Oklahoma County Clerk forum Democrats
Linda James Farley and Jay Bridwell begin a a forum for Democratic candidates seeking the vacant Oklahoma County clerk position Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, at the Teamsters Local Union 886 Hall in Oklahoma City. (Screenshot)

Four of the five Democrats running in the Feb. 14 Oklahoma County Clerk primary election highlighted their experience and their contrasts in management philosophy during an hour-long forum Thursday night at the Teamsters Local Union 886 Hall in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Progress Now, the Oklahoma County Democratic Party, Edmond Democratic Women and South OKC Democratic Women coordinated the event.

The Democratic nominee will face the GOP nominee in an April 4 general election to fill the remainder of former clerk David Hooten’s term. Hooten resigned in June after harassment allegations and bizarre statements recorded by an employee became public.

Gloria Banister, Jonathan Clour and Maressa Treat are seeking the Republican nomination for county clerk. In Oklahoma’s 77 counties, county clerks serve as secretaries for county meetings and handle payments and other filings.

The Village Councilman Sean Cummings, former clerk’s office employee Tiffany Ellis, The Rev. Derrick Scobey and former congressional candidate Tom Guild took part in Thursday’s Democratic forum.

BC Phillips, a communications professional who also filed to run for clerk in December, did not attend, writing on Facebook that he was “sad” to miss the event. He also posted his written answers to the three questions provided to candidates ahead of the forum.

Hooten’s past behavior was the basis for the first question of the night Ellis worked for seven years in the County Clerk’s Office, including a brief stint under Hooten.

“I know exactly what everybody went through,” she said. “I worked for him for seven months, and I know all the things that have been in the news. It is very unfortunate the feeling people have in the County Clerk’s Office. I can tell you that I have been building trust with the County Clerk’s Office since 2010. I have been building trust with them and will continue to do that. They’re the ones that reached out to me and wanted me to run for this position, because we have a foundation of trust already.”

Cummings, who operates an Irish pub and restaurant bearing his name in OKC, cited management experience as one of his core assets as a candidate for county clerk.

“I have fantastic people skills,” Cummings said. “I deal with Democrats, Republicans, revolutionaries and lobbyists every single day in my pub. Like it or not, I have to get along with everybody, and I have to serve them and serve them well, and the reason I have to do that is I have 30 families that require that out of me to keep their bills paid at home and to keep them employed. Sometimes I can be a little harsh in political environments, but I don’t do that at the pub at all. I have 38 years of management experience.”

Scobey, who was appointed as a member of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (otherwise known as the jail trust) last year, touted his time on that public body and his work with the international Christian nonprofit World Vision as examples of his ability to get things done.

“I am a collaborator, and I bring people together,” Scobey said. “I make things happen. Once I got on the jail trust, we made it happen for the administrator to move on so that we could get something done in a positive way. I think about the collaboration with World Vision. We’ve had to work across the aisles. We’ve had to work with a Republican governor and a Republican United States congresswoman to continue to make things happen. That’s just who I am.”

Guild, a college professor who has run for public office several times, said he has decades of experience working with students and people from a variety of backgrounds. Guild said he would bring that approach to the clerk’s office.

“As someone who has managed classes for more than 30 years and never had a formal complaint filed against me in 30 years, I have a wealth of experience of creating a relaxed learning environment for all faiths, races and socio economic statuses,” he said. “I will lead by example and will get involved early in any potentially serious situation and I’ll take appropriate action to protect employees.”

The winner of the Feb. 14 primary will face off April 4 against the GOP nominee. Republicans Gloria Banister, Jonathan Clour and Maressa Treat have filed to run for the Republican nomination for county clerk.

Watch the Oklahoma County Democratic Clerk forum