Despite rumors that internal caucus strife could result in a leadership change for next session, Republicans in the Oklahoma State Senate today reelected Greg Treat to serve another term as the president pro tempore, the top position in the Legislature’s upper chamber.
Treat (R-OKC) became pro tempore in 2019 after serving as the body’s floor leader. Voters first elected to represent Senate District 47 in a 2011 special election to replace Todd Lamb, who had become lieutenant governor. Treat’s district includes parts of Oklahoma City, Edmond, Deer Creek and Bethany.
“I appreciate the trust my colleagues have in me to lead this body for the next two years,” Treat said in a statement. “It has been the honor of a lifetime to hold this position since 2019 and work with my fellow senators in service to our great state.”
Treat, 44, had been opposed in his bid to serve another session as President Pro Tempore by Sen. Rob Standridge (R-Norman) who sent personalized letters to colleagues prior to the Nov. 8 general election announcing his campaign to unseat Treat in the GOP Caucus’ internal election.
Standridge declined to comment on the internal caucus election, which occurred in Oklahoma City during Senate Republicans’ annual caucus retreat. Treat, meanwhile, encouraged senators to “work together.”
“While we sometimes disagree with each other, much like a family, we all respect one another and are working in the best interests of Oklahomans,” Treat said. “We are elected to the Senate by our fellow citizens to accomplish important work on their behalf. We can only succeed when we work together. I have two years left in this capacity, and I pledge to my caucus, my district and the state of Oklahoma to finish strong.”
During the 2022 legislative session, Treat carried and pushed a bill that would have created what he called “education empowerment accounts” but that public school advocates called “vouchers” for private schools. The bill failed to receive support from 25 senators, despite the vote being held open until nearly midnight. The scenario appeared to be a significant loss for Treat, but last week’s general election results saw Oklahomans elect Ryan Walters as superintendent of public instruction. Walters has supported private school vouchers, and his wide margin of victory is being cited by some as evidence that voters support the concept.
Tuesday’s internal caucus election was held with 40 eligible Republicans able to vote. Democratic Sen. J.J. Dossett of Owasso lost his reelection bid to Republican Dana Prieto in SD 34, giving Republicans their 40th seat in the 48-member Senate.
Other new senators are:
- Kristen Thompson (R-OKC)
- Tom Woods (R-Westville)
- Grant Green (R-Wellston)
- Ally Seifried (R-Claremore)
- Todd Gollihare (R-Sapulpa)
- Jack Stewart (R-Yukon)
- Jerry Alford (R-Ardmore).
Treat will be ineligible to run for another Senate term owing to term limits in 2024. Tuesday’s caucus election for the president pro tempore position carries a two-year term, although the Senate is allowed to vote for a leadership change during session.
‘We had a Festivus’
Recent legislative sessions have seen the Oklahoma Senate at odds with the House of Representatives and, at times, the governor’s office.
Treat endorsed Gov. Kevin Stitt’s reelection campaign this year, but he has publicly disagreed with the governor in the past. In 2020, Treat expressed frustration with Stitt’s budget negotiators and criticized Stitt’s appointment of Gary Cox as commissioner of health, which the Senate did not confirm owing to Cox’s failure to meet statutorily required qualifications.
“The chief executive decided to hire someone for a position [who] was not statutorily qualified, and he did that with the Department of Health and also did that with the Commissioner of the Land Office,” Treat said in May 2020. “And (the governor) did not even think to talk to legislative leaders, much less any legislator whatsoever.”
Treat and Stitt later sat down to discuss their differences.
“We had a Festivus. We had an airing of grievances,” Treat said in 2020, referencing a famous fictional holiday that caused drama in 2015 among members of the Legislature. “I enjoyed my conversation with the governor. He and I philosophically see things a lot the same. I have not appreciated some of the veto messages and some of the language about the Legislature. I wish we could have worked more closely this year, but we didn’t.”
During his Senate tenure, Treat previously served stints as floor leader, assistant majority floor leader and majority whip. As Senate president pro tempore, Treat is allowed to vote on any bill in any committee hearing.
(Correction: This article was updated at 1:12 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16, to correct reference to the number of senators in each party.)