Have you ever heard the phrase, “All politics is local?” In early 2022, key central Oklahoma communities will decide who will lead their cities as mayor for the next four years.
The filing period for Oklahoma’s 2022 municipal elections ended 5 p.m. Wednesday, and the following post provides an overview of the mayoral posts up for election in Oklahoma City, Norman and Midwest City.
Municipal primary elections are set for Tuesday, Feb. 8, and general elections — if no single candidate earns more than 50 percent of the primary vote — are scheduled for Tuesday, April 5.
The following post provides an overview of the candidates who filed for mayor in OKC, Norman and Midwest City. Candidates are presented in alphabetical order. Full lists of municipal and school board candidates have been posted by the Cleveland County Election Board and the Oklahoma County Election Board. Voters elsewhere in Oklahoma can contact their county election boards to request a list of candidates who filed for school board seats.
In Norman, Clark faces three challengers
Norman politics are boring — said no one. In 2020, a dispute over police funding sparked the creation of a group called Unite Norman, which circulated petitions in an attempt to oust the incumbent mayor and other City Council members. The 2021 municipal election cycle featured heightened scrutiny, and a pair of Unite Norman-affiliated candidates won seats.
For Norman’s 2022 municipal cycle, Wards 2, 4, 6 and 8 are up for election, with incumbents facing one challenger each in Wards 2, 6 and 8. In Ward 4, four candidates are seeking an open seat. A full list of the City Council candidates can be found here.
Meanwhile, the incumbent Norman mayor will face three challengers of her own.
Breea Clark: The current mayor of Norman is seeking her second term. Clark announced her reelection campaign with a YouTube video April 7, in which she touts her track record.
“Throughout my term as your mayor, our community has been through a lot,” she says in the video. “Before 2020 began, we made great efforts to invest in our future, from supporting public transportation to investing in public health. We look to the future and imagine what our community could become and the services it could provide for residents.”
Clark, 38, went through a tumultuous first term during which she faced a failed recall effort spearheaded by the group Unite Norman, which was formed after the Norman City Council decided redirect more than $865,000 of a planned increase for the Norman Police Department budget to other city services.
Clark is a 2008 graduate of the University of Oklahoma College of Law, and she works for OU as the director of its JCPenney Leadership Program.
Larry Heikkila: Heikkila became Clark’s first challenger, announcing his campaign in July. His campaign website says he is running because Norman needs a mayor who will “lead our Council, focus on the citizens of Norman and our infrastructure needs…not on how the city caters to the homeless and focusing on the agenda of the progressive elite. No More!”
Heikkila’s campaign emphasizes reducing the city’s homeless population and increasing funding for the Norman Police Department.
“I want us to be able to go to the park at 11 at night or walk down the street and feel safe, and I don’t think right now we do,” Heikkila told The Norman Transcript. “Ten minutes is too long to wait if someone is trying to hurt you or your kids. It’s not the cops’ fault. There’s just not enough of them.”
Heikkila, 69, retired after a 26-year career in the U.S. Navy. He also spent nine years working for the University of Oklahoma’s Physical Plant and 17 years working for the City of Norman in various rolls. He has served on the Cleveland County Excise Board, Equalization Board and Tax Roll Corrections Board. He is also a member of the Cleveland County Industrial Authority.
Nicole Kish: An optometrist and 22-year Norman resident, Kish has said she also plans to return the reallocated funds to NPD if elected.
“We’re not going to be able to attract businesses here if we don’t have a safe city,” Kish told The Transcript. “I definitely want to refund the police department and get them up to speed, because public safety is important.”
If elected, Kish would join her partner, Ward 5 Councilman Rarchar Tortorello, on the Norman City Council. The Transcript questioned whether the couple’s potential joint service on the Council would qualify as a conflict under the Norman City Charter, but Kish said that would not be the case.
“Rarchar and I have known each other for a little over a year, but we’re independent thinkers,” she said. “We come from different backgrounds. I’ve run a business for 22 years in this city, so I’ve definitely got my opinions about how this city should be run. I think it should be run like a business. We love each other, yes, but love is love and business is business.”
