During his first gubernatorial run, Republican businessman Kevin Stitt told Oklahomans he would break through government bureaucracy and deliver results if elected.
That message resonated with voters, who chose Stitt over Democrat Drew Edmondson by a 12.1% margin in 2018. Stitt is running for reelection on a similar platform this year, vowing to support fiscally and socially conservative policies and set a vision to make Oklahoma a top-10 state.
My colleagues and I have been digging into Stitt’s record in recent weeks, comparing promises and statements made during his initial campaign with what has transpired since his inauguration in January 2019.
Some context in this kind of examination is important. Bills must successfully move through the Legislature in order to reach the governor’s desk. The state ranked poorly in several categories, such as obesity rates and prison population per capita, when Stitt took office.
But the governor has broad authority to set legislative priorities, issue executive orders and appoint and appoint agency directors. The executive branch also has significant sway in the state’s budget negotiation process.
Here’s a look at stories we’ve published over the past week and what’s coming ahead of the Nov. 8 general election date:
Paul Monies took a broad look at Stitt’s approach to the job, from who he’s appointed to cabinet secretary positions to how he’s handled state and federal audits. Monies also examines the state’s economy under Stitt, noting that the state savings account has grown and unemployment has dropped during his term but energy fuel costs are hitting the agriculture industry and homeowners. [Our State Under Stitt: Government at the Speed of Business]
Whitney Bryen examined Oklahoma’s public health outcomes under Stitt. While Stitt kept promises to sign abortion restrictions and expand telehealth, Oklahoma fell from 43rd to 46th in America’s Health Rankings during his term. [What Stitt Has and Hasn’t Done to Address Oklahoma’s Poor Health Outcomes]
Stitt claims Oklahoma’s average teacher pay is now the highest in the region when adjusted for cost of living and tax burden. He signed several initiatives this year aimed at improving teacher recruitment and retention, though funds have yet to be allocated for a program to pay experienced teachers upwards of $100,000 per year. [Making the Grade: Has Stitt Fulfilled His Education Promises?]
This week we are publishing stories on Stitt’s workforce and criminal justice record. Ashlynd Huffman and I have been evaluating the state of Oklahoma’s prisons, jails and courts under Stitt, from the decline of the prison population to the lack of funding for State Question 781. Lionel Ramos has been digging into labor statistics to see how Oklahoma workers have fared under Stitt.
Have story ideas, suggestions or feedback on this series? Let me know at Kross@Oklahomawatch.org.
The Democracy Watch Newsletter is sponsored by:
Received a mail-in absentee ballot but haven’t delivered it yet? The clock is ticking.
You can vote in person if you received an absentee ballot, but you’ll have to sign a form swearing that you did not submit it.
What I’m Reading This Week
In the Race for Governor, Kevin Stitt, Joy Hofmeister are Trying to Win Favor With Oklahoma’s Growing Latino Population: Stitt is running what is believed to be the first Spanish-language Television ad and attending public events in the Hispanic community. Hofmeister has distributed shirts and signs and is also attending community events. Oklahoma’s Hispanic population has increased 42% since 2010. [The Frontier]
Oklahoma Trump Supporter Sentenced to Prison for Role in U.S. Capitol Riot on Jan. 6, 2021: A federal judge sentenced Jerry Ryals of Fort Gibson to nine months in prison for breaching the Capitol. He was also ordered to pay a $2,000 fine. [The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma’s Five Congressional Seats on Nov. 8 Ballot: The seats will be within easy reach for Republicans, who have the fundraising and voter registration advantage in all five districts. [Tulsa World]
Support our newsroom
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.