Despite facing an opponent supported by tens of millions of dollars in dark-money political advertisements, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt decisively won a second term Tuesday night, finishing with more than 55 percent of the vote and momentum heading into another four years of potential conflict with the groups that most opposed his reelection.
Although a series of polls in the month of October showed Republican-turned-Democrat Joy Hofmeister virtually tied with or leading Stitt, internal numbers released by Stitt’s campaign provided a more accurate prediction of the “red wave” his team had touted.
“Today, dark money lost, and the people of Oklahoma won,” Stitt said in his victory speech.
Stitt had criticized the dark money spent against him during a series of campaign stops around the state leading up to Election Day, pushing back against the narrative that he intended to harm rural schools with his support for private school vouchers.
“I had to call my mom and make sure she still loved me after seeing all those ads,” Stitt said on the campaign trail.
Libertarian Natalie Bruno and independent Dr. Ervin Yen received about 1.4 percent of the vote each Tuesday.
‘This really defied all natural reasoning’
Hofmeister spent the final weeks of her campaign visiting urban and rural communities on a bus bearing her name and hundreds of signatures from supporters. But her popularity among public school leaders and her criticisms of Stitt’s voucher support were unable to break the rural Republican wall that has dominated Oklahoma politics in recent years.
While Stitt lost Cherokee County, in northeast Oklahoma, to Democrat Drew Edmondson in 2018 — 45.6 percent to 50.1 percent — Stitt prevailed in the county this year, defeating Hofmeister 49.2 percent to 47.9 percent.
Cherokee County’s county seat is Tahlequah, which is also the capital of the Cherokee Nation. Stitt, a Cherokee citizen, has clashed with tribal nations, and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. joined other tribal leaders in endorsing Hofmeister. Tribes were also sources of significant funding in support of Hofmeister and in opposition to Stitt.
“I am happy to do anything I can to help and support good things for Oklahoma,” Hofmeister said in her concession speech Tuesday night.
When Stitt took the stage to a rowdy room of supporters at a hotel in northwest Oklahoma City, he attributed his victory to divine intervention.
“First off, let’s all give God all the praise and the glory. This really defied all natural reasoning. It really did,” Stitt said. “This is proof that God has his hand on a very bright future for the great state of Oklahoma.”
As Stitt ran for reelection, he faced a litany of voter groups that largely opposed him:
- Educators concerned about his support for private school vouchers;
- Health care professionals frustrated by the limited measures taken during the height of the pandemic;
- Tribal citizens unhappy with his casino compact negotiations and court battles, as well as his views of tribal sovereignty;
- Moderate Republican women unhappy with the state’s strict abortion prohibition in the wake of the Dobbs decision;
- Residents of Cleveland County upset with a turnpike expansion plan that threatens their property;
- Certain longtime members of the Oklahoma Veterans commission angered by his changes to the governing body of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In the end, however, none of that seemed to matter as Republican voters overwhelmingly supported Stitt’s bid for a second term, despite months of negative TV advertising and targeted mailers across the state from various political action committees.
“In this campaign, we talked a lot about Oklahoma’s turnaround — from budget deficits to record surpluses,” Stitt said. “We have invested the most money ever in education in the state of Oklahoma.”
Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton endorsed Hofmeister in the race against Stitt, but he released a statement about his hopes for Stitt’s second term late Tuesday.
“Although the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma endorsed Gov. Stitt’s opponent, we remain open to cooperating with the administration for the benefit of all Oklahomans,” Batton said. “We hope Gov. Stitt’s second term will be marked by an understanding of the economic, cultural and social benefits Tribes provide to our state, and that he will agree to work with us on issues affecting all residents. As always, we seek to focus on the things we can agree on, rather than our differences.”
Other statewide election results
In other statewide elections, Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell cruised to reelection over Democrat Melinda L. Alizadeh-Fard and Libertarian Chris Powell, whose limited campaign focused on arguing that Oklahoma does not need a lieutenant governor.
In the race for attorney general, Republican Gentner Drummond, who narrowly defeated current Attorney General John O’Connor in the June primary, cruised to victory over Libertarian Lydia Steele.
Rep. Todd Russ (R-Cordell) was elected state treasurer over Democrat Charles De Coune and Libertarian Gregory Sadler.
Republican Commissioner of Labor Leslie Osborn won reelection against Democrat Jack Henderson and Libertarian Will Daugherty.
Sen. Kim David won an open seat on the Corporation Commission against Democrat Margaret Warigia Bowman and independent Don Underwood.