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Sean Roberts
Former Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks on behalf of his client, Commissioner of Labor Leslie Osborn, during a contestation of candidacy hearing for Rep. Sean Roberts (R-Hominy) held by the Oklahoma State Election Board on Monday, April 25, 2022. (Megan Prather)

Social media account banners, a plaque from the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association and a birthday card were admitted as evidence during a nearly two-hour hearing over whether Sean “The Patriot” Roberts was an appropriate moniker for his 2022 commissioner of labor candidacy. After hearing from witnesses that included Rep. Chris Kannady, Rep. Garry Mize and U.S. Senate candidate Jackson Lahmeyer, the Oklahoma State Election Board voted 3-0 to strike “The Patriot” from Roberts’ declaration of candidacy.

Doubts about whether anyone actually calls Roberts “The Patriot” were underscored earlier in the morning when Roberts himself seemed to stumble through the spelling of “patriot” as he entered his appearance before the board. Kannady (R-OKC) referenced the spelling snafu when he testified before the board.

“When asked to spell ‘patriot’, Rep. Roberts had issues with spelling. Probably because he’s not used to spelling it out or writing it out as part of his legal name,” Kannady said.

Kannady was called as a witness by incumbent Commissioner of Labor Leslie Osborn, who filed a petition contesting Roberts’ candidacy with the State Election Board on April 19, arguing that Roberts has never officially gone by the nickname “The Patriot.”

During Monday’s hearing, Osborn was represented by former Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, who made headlines when he resigned from his statewide position in May of last year. Roberts was represented by Lexie Norwood with Glenn Coffee & Associates.

“Our request to have his name stricken from the ballot may seem old testament, but it’s an important precedent that the board needs to establish,” Hunter said during the hearing. “Using a campaign slogan as part of your name is inconsistent with ballot integrity, and you don’t want a cascade of cases like this one in future elections.”

Any candidate who files to run for office may challenge the candidacy of another candidate for the same office by filing a written petition with the State Election Board secretary before 5 p.m. on the the second business day following the close of a filing period. A total of 12 candidacy contest hearings were slated for Monday at the Jim Thorpe Office Building in Oklahoma City.

According to state law, a candidate who is “generally known by or does business using a nickname, birth name or any other name other than their legal name may choose to appear on the ballot by providing that name on the designated line of the Candidate Information and Oath Form.”

Osborn’s petition also argued that Roberts has appeared on seven consecutive legislative election ballots as Kevin Sean Roberts or Sean Roberts with the epithet “The Patriot” missing.

The petition went on to claim that the term “the Patriot” is a campaign slogan and nothing less than a “cynical artifice to attempt to misdirect or mislead voters” in regards to Roberts’ qualifications for office.

However, Roberts (R-Hominy) argued that he is known by the nickname among those involved in politics, and he defined the word “patriot” as someone who loves their country and the freedom that goes along with that. However, Roberts admitted that he did not use the nickname on the 2020 election ballot.

“Most of the time it’s ‘The Patriot.’ It really became more popular from my friends and grassroots members around after the 2018 election,” Roberts said. “I was the only one to survive when there was a large group of other Republicans who went after a group of conservatives. I was the only one to survive that onslaught. They kind of started calling me ‘The Patriot’ from my past all the way back to junior high.”

Although Roberts did not mention it, Kannady led the dark money fundraising effort that opposed Roberts and other far-right legislators who had voted against revenue for historic teacher raises in 2018. Mize (R-Guthrie) joined Kannady in testifying on behalf of Osborn during the hearing. Each legislator said he hadn’t heard anyone within the Capitol refer to Roberts as “The Patriot” during their time serving in the Legislature together.

“I’ve never heard ‘The Patriot’ in any form,” Kannady said during the hearing.

Lahmeyer, a far-right candidate for U.S. Senate, testified on behalf of Roberts during the day’s hearing.

“I’ve heard him referred to by many people as ‘The Patriot,'” Lahmeyer said. “That’s my knowledge of who he is and what he stands for.”

‘It’s important for people not to be misguided or misdirected’

Rep. Sean “The Patriot” Roberts (R-Hominy) files his campaign for labor commissioner at the Oklahoma State Capitol on Friday, April 15, 2022. (Tres Savage)

Hunter questioned whether Roberts is known as “The Patriot” in multiple corners of his life, including the Legislature, the district he represents or even utility bills or credit cards.

“At the end of the day, it’s important for people not to be misguided or misdirected by the use of additional language around somebody’s name,” Hunter said.

Norwood, Roberts’ attorney, argued that no one puts their nickname on their drivers license or credit card.

When asked by Norwood how many people know Roberts as “The Patriot,” he said probably about 200 to 600 people. She referred to a plaque given to Roberts in 2013 by the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association — naming him a “patriot” — and a card given to him for his 46th birthday as evidence that he is known as “The Patriot.” Norwood had Roberts read the card to the board during the hearing.

“Happy 46th old man,” Roberts read from the card. “I’m glad God crossed our paths. Thank you for picking up the torch of freedom and finally getting constitutional carry across the finish line. You truly are The Patriot.”

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Kannady pointed out that with 4 million people living in Oklahoma, 200 to 600 would not mean he is “generally” known by the nickname. Kannady also provided his definition of “patriot” during the hearing, which he said includes someone who loves their country with the added component of someone who defends the county against enemies.

“That’s not a word that you can throw around, especially to somebody who’s served in the military, in a way that you can just put it in your name two weeks after you decide you’re not going to run for Congress and want to run for state office,” Kannady said.

While questioning Roberts, Norwood addressed Kannady’s definition of “patriot” by asking if Roberts is “in fact ready to defend your country.”

“I am,” Roberts replied.

After a short recess, the board voted unanimously to have Roberts strike “The Patriot” from his candidate filing document.

Sean Roberts
Commissioner of labor candidate Sean Roberts scratches through “The Patriot” on his declaration of candidacy form after a ruling by the Oklahoma State Election Board on Monday, April 25, 2022. (Screenshot)

Four challenging Osborn for commissioner of labor

Osborn was initially elected as commissioner of labor in 2018 and previously served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 2008 to 2018. Osborn’s campaign website states that she has a goal of ensuring safe workplaces and strong companies, and that it all starts with a trained and educated workforce.

Despite previously announcing that he would be running for Congress, Roberts is running for the commissioner of labor post after reaching his term limit in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. In early July, he made headlines after he requested that the State Election Board complete a forensic and independent audit of the 2020 election results in Oklahoma County and two other counties at random. The board denied his request.

Other candidates for the post of commissioner of labor include 2018 commissioner of labor candidate Keith Swinton, Libertarian Will Daugherty and Democrat Jack Henderson.