Oklahoma politics

With just over six weeks until Election Day, Republican Kevin Stitt and Democrat Drew Edmondson shared the stage Monday for the first gubernatorial debate with the two major-party candidates.

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission passed a rule barring elected officials and agency heads from becoming lobbyists for two years after leaving their positions. It’s the same rule lawmakers rejected during the 2018 legislative session.

Political spending by secretive groups that are allowed to hide their donors have already spent what is likely a record amount this year to influence Oklahoma political races.

An Oklahoma Watch review of campaign finance records found so-called “dark money” groups had spent nearly $2.7 million on Oklahoma’s legislative, statewide and congressional races by the end of August.

Oklahoma’s claim to the buckle of the Bible belt is widely accepted as true. But when it comes to faith and voting, new research shows more residents are letting their political values influence the church they choose.

At a recent weekly Sunday morning donut hour at Faith United Methodist Church in Tulsa, people are busy talking about the start of school and the college football season while getting their weekly dose of juice, coffee and donuts.

Oklahoma State Highway 3 / Wikimedia Commons

Oklahomans went to the polls on Tuesday to vote in a statewide primary runoff election.

As The Oklahoman reports, Kevin Stitt locked up the Republican nomination to take over for Gov. Mary Fallin. Stitt, a former businessman who has never run for political office, easily defeated his rival, former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.

This November, Stitt will face Democrat Drew Edmondson and Libertarian Chris Powell in the general election.

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The former lawyer for the Oklahoma State Department of Health is facing felony charges for allegedly emailing herself threatening messages.

As StateImpact Oklahoma reports, Julie Ezell is accused of sending threats to her own government email account, regarding the state’s new medical marijuana law. Ezell then alerted health department investigators of the threats.

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According to an editorial in The New Yorker this week, Tuesday’s Oklahoma primary elections “show the lasting impression of the teacher walkout.”

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Voters went to the polls in Oklahoma on Tuesday night, to decide on a medical marijuana law and to decide who the candidates will be in this November’s elections.

As CBS News reports, Sooner voters said yes to State Question 788, making it legal to grow, sell and use marijuana for medicinal purposes.

50states.com

Want to get to know Oklahoma’s large pool of gubernatorial candidates better before you vote in the primary?

The Tulsa World reported last week the 15 candidates' responses to questions about teacher raises and medicinal marijuana, which also appears on the ballot.

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The recent teachers’ strike in the Sooner State has led The New Yorker to publish an investigation into how the somewhat unsuccessful teacher protests have spawned a “movement of politically engaged” Oklahomans.

In response to the walkout this year, Oklahoma Republicans offered the state’s teachers $6,000 raises. The GOP lawmakers funded the raises with a series of measures that will disproportionately hit the wallets of low-income residents.

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Oklahoma’s Health Department is still struggling to gain its footing after being racked by scandal and turmoil in recent months. In the most recent development, the Health Department’s interim commissioner abruptly resigned this month, after allegations of domestic violence surfaced.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, the Board of Health unanimously accepted Preston Doerflinger’s resignation. Specific details for Doerflinger’s resignation weren’t given.

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The Oklahoma Legislature’s plan to fix the state budget failed spectacularly this week, sending lawmakers scrambling to defend themselves from widespread criticism.

The Step Up Oklahoma plan had seemed to many like it held promise.

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A nonpartisan Oklahoma political group has recommended that the state get rid of the current political primary system.

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Oklahoma’s Chief Executive Mary Fallin gave her State of the State address last week, in which the Governor detailed her plans to fix the state’s ongoing budget crisis.

As KFOR reports, the speech made headlines as much for Fallin’s words as for the interruption at the end of the address by protestors, who hung a sign from the gallery that read “State of Despair” and shouted the word “liar” at the Governor.

Oklahoma Legislative Service Bureau / Wikimedia Commons

The Oklahoma Legislative Session for 2018 began yesterday. Here are some facts about the Sooner State’s legislative body, courtesy of The Tulsa World.

The regular legislative session begins each year on the first Monday of February.

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A controversial new bill in Oklahoma would allow the state to chemically castrate sex offenders, reports TIME magazine.

The proposed law is being sponsored by Rep. Rick West, a Republican from the small southeastern Oklahoma town of Heavener. If the bill passes, sex offenders who are released back into society would be required to take drugs that lower testosterone and decrease sexual libido.

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The 2018 session of the Oklahoma Legislature begins in just over two weeks, and one particular bit of potential legislation is already garnering a good deal of attention, reports KFOR.

