Derrick Scobey, Maressa Treat
Derrick Scobey and Maressa Treat have advanced to the April 4, 2023 special general election for Oklahoma County clerk. (NonDoc)

Democrat Derrick Scobey and Republican Maressa Treat are in the final stretch of their campaigns for Oklahoma County clerk, putting up signs and meeting with potential voters before Tuesday’s special general election for the post.

Campaign signs have sprouted up like dandelions throughout Oklahoma County, as early voting began Thursday and ran through Friday. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Both candidates, seeking public office for the first time, have received endorsements from leaders in their respective parties. For the most part, the campaigns have been largely positive, with each candidate focusing on their strengths and what they would bring to the office. Supporters have stirred up some issues, such as Scobey being late in filing some campaign reports and Treat’s more than $227,000 in campaign contributions, including $1,000 from a pro-cockfighting group.

But the biggest struggle for Scobey and Treat is informing Oklahoma County voters that the county clerk seat is being decided Tuesday and convincing them that this special election even matters. Prior Oklahoma County Clerk David Hooten resigned from his post in June after harassment allegations and bizarre statements recorded by an employee became public.

Scobey and Treat both expect a low turnout Tuesday. Their race is the only countywide issue on the ballot. Turnout is expected to be higher in communities, such as Edmond, where three citywide races are also on the ballot. Scobey said many expect a turnout of 12,000 to 15,000 voters, but some say as 28,000 to 30,000 people could show up at the polls.

Scobey is more optimistic.

“I believe there are going to be 55,000 people who are going to vote,” he said.

Treat said the vote on recreational marijuana in Oklahoma County in March shows just how purple the county is when it comes to Democratic and Republican voters.

“Every single vote will count,” she said. “It truly comes down to turnout. But with our base, will they be motivated enough to actually drive to the polls?”

What the heck is a county clerk?

Few voters really understand the duties of a county clerk, and it’s common for people to confuse or conflate the county clerk and the county court clerk, another position elected in all of Oklahoma’s 77 counties.

Among additional duties, the county clerk serves as secretary for the Board of County Commissioners and other county boards. The county clerk is also the registrar of deeds and custodian of records, and they perform accounting, administrative and bookkeeping duties for the county. The position records and maintains county proceedings and votes.

Some have advocated making the county clerk an appointive position, arguing that it’s a waste of time and money to elect a clerical job.

“I don’t think it should be appointive,” Scobey said.

If the post were appointed, whoever did the appointing would feel like they “are the overseers, the bosses of that office,” he said.

“The only thing different as it relates to the county clerk’s office, I think that it absolutely should be a nonpartisan race, just like the (Oklahoma City) mayor’s race,” he said. “That is a nonpartisan office. It is not a political office at all.”

Treat said she does not have a firm opinion on whether the post should change to appointive. A lot depends on who would appoint the county clerk.

“It’s a change (…) and it should be really, really thought out,” she said.

If she wins, Treat said she will seek election for a full four-year term as county clerk in 2024.

“There are rumors out there that I am running for my husband’s seat (in the State Senate), and I am not,” she said. “If I win this, I absolutely plan to run for the county clerk’s seat. I’m very, very committed to wanting to be the county clerk.”

The Oklahoma County clerk holds a seat on the Oklahoma County Budget Board, and the special election for the position vacated by Hooten provides Democrats with a chance to pick up a spot on that public body.

Both candidates fared well in the Feb. 14 primary. Treat won 52.5 percent in a three-way race, and Scobey won 35.9 percent in a five-candidate field. Because this is a special election, the races featured no primary runoff.

Scobey serves as a pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. In September, Scobey was also appointed as a member of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority, which oversees operations of the county jail. His wife, Angela Bush Scobey, works as a medical specialist for a pharmaceutical company.

Treat has been involved in politics for more than 20 years, most recently working as U.S. Sen. James Lankford’s (R-OKC) finance director and his director of state outreach. She previously worked under a past Oklahoma secretary of energy and at the State Chamber of Oklahoma. Treat’s husband, Greg Treat, serves as Senate president pro tempore in the Oklahoma Legislature.

Scobey could make Oklahoma County history with win

Democrat Derrick Scobey and his wife, Angela, cast their ballots during early voting Thursday, March 30, 2023, at the Oklahoma County Election Board office. (Michael McNutt)

Scobey, 55, almost didn’t enter the county clerk’s race because a friend, Rev. Michael McDaniel, was considering running for the post. Both men talked, McDaniel reconsidered, and Scobey filed for office.

“This race is a winnable race, however we have to come out and vote,” he said.

Tuesday also marks the 55th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. A Baptist minister and founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, King had led the civil rights movement since the mid-1950s, using a combination of impassioned speeches and nonviolent protests to fight segregation and achieve significant civil rights advances for Black Americans.

