In the Republican primary runoff for House District 66, voters will choose between registered nurse Gabe Renfrow and Clay Staires, a Stitt-endorsed business consultant who claims his opponent voted against former President Donald Trump.
On June 28, Renfrow and Staires advanced to the Aug. 23 runoff with 37.57 percent of the vote and 26.18 percent, respectively. They defeated Mike Burdge, who garnered 18.83 percent of the vote, and Wayne Hill, who received 17.42 percent.
HD 66 is located northwest of Tulsa, covering the southwest corner of Osage County and including small parts of Tulsa County and the cities of Skiatook and Sand Springs.
The HD 66 GOP runoff runoff will take place Aug. 23. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day.
‘Advocate for the people in my district’
As a registered nurse, Renfrow said that going to work in the Legislature will not be much of a change for him.
“I just feel like going from nursing to being a representative is, I don’t know, it’s kind of the same job a little bit,” Refrow said. “You know, you’re an advocate for a patient — I’ll be an advocate for the people in my district. You listen to their problems and their issues and you take them to the state. You try to do the best for them, right?”
On his website, Renfrow says that he is “15-year veteran of a local hospital cardiovascular catheterization lab.” He calls himself a Trump Republican and is a member of the National Rifle Association.
Staires is a former teacher and current business consultant and motivational speaker. He calls himself “America’s millionaire schoolteacher” and a “Christian constitutionalist.” He is endorsed by Gov. Kevin Stitt.
Staires says on his website he decided to run because of “un-American” things he saw in 2020, but he does not specify what those things are.
In a text exchange with NonDoc, Staires said he “realized people really need an Oklahoma champion who has real leadership experience in taking on Washington mandates — and winning.”
Staires cited examples of his business consulting firm, The Leadership Initiative, helping businesses grow during the pandemic as evidence of his experience.
‘Hillary or Bernie’
During his Republican primary and runoff campaigns, Staires has dedicated much of his effort to discussing his opponent’s voting record.
“Another huge difference between the two of us is that my opponent was a registered Democrat up until just a few years ago and he voted for Hillary or Bernie in the 2016 presidential primary,” Staires said in a text.
On his website, Staires claims Renfrow “voted against Trump in 2016,” though Renfrow said he did no such thing.
“I voted for Trump,” Renfrow said. “I’d actually vote for him again if he ran.”
Although Renfrow was formerly registered as a registered Democrat, he said he switched parties when Trump ran for president.
But records from the Oklahoma State Election Board appear to corroborate Staires’ claim that Renfrow voted in the 2016 Democratic presidential party, as Renfrow switched his voter registration from Democrat on Sept. 1, 2016, and he voted in the presidential primary months earlier in March of that year. Staires’ claim that Renfrow “voted against Trump” cannot be proven, however, as information about which candidates a person votes for is private.
“I grew up in southeastern Oklahoma,” Renfrow said. “And when I registered to vote, when I was 18 years old, the Democratic Party was all that I knew, because it’s all that was down there. Southeastern Oklahoma was Little Dixie back in the day, and to vote in any kind of primary you basically had to be a Democrat. It’s what I grew up around, so it’s what I became. I changed to be a Republican when Trump started to run — he excited me about his America First movement.”
Infrastructure and taxes
Regarding policy, Renfrow said that he did not think anything significant set him apart from Staires, but he said he is trying to “outwork the man” in the primary.
If he ultimately wins the HD 66 seat, Renfrow said he wants to increase job opportunities in Oklahoma and keep taxes low. He also wants “to try to make sure that the infrastructure in the state is built properly.”
If elected, Staires says on his website that he will “protect our constitution,” “hold our election system accountable,” hold the “state education department accountable” and grow the economy.
“I will continue to stand on my conservative Republican principles to fight for conservative solutions against socialist policies,” Staires said in a text.
Staires also says he wants to move the Republican Party back to its “guiding principles” and fight against party leadership, which he says does not represent many Republicans.
“Our party leadership has led us away from these values and I want to represent Americans in District 36 that want us to move forward on the foundations that were laid in the past,” Staires writes on his website. (Staires and Renfrow are running for HD 66, not 36.)
(Update: This article was updated at 6:50 p.m. Monday, Aug. 22, to include reference to State Election Board data regarding Gabe Renfrow’s voter registration history.)