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Why he’s running
Former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett says he’s running to “fix the mess” in state government. “Oklahoma needs a new direction,” his campaign website says, adding, “The state government is broken to the point that budget shortfalls, worries about education, public health and a variety of core government functions have become commonplace.” He says he is a consensus builder and a proven leader who produced results, not just rhetoric, which makes him the best choice to lead the state forward with a positive outlook. “If you want more of the same, I’m not your guy. If you want someone to get things done for you and your family, I’m your candidate.”
Cornett has a seemingly ideal backdrop for his campaign: A new convention center and a streetcar are coming to life in downtown Oklahoma City, where he served as mayor for 14 years. The city’s revitalization is one of his main selling points; he suggests he will bring similar economic vitality to the rest of Oklahoma. To win the runoff and governorship, he must convince enough rural and Tulsa voters that their quality of life will get the same priority and attention as Oklahoma City. As the Aug. 28 primary run-off approaches, Cornett’s supporters, apparently concerned he is slipping, have begun running ads attacking opponent Kevin Stitt’s business record. Stitt disputes the ads as false and misleading.
Where he lives: Oklahoma City
Family status: Married to Terri Walker Cornett. He has three children and four grandchildren from a previous marriage to Lisa Cornett; they were married in 1979 and divorced in 2011.
Putnam City High School, class of 1976.
University of Oklahoma, bachelor’s degree in journalism, 1980.
New York University, Master of Business Administration.
Television news anchor, reporter, and sportscaster, KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City, 1981-2001.
Oklahoma City Council member: 2001-2004.
Mayor of Oklahoma City: March 2004-April 2018.
Owner, video production firm, starting around 2004.
Executive vice president of special projects, Ackerman McQueen advertising agency, starting in 2009.
Family history: Cornett’s father was a postal worker and his mother was a first-grade teacher. He grew up in Oklahoma City and is a fifth-generation Oklahoman.
Stances on issues
Cornett says he wants to increase education spending and raise teacher salaries to at least the regional level, with “competitive pay increases” for STEM teachers. In a gubernatorial forum in April, Cornett said he was glad that Gov. Mary Fallin signed a $2.9 billion education funding package. However, Cornett criticized the teacher walk-out, saying teachers’ actions weren’t in the best interests of the state or its children. He thinks the state has too many school districts, but doesn’t think Oklahoma is ready for extensive consolidation.
When asked by The Oklahoman if he would consider a tax increase as governor, Cornett said, “Raising taxes shouldn’t be anyone’s first instinct.” He said he would first look to decrease financial inefficiencies before proposing a tax hike. Cornett notes that he balanced Oklahoma City’s budget every year as mayor and helped implement the MAPS 2 and 3 programs debt-free.
In debates and public statements, Cornett has focused on lowering the statewide recidivism rate as a solution to reducing prison overcrowding. He supported state questions 780 and 781, which changed some drug and property crime offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. He thinks government should strengthen efforts to provide individual paths to escaping the prison cycle, as opposed to one-size-fits-all rules.
Cornett emphasizes that Oklahoma must diversify its economy, saying the economy won’t grow if government focuses too much on the oil and gas industry. Jobs in that industry have peaked because of efficiency, he says. He favors a stronger partnership between state government and local communities, instead of cities focusing on “playing defense” against state efforts to take away local governments’ rights and abilities.
Health and social welfare
On his campaign website, Cornett states, “We must prioritize health and wellness to reduce medical costs and live up to our full potential as a state.” Well known for his campaign as mayor to get Oklahoma City residents to lose weight, Cornett has emphasized health as a selling point of his candidacy. Cornett said he is pro-medical marijuana in principle, but was skeptical of SQ 788, saying there could be unintended consequences. He said he is pro-life.
>More than a dozen current or former mayors from cities such as Altus, Atoka, Bartlesville, Broken Arrow, Chickasha, Del City, Edmond, El Reno, Enid, Guymon, Lawton, Mustang, Ponca City and Tulsa.
>The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World (for the primary).
>Oklahomans for Public Education.
Will people in rural Oklahoma and Tulsa vote for you?
In addressing this, Cornett said his wife Terri is from Vinita and he comes from generations of western Oklahoma wheat farmers. (University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma)
Cornett was a successful, popular mayor whose vision helped lead to MAPS 3 and the transformative arrival of the Oklahoma City Thunder and technology firms. His success leading a city that has grown more politically diverse shows he has the ability to lead on a statewide level. Cornett is the antidote to chronic budget shortfalls, ugly fighting at the Capitol and government dysfunction. His experience shows he will create jobs statewide and put Oklahoma on a path to stability and prosperity.
Cornett is a big-city mayor in a weak mayoral system who doesn’t understand the needs and challenges of rural Oklahomans or Tulsa-area residents. He is popular and genial, but takes credit for progress in his city that began under previous mayors and is driven primarily by public taxation. Under Cornett, the city’s renaissance focused on downtown and corporate beneficiaries and neglected many other needs in the city.
Cornett played a key leadership role in bringing an NBA team to Oklahoma City. He led the city through several challenging periods – the 2008 recession and the 2014-15 oil price collapse – as well as the years of renewal.
Key political moments
Cornett faced a bruising reelection campaign in 2014 when now-City Council member Ed Shadid challenged him for the nonpartisan mayoral post. Cornett won more than 65 percent of the vote. Cornett was the longest-serving mayor of one of the nation’s 50 largest cities. In 2007, he received international recognition for drawing attention to Oklahoma City’s obesity problem and pledging to push its residents to lose a collective million pounds.
(Jan. 1, 2017-Aug. 13, 2018)
Top political action committee donors to campaign (Donations over $2,500):
>American Fidelity Corp., $10,000.
>Cox Communications Oklahoma: $5,000.
>Greater Oklahoma City Chamber: $5,000.
>AT&T Oklahoma: $5,000.
>American Fidelity Corp.: $5,000.
>HNTB Holdings LTD: $5,000.
>Bank of Oklahoma Financial Corp.: $4,500.
>Oklahoma Title: $2,600.
>General Electric: $2,500.
>Coalition of Advocates for Responsible Eldercare: $2,500.
>Farmers Employee Ad Agent: $2,500
Number of individual donors giving maximum $5,400 donation (individual donor limits is $2,700 for each election): 171
Number of donors giving at least $2,000: 712
Independent expenditure groups
Oklahoma Values describes itself as “an an unlimited committee, otherwise known as an independent-expenditure super PAC, formed for the sole purpose to support Republican Mick Cornett’s candidacy for Governor of Oklahoma.”
Sue Ann Arnall, Oklahoma City, $200,000
Richard Tannenbaum, Oklahoma City: $100,000
John D. Cresasap, Oklahoma City: $50,000
Mo Anderson, Wukomis: $50,000
Steve Dixon, Oklahoma City: $10,000
Burt B. Holmes, Tulsa: $10,000
Christian K Keesee, Oklahoma City: $5,000
Cornett was raised a Methodist and he and his wife Terri now attend the non-denominational Skyline Bible Church in Oklahoma City.
Cornett says his Christian faith will have an influence on both how he treats people and what policy decisions he makes if elected governor.
“My faith has always guided me, and especially in public service, my faith has helped to keep me grounded and always treat Oklahomans with the respect they deserve,” he said. “That’s a perspective I will take with me to the governor’s office if I’m elected.”
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