Darcy Jech
Incumbent Sen. Darcy Jech is facing a challenge from Brady Butler in an Aug. 23 runoff. (Provided)

Less than a month after celebrated former Kingfisher Sen. Mike Johnson died, Senate District 26 voters will cast ballots in a GOP runoff that pits incumbent Sen. Darcy Jech against a self-claimed “paradigm shifting” candidate named Brady Butler who opposes the separation of church and state.

Jech (R-Kingfisher) called Johnson a “deep thinker” and said Johnson first encouraged him to run for the State Senate in 2014.

“So that’s where this whole process for me started was a phone call from Mike Johnson,” Jech said. “I’ll certainly miss not having him available to me to just visit with and just pick his brain on certain issues because he’s very well thought of, and (I have) got a lot of respect for him.”

Butler, an oil and gas business owner campaigning to “fix government,” said he did not know Johnson or much about his time in the Senate but that his service to the state deserves to be respected and honored.

Generally speaking, Butler has significant criticisms of the Oklahoma Legislature and would like to see sweeping reforms.

“I don’t believe that the fault lies squarely on the backs of the individual politicians,” Butler said. “I think that our our system is broken, and we need to fix the system so that our politicians are required to represent their districts.”

Republican voters in Kingfisher, Weatherford, Clinton and Anadarko will decide between Jech and Butler on Tuesday, Aug. 23. During the June 28 primary, Jech advanced to the runoff with 42.77 percent of the vote. Butler advanced with 37.49 percent. JJ Stitt, who says he is a distant cousin of Gov. Kevin Stitt, finished third in the primary with 19.74 percent and subsequently endorsed Butler for the runoff.

Senate District 26 is located west of Oklahoma City, encompassing a massive area including all of Custer, Blaine and Caddo counties and the western halves of Canadian and Kingfisher counties.

No candidate from another party filed to run, so the winner of the GOP runoff will win the Senate District 26 seat.

‘I’ve worked through that process’

On his website, Jech calls himself a small business owner and a cattleman. He also says he is a “Trump Republican.” After two terms in the Senate, Jech said he has the experience necessary to get things done in the Legislature.

“It takes time to find your way around, and I’ve worked through that process,” Jech said. “And so I’ve developed relationships with not only agencies, but also my colleagues in the House and in the Senate and with the governor’s office. So I think those relationships really give me an advantage or really helped me to represent my district better.”

Jech has endorsements from the State Chamber of Oklahoma PAC, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and the Fraternal Order of Police, as well as U.S. Sen. James Lankford and U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas.

Butler is the president and owner of Struck Rock Oil and Gas, according to his website and LinkedIn. He said for most of his adult life, “I really despised politics.” That began to change, however, when he started paying attention to how the rules of the Legislature affect the treatment of certain bills and give some legislators more power than others.

“I just kind of saw the bureaucracy and procedural rules that were inhibiting a bill that logically would be supported by most Oklahomans,” Butler said. “And so I went home and I began to read our founders — Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton — and I really just kind of learned that the way we’re doing government today is not what our founders intended.”

On his website, Butler says “If you would like an experienced politician to represent you then sadly I am not your candidate. However, if you want a common man who knows our founding, and knows how to fight, to represent you it would be my pleasure.”

‘Our current political scheme is broken’

Rather than primarily using his power as senator to focus on things like infrastructure, education and taxes, Butler said he is a “root cause” candidate who, if elected, will “go in and restore the republic to the intention of Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin so that our republic will function well, will represent the will of the people, and we can (then) go fix inflation and taxes and all the things that the people care about.”

Butler said he has three main goals if elected to the Senate District 26 seat: change the rules of the State Senate; end the separation of church and state; push the belief that states can nullify federal actions.

Butler said he wants to change the governing rules of the Senate to ensure “equal representation” by not giving positions such as the Senate president pro tempore — the leader of the Senate — what Butler calls undue power.

Additionally, Butler says on his website “the notion of ‘separation of church and state’ should have no place in the United States of America.” He argues that while the First Amendment allows anyone to worship how they choose, legislation needs to have a biblical basis.

“I think that rather than being ashamed of legislating according to biblical principles, we need to realize the only way we’re going to flourish, as a state and a nation, is if we legislate according to biblical principles,” Butler said.

Butler’s third goal involves ensuring that Oklahoma becomes a “sovereign and independent” state.

“So when the federal government does something wrong, we don’t have to sue in federal court to find out if we win or lose,” Butler said, turning to the controversial and widely disputed concept of nullification. “We just nullify, we just don’t have to go along with it.”

Butler said Oklahoma should not have gone along with the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which established a right to abortion. Even now, after Oklahoma effectively banned most abortions in the wake of the court’s new Dobbs v. Jackson decision in June, Butler said the state still has work to do regarding abortion.

“I would like to see that all people from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death are treated fairly under the law,” Butler said. “So a child in the womb would be protected the same as any other individual. (…) So if you kill a human being with malice aforethought, that’s murder. And so at that point, you know, it would be up to judge and jury and DAs to prosecute.”

Butler said that while Jech is “as good as they come,” he “fits pretty well into our current political scheme. And I believe that our current political scheme is broken.”

On his website, Butler says Jech’s “voting record has not been terribly conservative,” and he cites various organizations which have scored Jech on the basis of how conservatively he has voted.

“When I go vote on something I don’t necessarily look on how this is going to impact any kind of grade I might get from some organization,” Jech said. “I take each vote seriously, and I look how it’s going to impact my district really without any consideration on how it’s going to impact any kind of scorecard or grade that I might have with any group.”

Looking ahead to impacts on his district, Jech said if he is elected to another term he will focus on financial questions, such as eliminating the state sales tax on groceries.

Despite disagreements on how conservative the senator from SD 26 ought to be, both candidates do agree on their opposition to the controversial Oklahoma Empowerment Act, a private school voucher proposal that failed in the Senate earlier this year.

Jech voted against the bill, saying on Facebook: “Rural schools in District 26 are a priority for me.”

Butler said he also would have voted against it, not only because he disagreed with the contents of the bill, but also because of “special treatment” he believed Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat gave the bill.

“I don’t think that it’s fair to allow the pro tem to get to give his bills that much special treatment,” Butler said.

Oklahoma’s primary runoffs will take place Aug. 23. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, and early voting will run Aug. 18 to 20.

(Clarification: This post was updated at 2:56 p.m. Aug. 5 and again at 9:47 a.m. Aug. 8 to clarify Butler’s knowledge of Mike Johnson.)