Kish, 50, made headlines for attending President Donald Trump’s rally in Washington on Jan. 6, although she has emphasized she did not attend the subsequent insurrection attempt a mile away. When Norman residents circulated photos of her in the U.S. capital, she filed a lawsuit alleging defamation. She claimed that social media posts critical of her political behavior cost her 53 long-standing clients. The lawsuit was dismissed and appealed.
Alice Stephenson-Leuck: Leuck was the last candidate to file for the mayoral race, submitting her registration on Dec. 5. Her campaign will also focus on homelessness and NPD’s budget. She told The Transcript that she got involved in politics after the council’s decision to reallocate the police department’s proposed budget increase.
Leuck, 67, also told The Transcript she believes the rise in homelessness is due mainly to Riverwind Casino drawing people to the city. The Transcript said there is no data to back that claim.
She and her husband were the subject of a November story from News 9 regarding their fight with an insurance company regarding roof damage.
Bob Thompson: Thompson has lived in Norman for 40 years and has owned the Midway Deli for 36 years. He previously served on the Norman City Council from 2005-2009, representing Ward 1.
“Recently, local issues have take a back seat to national politics in our community,” Thompson said in a campaign video, a shift that he said is “a mistake.”
“As mayor, I intend to take serious steps to ensure that our policy-making process reflects the values that we share as a community,” he said in the video.
Thompson, 64, aims to prioritize decision-making processes grounded in “community values and procedures that won’t provide any oxygen to partisan distractions,” according to his website.
On the Cleveland County Election Board’s page outlining candidates for office, Thompson’s name is listed as “Midway Bob Thompson.”
Three challenge incumbent Dukes in Midwest City
In Midwest City, three men have filed to challenge incumbent Mayor Matt Dukes in the 2022 municipal election.
Bill Bridges: Bridges, 82, does not appear to have a website or social media presence. Minutes of Midwest City Council meetings indicate that Bridges has spoken before the City Council on several occasions.
Ren Caldwell: The 29-year-old filed to run for mayor Dec. 8., shortly before the deadline. Caldwell is a Realtor but does not appear to have an active online campaign presence thus far. In 2015, he posted on Facebook that he had started a company called “The Deck Box Club” to sell custom decks and packages of Magic The Gathering cards.
Matt Dukes: Dukes, 65, has served as Midwest City’s mayor since his election in 2016. Dukes announced his reelection campaign Dec. 6. In his announcement, Dukes touted his accomplishments since he took office, including a $53 million bond package passed by voters to fund infrastructure improvements, $117 million in commercial investment and the sale of Midwest City Hospital.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Dukes wrote in the announcement. “We have numerous issues that we intend to begin programming to correct these issues and try to ensure these types of issues don’t occur again. We must manage our city resources carefully and promote redevelopment where it is feasible.”
Dukes maintains a Facebook page as mayor of Midwest City.
Charles Wallace: Wallace is a 39-year-old martial arts instructor and business owner who served in Iraq as a Marine, according to the website for Hoshin Dojo in Midwest City.
The site lists Wallace’s nickname as “Mothra,” says he graduated as valedictorian from Midwest City High School and states that he is expected to complete a doctoral program for education in 2022. Wallace filed for office Dec. 8 and does not appear to have an online campaign presence yet.
Holt challenged by three in Oklahoma City
Voters in Oklahoma City will have four choices for mayor on their Feb. 8 ballot. If no one tops 50 percent, the two candidates receiving the most votes will face off in an April 5 general election.
Carol Hefner: The 60-year-old Hefner announced her candidacy in November after previously endorsing another candidate, Frank Urbanic, in an October Facebook post, which she later deleted. In her announcement, Hefner highlighted her conservative credentials. She served as a co-chairperson for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in Oklahoma, according to her website.
“It’s time for a real conservative,” Hefner said in her announcement. “That’s why I’m running for mayor. Our city deserves bold and dynamic leadership with an emphasis on traditional American values that have built our stability. People look to us from the liberal cities and want what we have. We don’t need a liberal progressive trying to change our Oklahoma culture.”
Hefner is a frequent critic of incumbent Mayor David Holt, who served as a Republican in the State Senate. City races are non-partisan. In the lone campaign video featured on Hefner’s website, a narrator calls Holt a “tool for the Barack Obama-Joe Biden agenda.”
