Joel Kintsel, the director of the Oklahoma Department of Veteran Affairs, has become Gov. Kevin Stitt’s third announced Republican primary challenger for the 2022 election cycle.
Formerly Oklahoma’s House of Representatives parliamentarian for 14 years, Kintsel was a deputy director for the state agency before being named director by the ODVA board in 2019.
“Throughout my career, I have served the people of Oklahoma and I am honored today to announce my candidacy for governor,” Kintsel said in a press release. “Oklahoma is in desperate need of a governor who will obey the law, set high ethical standards and do things by the book. The Stitt administration is rife with corruption, self-dealing and cronyism and Oklahomans deserve another choice.”
Kintsel holds a journalism degree from Oklahoma State University and a juris doctorate from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. He served in the Oklahoma Army National Guard from 2000 to 2009, and he now serves as assistant staff judge advocate in the Oklahoma Air National Guard at the rank of lieutenant colonel.
“If elected, my first priority will be to clean up the corruption and mismanagement left behind by the Stitt administration,” Kintsel said in his release. “We cannot allow Stitt and his buddies to continue enriching themselves at the taxpayer’s expense. Let’s stand together and set things right for Oklahoma. Let’s create a future where all Oklahomans have the opportunity to succeed and thrive.”
Kintsel alleged computer security issue
In March, Kintsel declined to say whether he was planning to run against Stitt, but he sent a letter to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services regarding a computer security issue at his agency. In an interview with NonDoc, Kintsel said he fears that the computer security issue “looks like” it could be connected to the Stitt administration’s concerns about him running for governor.
“This has all happened since Dec. 1, right around the time the governor would have heard the rumor that is being spread about me potentially running for governor. We’ve never had anything like this go on prior to that time,” Kintsel said March 14. “It could be any number of things, but that certainly is what it looks like to me. If I am perceived to be a potential political opponent, they are using the power of the government to do opposition research and politically-oriented research with another state agency. That’s not appropriate.”
At the time, Kintsel said he wanted to get the FBI involved because he did not believe OMES officials could be viewed as independent evaluators of the alleged security breach.
“When it’s the people that control the state’s computer network that would be supposedly the people who are helping you figure this out, that is kind of a joke,” he said.
Sherwood, McCabe also in GOP primary
Two other Republicans, Broken Arrow physician Dr. Mark Sherwood and Moira McCabe, have registered campaign committees with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.
Dr. Ervin Yen, a former Republican state senator from Oklahoma City, originally registered his gubernatorial campaign committee to challenge Stitt as a Republican, but he changed his registration to independent in 2021. Also in 2021, Yen received a state contract to observe executions.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister switched her party affiliation in October to challenge Stitt as a Democrat. Former Sen. Connie Johnson (D-OKC) has also announced a gubernatorial campaign.
Natalie Bruno has announced as a Libertarian candidate.
Thomsen joins David in Corporation Commission race
Other individuals have recently registered campaign committees with the Ethics Commission.
Former Rep. Todd Thomsen (R-Ada) has formed a committee to run as a Republican for the Corporation Commission seat being vacated by Dana Murphy owing to term limits. Sen. Kim David (R-Porter) announced her campaign for the same seat earlier in 2021.
Secretary of State and former State Senate leader Brian Bingman also maintains an active 2022 Republican campaign committee for the Corporation Commission seat, but he has not said he is running for the seat. He ran for another Corporation Commission position in 2018.
Oklahoma 2020 Teacher of the Year Jena Nelson recently announced her candidacy as a Democrat for the state superintendent of public instruction position. On Tuesday, Jerry Ray Griffin registered a campaign committee for the same position on the GOP side, joining Shawnee Public Schools Superintendent April Grace, Peggs Superintendent John Cox and Secretary of Education Ryan Walters in that primary.
Meanwhile, no Oklahoman has registered to challenge the following Republican incumbents: Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd, Labor Commissioner Leslie Osborn and Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready.
No Democrat, Libertarian or independent has registered a campaign committee for the statewide offices of attorney general, state treasurer and corporation commissioner.
Official candidate filing is scheduled for April 13-15 at the Oklahoma State Capitol. The state’s primary election is set for June 28, with runoff and general elections set for Aug. 23 and Nov. 8.