Who’s in and who’s out?
We’ll get the answer to that question this week as candidates for federal, state, legislative, judicial and district attorney offices will need to formally declare their candidacy.
Candidates, or one of their representatives, will have to travel to the State Capitol to file with the Oklahoma State Election Board and pay their filing fee (ranging from $500 to $2,000, depending on the office) during the state’s three-day filing period Wednesday through Friday.
By the end of the day on Friday we’ll have the full slate of candidates for what looks to be an interesting campaign season.
On the ballot will be races for statewide office, including Gov. Kevin Stitt’s gubernatorial re-election bid, two U.S. Senate races thanks to U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe announcing his retirement, five U.S. House races (in newly redistricted boundaries) and most of the state Legislature.
Voters will also be selecting their district attorney, district or associate judges and various other local offices, depending on where they live.
One of the things I’ll be watching is whether the number of uncontested races continues to rise.
I previously reported that during the 2020 elections, 50 legislative races were decided without a single vote needing to be cast. That’s because in those contests, only one person filed for a race.
A report from Ballotpedia, a nonprofit organization that tracks elections across the country, found this problem is more pronounced in Oklahoma than most other states. In 2020, Oklahoma had the fifth-highest percentage of races without two challengers from major parties among the 44 states with legislative elections.
Party leaders blamed COVID-19 as one of the reasons why there were fewer candidates running in 2020. But the number of districts where one party holds a significant registration and demographic advantage also played a role.
Some hoped the Legislature’s redistricting work last year could help fix that problem. That doesn’t appear to be the case. As I reported in December, voter data shows many legislative races will remain largely uncompetitive as the number of firmly Republican or Democratic districts — a number already high by national standards — grew slightly in the new maps.
Oklahoma Watch is planning to cover the filing period as well many other campaign issues over the coming weeks and months. Help guide our coverage by letting us know what you’ll be watching this year. What races or issues are most important to you? Let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or finding me on Twitter at @tbrownokc.
Who in the Oklahoma Legislature will be seeking another term and who will be skipping the 2022 races? We’ll know for sure by the end of Friday. But a number of lawmakers have already come out in the past week saying they will won’t seek re-election.
Those who made announcements that they aren’t running again are: Reps. Zack Taylor, R-Seminole; Sheila Dills, R-Tulsa; Merleyn Bell, D-Norman and Sen. James Leewright, R-Bristow.
What I’m Reading This Week
- Oklahoma lawmakers are in a mad dash to eradicate abortion in Oklahoma, passing a slew of bills to restrict — and in some cases criminalize — the procedure. These laws now stand a better chance of going into effect, and that if they do, will have a major impact on the region, not just Oklahoma. [StateImpact Oklahoma]
- In the early months of 2021, then-Attorney General Mike Hunter was delivering separate messages to a pair of prominent elected officials about then-House Speaker Pro Tempore Terry O’Donnell, with whom he had feuded on the topic of opioid lawsuits. Around the same time, House Speaker Charles McCall — one of O’Donnell’s closest friends in the Legislature — says Hunter asked him to stop one of O’Donnell’s bills. [NonDoc]
- Congress is weighing whether to siphon hundreds of millions of dollars meant to help tribal nations recover from the pandemic and funnel it to other COVID-19 spending. [Oklahoman]
- The Oklahoma Supreme Court has settled one aspect of a dispute between competing groups vying to shape the future of Oklahoma’s marijuana industry. The court found the language in State Question 820, which would legalize recreational use of marijuana in Oklahoma, is “constitutionally sufficient.” [Journal Record]
- A nonprofit affiliate of the Republican Governors Association says it will spend $577,000 on television commercials in support of Gov. Kevin Stitt. [Oklahoman]
Oklahoma needs high-quality investigative journalism. That is our mission at Oklahoma Watch. We produce stories that hold government and public officials accountable and that make transparent what some prefer to keep secret. We depend on financial support from readers like you to sustain our coverage. Help us make a difference.