor and inspector
Incumbent State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd (Republican) is the only person who has registered a 2022 campaign committee with the Ethics Commission so far. First elected in 2018, Byrd hails from Coalgate in southeast Oklahoma and had worked in the SA&I Office for years prior to running for the statewide office.
Interest in insurance commissioner not at a premium
Incumbent Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready (Republican) is the only person who has registered a 2022 campaign committee with the Ethics Commission so far. First elected in 2018, Mulready previously served in the Oklahoma House as a representative from Jenks.
Incumbent labor commissioner labors alone
Incumbent Labor Commissioner Leslie Osborn (Republican) is the only person who has registered a 2022 campaign committee with the Ethics Commission so far. First elected in 2018, Osborn previously served in the Oklahoma House as a representative covering the Mustang area.
U.S. Senate seat features challengers from the right
Incumbent Sen. James Lankford represented Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District for two terms prior to winning an open U.S. Senate seat in 2014.
A staunch conservative with a background in youth leadership for the Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, Lankford simultaneously managed to defend and support President Donald Trump’s agenda during his time in office yet alienate some of Trump’s strongest backers at the grassroots level when he withdrew his objection to the certification of the 2020 presidential election results. Underscoring his awkward political positioning around issues related to the former president, Lankford subsequently apologized to Black voters for supporting Trump’s claims that the election had been rigged.
Lankford has drawn a pair of ultra-conservative GOP challengers for his 2022 reelection bid: Pastor Jackson Lahmeyer and State Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow). The pair has been appearing together at events such as an upcoming fundraiser at Red Neck Yacht Club, an OKC bar that sued Stitt regarding his executive order closing bars at 11 p.m. According to social media postings, both Lahmeyer and Dahm are confirmed as attending the Dec. 10 Oklahoma Republican Party fundraiser, which is promoted as featuring a mechanical bull riding contest.
Lahmeyer has made headlines for appearing at speaking engagements with national GOP firebrands and posting photos showing his convoluted whiteboard charts. Re-elected to what will be his final legislative term in 2020, Dahm has been a controversial member of the Oklahoma State Senate, being reprimanded multiple times, including for his 2021 remarks about Vice President Kamala Harris and oral sex. Both Lahmeyer and Dahm and running on rhetoric related to America-First policies, limiting the reach of the federal government and other conservative efforts.
A pair of Democrats have also launched challenges to Lankford. Originally from Elk City, Oklahoma City attorney Jason Bollinger announced his candidacy first and formed a committee in September. Bollinger has a personal Facebook page and has posted a landing page with his announcement press release as a website.
On Oct. 21, Stilwell native Madison Horn also announced her campaign for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. A cybersecurity expert who works for Siemens Energy, Horn does have a website and formed a committee with the FEC on Nov. 2.
First and fifth congressional seats see opponents
Oklahoma’s five Congressional Districts will also have elections in 2022. CD 1 incumbent Rep. Kevin Hern (R), CD 2 incumbent Rep. Markwayne Mullins (R), CD 3 incumbent Rep. Frank Lucas (R), CD 4 incumbent Rep. Tom Cole (R) and CD 5 incumbent Rep. Stephanie Bice (R) are all seeking reelection.
While no challengers have yet formed campaign committees with the Federal Election Commission for CD 2, 3 or 4, Hern and Bice will each have opponents in their races.
Hern, a businessman and former aerospace engineer for Rockwell, was elected to CD 1 in 2018 and reelected in 2020. Hern’s campaign website touts “promises kept” throughout his time in Congress, saying he was involved in securing the border, protecting Second Amendment rights, co-sponsoring the Defund Planned Parenthood Act and helping former President Donald Trump to “drain the swamp.”
Adam Martin, a 2020 Oklahoma State University graduate, formed a committee to run for CD1 as a Democrat on Sept. 27. According to his campaign website, Martin intends to focus on expanding Medicare coverage, capping the cost of prescription drugs, providing equitable funding for public schools, raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and common-sense gun reform.
John Swoboda, a Tulsa-based teacher, filed to run for CD1 as a Democrat in March. According to his campaign website, Swoboda’s issues of focus include equal access in public education, racial justice, single-payer Medicare for all and marijuana legalization. He supports expunging the records of those convicted for past cannabis offenses.
Bice will be running for reelection after defeating CD 5 incumbent Rep. Kendra Horn in 2020 with about 52.1 percent of the vote. Prior to that, Bice was elected into the State Senate in 2014, where she served for two years as the assistant majority floor leader and chairperson of the Senate Finance Committee.
Democrat Abby Broyles formed her campaign committee for CD 5 in August. Broyles previously ran for U.S. Senate in 2020, but she lost to incumbent Sen. Jim Inhofe, receiving about 32.8 percent of the vote.
According to her campaign website, Broyles’ priorities include pay equity and economic security, protecting health care and fighting COVID-19, criminal justice reform, decriminalizing marijuana, education, renewable energy, economic development and taking care of service members.
(Clarification: This article was updated at 9:10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 8, to clarify the role of Every Kid Counts in promoting the distribution of federal COVID relief funding. The article was updated again at 1:10 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 9, to note Clark Jolley’s announcement that he is running for state treasurer. It was updated at 1:40 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11, to clarify information related to the Bollinger and Horn campaigns.)