In her campaign literature, Hefner promotes her status as a political newcomer. One image on her Facebook page features an image saying, “Carol Hefner has never been in politics or worked in government.”
However, in addition to her efforts for Trump’s campaign, Hefner ran in and lost a 2011 special election for Oklahoma State Senate District 47, which was won by current Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat. Hefner has also spoken at several OKC City Council meetings in support of police funding and against mask ordinances.
Hefner works in real estate. She sits on the board for Little Light School for Children of Incarcerated Parents and on the board of Cavett Camps, which serves special needs children, according to her website.
David Holt: Holt, 42, easily won election as Oklahoma City’s mayor in 2018, getting 78 percent of the vote. Holt has already brought in more than $600,000 for his reelection campaign.
Holt’s signature accomplishment since becoming mayor has been the successful 2019 MAPS 4 campaign, which voters approved by a wide margin.
“I’m part of the generation that has chosen to build our lives here in Oklahoma City because of the visionary leadership of those who came before,” Holt said on his campaign website. “We must maintain the same optimistic attitude, that same hunger to build a great city that got us here. We must capture the best elements of the past, but inject them with new energy and new ideas. We must renew the vision.”
Holt supported a mask ordinance to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in July 2020 that included a $9 fine. The ordinance ended in April.
If reelected, Holt said he would focus on maintaining upgrades in core city services, including streets, transit, infrastructure and police and fire protection. He said he would would also work to incorporate Oklahoma City’s diversity in future decision making.
Holt is an attorney who works for the investment firm Hall Capital. He served in the Oklahoma State Senate from 2011 until 2018.
Jimmy Lawson: The 42-year-old Lawson is the director of permitting services at the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission and an economics professor at Rose State College.
“I am running for Oklahoma City mayor because I believe that access to resources and programs for all communities is important,” he wrote on his campaign website. “Creating a city that puts emphasis on equity is vital. OKC suffers from an increasing homeless population. Nobody should succumb to the fact of living on the streets. Everybody makes mistakes and we all deserve a second chance.”
If elected, Lawson said he would focus on job growth in all sectors, improve programs for the homeless, promote community policing efforts and implement programs to reduce recidivism.
Lawson has also been a life-long friend of Julius Jones, whose death sentence was recently commuted to life without parole after a high-profile campaign to remove him from death row. Lawson appeared in the ABC docu-series The Last Defense, which raised awareness of Jones’ case.
Frank Urbanic: Urbanic, 41, is an Oklahoma City criminal defense attorney and U.S. Air Force combat veteran who served in four deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq while earning the rank of major.
Urbanic opposed efforts to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in a court challenge against the City of Guthrie. He also sued to stop executive orders restricting the sale of food and beverages after 11 p.m. on both the state and city level.
If elected, Urbanic said he would continue to oppose coronavirus restrictions, support law enforcement, improve infrastructure, stop wasteful spending, improve public safety, and end programs that encourage homelessness, according to his website.
“End any programs that serve as a magnet for the homeless,” he wrote on his website. “Implement best practices used by conservative-run cities that have been successful in reducing homelessness. I support the creation of an organization of conservative mayors so we can share ideas and help promote conservative principles in our communities.”
Urbanic has said he would also focus on basic infrastructure issues, such as streets, and wants to “end liberal fantasy projects” in favor of “focusing on things that affect everyone.”
On the website of his law firm, a page outlining sex offender statutes refers to him as “Oklahoma sex crime attorney Frank Urbanic,” with the slogan, “Don’t Panic! Call Urbanic.”
Voters in The Village will consider bond issues
While they won’t be selecting candidates for municipal office, voters in The Village will have a reason to cast ballots Feb. 8. The community located within the northern section of Oklahoma City will decide on a pair of bond proposals: $9.9 million for street improvements and $3.3 million for investment in parks and recreation.
(Correction: This article was updated at 9:45 a.m. Monday, Dec. 13, to correct the date of the end of OKC’s mask ordinance. It was updated again at 2:22 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 18, to correct reference to Kish’s visit to Washington in January 2021.)