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An Oklahoma group is mounting a ballot effort to prevent the state’s legislature from redrawing congressional boundaries for their own benefit, a process known as gerrymandering.

Redistricting work is expected to begin after the 2020 census, but as Oklahoma Watch reports, a group called Represent Oklahoma is trying to put a stop to the effort. Represent Oklahoma has launched a website and set up a $400,000 fundraising goal, in hopes of putting a state question on this year’s state ballot.

oklegislature.gov / Public Domain

An Oklahoma regulatory board announced last week that it would cut the salaries of the state’s legislators, in an effort to ease the state’s ongoing budget woes.

As KFOR reports, the state’s Legislative Compensation Board plans to cut state lawmaker salaries by almost 9 percent. The announcement comes as the Legislature continues to be gridlocked in the eighth week of a special session.

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Yet another Democrat has pulled off an upset victory in deep-red Oklahoma.

As NBC News reports, Democrat Allison Ikley-Freeman defeated Republican Brian O’Hara in Tuesday’s special election for the Oklahoma’s Senate District 37. Ikley-Freeman is the fourth Democrat this year to flip a Republican seat in Oklahoma special elections.

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The State of Oklahoma’s health department is in the midst of a financial crisis, reports Oklahoma Watch.

The department laid off a number of employees this month and announced further job cuts in an attempt to shore up the unexpected cash crunch. The state has also requested a special audit of health department finances by State Auditor Gary Jones. The cash shortfall is so severe that the department has activated a state of emergency normally reserved for public health crises such as disease outbreaks.

Jeff Hall

Jeff Hall, a Republican from Mooreland, Okla., announced his candidacy for State Senate District 27 last week.

An Army veteran, Hall was raised in Northwest Oklahoma, where his family has roots for several generations. Hall served two tours of duty in Iraq, and retired from service in 2014. Hall currently owns a small business in Guymon.

In a press release, Hall indicated that he feared the GOP was “squandering its opportunity to lead.”

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One of the candidates for Governor of Oklahoma next year has some fresh ideas on how the state might address its massive budget shortfall, reports The Duncan Banner.

Last week at a Meet the Oklahoma Governor Candidate forum, Connie Johnson declared her support for the legalization of medical marijuana in the Sooner State.“

It’s a plant that God created,” she said. 

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Oklahoma lawmakers are already seeing warning signs that they’ll be facing stiff competition during the 2018 election.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, as of last month, 13 candidates had already announced their plans to challenge incumbent Oklahoma legislators.

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Todd Lamb, the current Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma, recently announced his plan to bring positive change to his home state. Lamb, who announced his plans to run for Governor in April, told KSWO that his vision for the state includes five steps.

Those steps are, in the Lt. Gov.’s words, “to reform and restructure state government, education priority, infrastructure, economic diversity and making Oklahoma work again.”

DonkeyHotey / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma Democrats had a couple of big wins this week, as they flipped two Republican seats blue.

As The Oklahoman reports, Democrats won two special elections for state congressional seats on Tuesday night. Both seats had been vacated after Republican lawmakers stepped down amid scandal. In Senate District 44, Democrat Michael Brooks defeated Republican Joe Griffin. And in House District 75, Democrat Karen Gaddis beat the GOP’s candidate, Tressa Nunley.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A new service in the State of Oklahoma hopes to ensure that voters never miss another election.

As KOSU reports, the new alert system from the Oklahoma State Election Board will send out notices to interested voters whenever an election is around the corner. The service will also remind voters when it’s time to renew their annual absentee ballot requests.

Annie Langthorn/Elle

Oklahoma’s Democratic Party has elected its youngest party chair ever.

In a profile in Elle magazine, 24-year-old Annie Langthorn says she became interested in politics in high school, volunteering and interning with candidates. She even skipped her own high school graduation to attend the Oklahoma State Democratic Convention.

Langthorn beat out four other candidates for her new role as state chair.

Oklahoma State Legislature

Yesterday the Oklahoma legislature brought a bill to the floor that would make abortions illegal unless approved by the mother’s male sexual partner.

Oklahoma Watch

Last year, a caucus of teachers rose up in Oklahoma. Dozens of schoolteachers ran for public office in the Sooner State, out of frustration over low education funding levels and teacher pay.

In response, money poured into Oklahoma from out of state, funding the opposition to this so-called “Teacher Caucus.” Many of those teachers subsequently lost their races.

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