“I don’t know about my opponent, but as far as me I’m not looking for a job,” Scobey said. “I have one and I have a calling. I’m a lowly pastor, however my wife is a biotech pharmaceutical rep and a real estate investor. Again, I’m not looking for a job. I’m looking to serve at a broader level the residents of the great county of Oklahoma.”

Scobey was born about a mile away from Ebenezer Baptist Church in northeast Oklahoma City. In 1996, he moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area and managed and grew multiple sales organizations and owned an automobile wholesale business in Collin County, Texas.  He has been in ministry for over 25 years. In 2009, he started a church in McKinney, Texas, focusing on cultural diversity. By 2012, he was selected as senior teaching pastor and pastor of multi-cultural engagement at the 5,000-member First Baptist Church in McKinney.

In 2015, he returned to Oklahoma City to lead Ebenezer Baptist Church. Under his leadership, the church has grown from 100 people to more than 500. He collaborates with World Vision to launch food drives, furniture and school supply giveaways. In conjunction with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, he and church members hosted vaccination clinics for Oklahoma residents. Through this collaboration with World Vision, he said Ebenezer has distributed more than $13 million worth of food, brand-new furniture, household supplies, school supplies, and PPE supplies to the residents of Oklahoma County and beyond.

In November 2021, Scobey was arrested in the middle of Northeast 23rd Street in front of the Oklahoma Governor’s Mansion while praying that Gov. Kevin Stitt would grant a pardon to a death-row inmate, Julius Jones, who was scheduled to be executed the next day. The misdemeanor charges were eventually dismissed.

Treat has big lead in campaign war chest

Republican Maressa Treat and her husband, Greg, pose while getting ready to cast their ballots Thursday, March 30, 2023, at the Oklahoma County Election Board office (Provided)

Treat, 40, said she is a lifelong conservative and community advocate in Oklahoma County. She most recently served as U.S. Sen. James Lankford’s finance director for his recent reelection, and she worked in his personal office as director of state outreach. In addition to her Senate work, she has acted as field representative for the College Republican National Committee and has volunteered for numerous conservative candidates and causes.

Treat worked as a proponent for some of Oklahoma’s largest and most important industries while she was employed at the State Chamber of Oklahoma. She has served on several local nonprofit boards and committees. She is a board member of the YWCA, where she said she works to give a voice to victims of domestic violence.

In addition to receiving an endorsement from her former boss, Lankford, Treat has received the backing of U.S. Sen. Markwayne Mullen. Similarly, Gov. Kevin Stitt and Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell have endorsed her. Among Oklahoma County officials, she has received the endorsements of Sheriff Tommie Johnson III, Treasurer Butch Freeman, Assessor Larry Stein and Commissioners Brian Maughan and Myles Davidson.

She also has been endorsed from her primary election challengers: Gloria Banister and Jonathan Clour.

Scobey said he is receiving help from two former governors. Former Gov. Brad Henry has done a telephone recording asking voters to support Scobey, which Scobey said should be released during this weekend. Former Gov. David Walters is allowing Scobey’s campaign to post signs on several of his properties. Tiffany Ellis, who finished second in the Feb. 14 county clerk primary, has also helped by posting social media items supporting him, Scobey said.

Treat has raised nearly $228,000 and has spent about $141,000. She had a balance of more than $85,000, according to campaign reports filed with the Oklahoma County Election Board. Many of her donors are lobbyists and former or current politicians.

“I’ve had a lot of support, which has been very exciting and humbling and at times a little emotional because you’ve worked hard for other people, and so when somebody writes you that check or they put your name on something, I don’t take it lightly,” Treat said. “I have been blessed to be able to raise the kind of money to get my name out there.”

Treat said her husband’s position as president of the State Senate has helped with name recognition, but that her donors are giving because they know her and support her personally.

Her fundraising has dwarfed the amount raised by Scobey. He has reported raising about $36,400 and spending $20,400, leaving a balance of $16,000.

“It surprised me that they only raised $260,000,” Scobey said. “I thought it would be $350,000 to $400,000, and I don’t know it may be when it’s all said and done. This is the most money that’s ever been raised for the Oklahoma County clerk race.”

Scobey said the race is generating a lot of attention because it features the spouse of a legislative leader running against a high-profile pastor in the county.

“I have greater name recognition than her husband, that’s the reality,” he said. “Unless you’re really involved in politics, you don’t know who this guy is unless he’s your senator.”

Both Treat and Scobey have each advocated for government accountability and transparency in their first respective bids for public office.

“I believe that local issues matter,” Treat said in an interview with NonDoc. “I’m a public servant and I want to continue to serve my community in the best way that I can. I’m very good at administrative things and making sure that there are processes in place so that everybody is on the same page and works together as a team. I want voters to see that I am a very genuine person with common sense and that I can work with anyone.”

During a January forum that four of the five Democratic candidates for the Oklahoma county clerk post attended, Scobey said he has demonstrated his ability to work with Republicans.

“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.”