The heated race for the GOP nomination in this year’s Oklahoma County district attorney election will come to an end with Tuesday’s runoff, but voters were offered one more unusual development in the closing days: a 21-minute dueling press conference between one candidate and the other candidate’s boss.
County Commissioner Kevin Calvey is facing Assistant District Attorney Gayland Gieger in Tuesday’s runoff for the right to face Democrat Vicki Behenna in the fall, but Thursday Calvey directed his political ire at Gieger’s boss, 16-year DA David Prater, who has been the focus of much of Calvey’s campaign rhetoric in 2022.
Calvey received 49.97 percent of the vote in the June 28 primary, falling just short of the majority needed to win the Republican nomination outright. A recount requested by Calvey confirmed the initial primary results setting up the runoff. Gieger received only 23.25 percent of the primary vote, and the other two finishers — Jacqui Ford and Robert Gray — quickly endorsed Calvey.
Calvey currently serves as an Oklahoma County commissioner and as a member of the beleaguered Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority, otherwise known as a the jail trust.
Gieger is currently a prosecutor in the District Attorney’s office under David Prater with a focus on sex crimes. He has worked in the DA’s office for more than two decades.
Calvey calls presser in front of Prater’s office
In what proved to be a strange turn in the race, Calvey called a press conference Thursday in front of Prater’s office in the Oklahoma County Courthouse to reveal and discuss an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation probe into his own campaign activity. (Video of the event is embedded above.)
Calvey said Prater had requested the investigation, which Prater confirmed. Calvey said Prater had alerted the media about it, which Prater denied. Asked if he had evidence that Prater had told Nolan Clay of The Oklahoman about the investigation, Calvey said it simply must have been him. (Clay wrote that it was not Prater who tipped him off.)
Previously, Prater and Calvey have clashed over the jail. Prater has been critical of the jail trust’s management of the facility in recent years, while Calvey has served on the trust and has lauded progress at the jail since that body took over. Last year, Prater requested a grand jury investigation into the jail trust, which Calvey said constituted a conflict of interest. Prater recused, and Cherokee County District Attorney Jack Thorpe is now investigating the trust.
In his remarks Thursday, Calvey accused Prater of playing politics with his office over alleged campaign violations and said he constituted an “abuse of power.”
“Recently, I was contacted by a member of the media saying that he had confirmed that the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation — OSBI — was quote unquote investigating my website and wanting to know if the OSBI had contacted me. They have not,” Calvey began. “Think about that for a moment — what that means. There are two things wrong with this picture. First of all, OSBI only investigates when they have a demand to investigate from law enforcement. I was prepared to come here today and demonstrate why it was clear by process of elimination that it had to be the District Attorney’s Office, under Mr. Prater, and his employee Mr. Gieger, who is my opponent in this race, that called this investigation.”
In his remarks to the media, Calvey accused Prater of bullying him and others during his time as DA. Prater, who stood nearby with Assistant District Attorney Jimmy Harmon, interjected.
“Why don’t you specifically name those cases, Kevin?” Prater said. “Give them specific cases.”
After Calvey finished his remarks, Prater stepped up to the cameras and told his side of the story. Prater said he was approached by a county employee who raised concerns about Calvey and former Oklahoma County treasurer David Hooten, who resigned amid controversy in June. After employees from the State Auditor & Inspector’s Office also approached him about alleged campaign violations by Calvey, Prater said he referred the case to the OSBI.
“[The county employee] laid out the information they had against the other elected official and Kevin Calvey,” Prater said. “At some point after that, we had employees from the State Auditor’s Office come to our office and make allegations about potential use of public money being used for campaigns by Commissioner Calvey. At that point, we gathered the information they provided us, looked at the information previously provided to us by the county employee (…) and determined at that point it would not be appropriate at all for my office to be involved in the investigation.”
Noting that he was only discussing the matter because Calvey had called the press conference in front of his office to reveal the investigation and allege impropriety against him, Prater said he reported the information to the OSBI in June and met with the OSBI on June 14, two weeks before the June 28 runoff.
“I would not have disclosed it. I was not going to disclose it,” Prater said. “It would have been inappropriate for me to disclose it any time and certainly not before an election.”
A history of animus between Calvey, Gieger
The Oklahoma County district attorney Republican runoff is not a race of friendly rivals. Both Gieger and Calvey — with help from supporters and detractors — have been combative during their campaigns.
Gieger has been criticized for allegations that he influenced the investigation of a sexual misconduct accusation against his son, something Gieger denies. Critics of Prater have also attempted to tie Gieger to the controversy surrounding sexual relationships — consensual or coerced — between two other assistant district attorneys and disgraced former Judge Tim Henderson.
In a debate hosted by NonDoc and News 9 in June, the candidates traded barbs over law enforcement endorsements, conditions at the jail and the prosecution of police officers accused of wrongdoing.
Calvey criticized the prosecution of five police officers in connection with the 2020 shooting death of Stavian Rodriguez and the prosecution of Larue Bratcher, who shot through a door and killed a man who was attempting to enter his medical marijuana grow operation.
In the June debate, Gieger said those prosecutions are justified and that Bratcher was under no imminent threat when he fatally shot Daniel Hardwick. Calvey erupted in his response.
“That’s a lie,” Calvey said. “Just like with the prosecutions of those fine officers, Gayland Gieger is responsible for upping that to first-degree murder. That’s gun control. That’s against the rights of self-defense, and we need to stand up for the right of self-defense.”
Gieger said Calvey doesn’t understand the case.
“He knows what News 9 shows him,” Gieger said in the debate. “He stands up and says he’s going to dismiss cases based on what he sees on News 9. God help us all if the district attorney makes decisions based —”
Cavley cut him off: “God help us all if you wrongfully prosecute police officers and young combat veterans.”