Monday, Oct. 11, 2021
Capitol Watch

Hofmeister’s Entry Into Governor’s Race, as a Democrat, Shakes Up 2022 Contest

With some breaking news last week, Oklahoma’s 2022 gubernatorial race became a lot more interesting.

The Tulsa World reported on Wednesday night that Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, a lifelong Republican, will change parties to become a Democrat and challenge Gov. Kevin Stitt

Soon after, Hofmeister made it official by launching her first campaign ad and filing documents to start fundraising for the state’s top position.

The announcement comes as only one other Democrat — former state senator Connie Johnson, who came in second in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2018 — has announced plans to run. In Hofmeister, Democrats will now have a candidate with success running for statewide office and crossover appeal to Republicans and independents.

I was curious about the reaction from the state’s Democratic establishment. Would they be feel chagrined that a lifelong Republican is now the odds-on favorite to be their nominee? Or would they be celebrating a seemingly realistic chance to retake the governor’s office?

Judging by initial comments, it seems to be the later category.

By Thursday, the Oklahoma Democratic Party was “welcoming” Hofmeister to the race by saying her entry both will lead to a “robust primary” and signal that Oklahomans are “waking up to the extremism of state’s Republican party.”

In a tweet the day after the announcement, Johnson added that she too welcomes Hofmeister to the race.

“We invite her and everyone in Democratic Party leadership to join us in committing now to support whoever wins the Democratic primary in an all out effort to get rid of Governor Stitt,” she wrote.

At least one potential, or rumored, candidate also seemed ready to step aside for Hofmeister. State Rep. Monroe Nichols, R-Tulsa, who has been a recent vocal opponent of Stitt, told the Tulsa World he will support Hofmeister or Johnson.

Whether the progressive wing of the party or voters skeptical of Hofmeister’s history with the Republican party will join still remains to be seen.

On the Republican side, most state leaders were staying silent on Hofmeister’s news. We’ll see how hard the Stitt campaign and others go after Hofmeister for her party flip and her pretty long history of publicly disagreeing with Stitt on education issues.

Oklahoma Watch is planning a robust coverage of the upcoming gubernatorial race, as well as all the other 2022 contests. So we want to know what you think. If you are a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or independent, let us know what you think of Hofmeister’s announcements and what you think her prospects will be in 2022. You can email me at tbrown@oklahomawatch.org or find me on Twitter at @tbrownokc.

The Top Story

A middle school student works on a laptop computer during class at Bridge Creek Elementary School in Blanchard on Nov. 21, 2019. (Whitney Bryen/Oklahoma Watch)

Oklahoma Student Learning in a Pandemic: Test Results Show Heavy Toll

Oklahoma students lost ground in nearly every grade and subject as they struggled to learn amid COVID-19 disruptions, newly released test score data shows. 

Oklahoma Watch‘s Jennifer Palmer reports that results from state assessments taken by students in the spring show significant declines when compared to 2019, the last time students took state assessments. The 2020 exams were canceled at the onset of the pandemic. [Read More …]

Tweet Watch

Gov. Kevin Stitt has yet to comment directly on the news that Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister is challenging him in 2022.

That’s at least party because he spent the end of last week touring the U.S.-Mexican border along with a group of other Republican governors. Stitt, who received a security briefing from Texas law enforcement officials, criticized the Biden administration for failing to curb illegal border crossing that he says in bringing in drugs to Oklahoma and other states.

But the Democratic National Committee called the South Texas event a “lame political student” and criticized the group of governors for not raising humanitarian issues when former President Donald Trump was in office.

What I’m Reading This Week

  • State unemployment commissions overpaid more than $12.9 billion in benefits between April 2020 and March 2021, according to the Government Accountability Office. But Oklahoma Employment Security Commission officials said they have no way of knowing how many Oklahomans were overpaid for unemployment benefits or how much they owe. [Oklahoma Watch]
  • An advocacy group filed two initiative petitions Thursday, one of which creates the framework to allow cannabis sales without a doctor’s recommendation. The other makes changes to current medical marijuana laws. [The Oklahoman]
  • The Oklahoma Department of Human Services failed to provide more access to services like home day care and therapy for people with intellectual disabilities despite increases in state and federal funding, according to a state spending watchdog. [The Frontier]
  • COVID-19 deaths in Oklahoma remain near their peak levels even as hospitalizations fall and the delta variant surge subsides after a rapid two-month rise that overwhelmed hospitals. [Tulsa World]
  • In a weekly update to state agencies, the Oklahoma State Department of Health warned that COVID-19 has led to cutbacks at urgent-care centers. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

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