In Guthrie’s House District 31, Republican runoff candidate Karmin Grider says she has been the target of attack ads that she claims are created by the strategist of her opponent, Collin Duel. Neither candidate agreed to conduct an interview for this article ahead of Tuesday’s election, but Duel’s strategist has called Grider’s comments “slander” and “a lie.”
Duel, a 33-year-old attorney, finished first in the June primary with 44.25 percent of the vote. Duel is a veteran of the army who had four combat deployments to Afghanistan. Since the primary, he has been endorsed by Gov. Kevin Stitt.
Grider is a 32-year-old business consultant who finished second with 34.76 percent of the vote. She claims she was the target of “dark money” attack ads in the months leading up to both the June primary and the August runoff. She previously ran for HD 31 in 2020, received 33.21 percent of the vote against current GOP Rep. Garry Mize. (Mize chose not to seek reelection in 2022.)
No Democrat or third-party candidates filed to run for HD 31, so the Tuesday GOP runoff will determine the seat’s next legislator. HD 31 covers northwest Logan County and a sliver of Oklahoma County, including Guthrie, north Edmond, and parts of Cashion, Cedar Valley and Cimarron City.
Grider declined to be interviewed for this article. Duel did not return multiple voicemails left for him requesting an interview.
Grider links attack ads to Duel’s consultant
Grider has been the target of attack ads in the weeks leading up to both the June primary and the August runoff. In May, a since-deleted survey circulated online that Grider said contained questions phrased in a way intended to depict her negatively.
“It all started with a survey which asked parents if they knew I supported their right to choose whether their children received vaccines,” Grider said in a video posted to her Facebook. “However, it was in the form of, ‘Karmin Grider wants your child to be exposed to deadly diseases.’ This survey went on to accuse me of being weak against the Biden Administration and being part of a cult.”
Grider has also been the target of three mailers which she said portray her as a “witch, an airhead and a mob boss,” respectively.
In the video she posted to Facebook, Grider blames Fount Holland, one of the state’s most prominent Republican political consultants, as a person who might be behind the attack ads. Holland is the owner of Campaign Advocacy Management Professionals, or CAMP, a firm that Duel has employed the services of throughout his campaign.
“Between the conservative purge in 2018, the founders of Epic, and my race, we may be able to establish a pattern and a connection: PACs and establishment politicians targeting genuine conservatives,” Grider said. “A connection between these players? Fount Holland.”
In a Facebook post from May 29, Duel denied any connection to the dark-money advertising campaign against Grider.
“I have been disappointed to be falsely accused of negative advertising, and would point out that lying violates one of the Ten Commandments,” Duel wrote.
Duel brought up the ads against Grider again at a candidate forum hosted by the Greater Guthrie Chamber of Commerce on June 23.
“I definitely do not support or condone those, and frankly I don’t like it. I wish it would stop, because it portrays us in a bad light,” he said.
Grider said mailers were paid for by Common Sense Conservatives, LLC, which is registered with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission at a private mailbox at a Postal Annex location in south Tulsa. The filing agent listed on the PAC’s reports is named Walt Lowe, and a phone number listed is perpetually busy.
The PAC has reported spending more than $45,000 to oppose Grider, and it has spent more than $200,000 total in opposition of candidates like primary-defeated Sen. Jake Merrick, primary-defeated Christopher Toney and two candidates challenging Sen. Darcy Jech (R-Kingfisher): primary-defeated JJ Stitt and Brady Butler, who is in a tight runoff with Jech. (Stitt has filed a pending lawsuit against Common Sense Conservatives, alleging defamation.)
Holland, who is running Duel’s campaign, told NonDoc that he has had nothing to do with the Common Sense Conservatives PAC, and he said Grider’s assertions are inappropriate.
“That’s ridiculous to say. It’s a lie. It’s a falsehood. It’s slander. She should know better, and her people should know better,” Holland said. “Some of the groups out there are people I’m against in the races more often (than not). But I know so little about who is behind the different groups, it’s hard to even say who they are.”
Holland recently filed a libel and slander lawsuit of his own against Senate District 2 candidate Jarrin Jackson, who has featured Holland in his own mailers. Holland referenced that lawsuit in criticizing Grider’s claims.
“If she’s alleging that I have coordinated (with this PAC), she is lying, she is slandering me, and we have filed in district court against another candidate who has done the same, and we will continue to look at what is being said in different races across the state and make decisions about our legal strategy moving forward,” Holland said. “But we will not stand for falsehoods and lies.”
‘That’s what they did in Mao Zedong’s China’
During the Greater Guthrie Chamber of Commerce’s candidate forum, Duel emphasized his belief in the power of local government. (Grider did not attend the candidate forum.)
Duel told attendees that one thing he would do as a legislator is ensure revolving funds supporting local governments are appropriately funded, and he said he would advise officials within House District 31 to take full advantage of them.
In particular, he mentioned OERSSIRF, which provides money to at-risk emergency medical services, and revolving funds for infrastructure initiatives.
“I think us as potential legislators should take the necessary steps, communicate with the county commissioners, and make sure that they’re able to maximize the amount of money they can get from those revolving funds,” Duel said.
Duel’s wife is a first grade teacher in a public school system, which he said during the candidate forum has given him a first-hand account of issues in the state’s education system. Still, he told attendees of the forum that he supports school choice.
“We saw this latest (voucher) plan fail, so I don’t know what the most appropriate way to accomplish that is, but I would support a discussion to move forward with allowing the parent the ability to choose how and where their kids are educated,” Duel said at the candidate forum.
Education is also one of Grider’s biggest concerns, as she believes teachers are indoctrinating students. Grider spoke about her beliefs extensively on Red River TV.
“That’s what they did in Mao Zedong’s China,” Grider said. “That’s what’s going on in our education. You can see it nationwide now.”
Grider admitted that she does not have any plans yet for specific legislation to combat the supposed indoctrination, but she said she will do more research.
“We have got to stand in every avenue that we can,” Grider said. “And that’s legislatively, that’s community-based, and there’s a body of the church that’s got to stop taking cues from that political-religious spirit, or whatever you want to call it, that says ‘get in line.'”
Grider has been very critical of “the establishment” throughout her campaign. On her website, she writes that state legislators “become politicians and puppets who do the bidding of special interests” rather than becoming public servants.
In order to promote transparency, Grider said she would provide constituents with weekly reports of her attendance and voting record in the legislature, and further that she would reject all corporate and lobbyist contributions.