Oklahoma: A red state governor could lose to his Democrat challenger

We’re all paying attention to five or six big races and one that is just under the surface is the gubernatorial race in Oklahoma. The race between Republican incumbent Governor Kevin Stitt and Democrat Joy Hofmeister is a real sleeper of an election. The red state governor could lose to his Democrat challenger and that is not good news for Republicans in a red wave election cycle.

In the middle of October some headlines began surfacing about Oklahoma’s gubernatorial race because it was turning out to be an unexpected squeaker. Governor Stitt, I thought at the time, was expected to win re-election but it was predicted to be a close race. Just a week later polls showed the governor falling behind in the polls and his re-election began to look to be in doubt. What in the world is going on in Oklahoma?

Real Clear Politics and Cook Political Report shifted it from Safe R to Likely R at that time. Republican Governor Kevin Stitt is losing support from both independent voters and suburban women voters to his Democrat opponent, current State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. Today, Real Clear Politics shows the race as a toss-up but holds GOP. Talk about a nail-biter. That shouldn’t be happening in a solidly red state, especially during a red wave election. Hofmeister is a former Republican who switched parties to run against Governor Stitt. Her reasoning was that Stitt has become too right-wing. She said he has pulled the party too far to the right.

Governor Stitt was interviewed Sunday on Fox News Sunday by Shannon Bream. Stitt believes there is a silent majority of voters that will turn out for him on Election Day. As we know, in recent election cycles, Democrats favor early voting and Republicans prefer voting on Election Day. Stitt told Bream that outside groups have spent $50M on ads against him. Stitt pointed out that if supporting small government, low taxes, family values, and supporting oil and gas jobs is moving too far to the right, so be it.

The main problem for Stitt is the appearance of corruption in his administration. There was an investigation earlier this year into how the state possibly fumbled on spending millions of federal COVID-19 relief fund dollars meant for education. In a previous post I wrote, federal auditors gave the state’s efforts a poor review. “Oklahomans continue to have an unfavorable opinion of Governor Stitt and stand against his failed leadership and self-dealing,” Hofmeister said. There is also a scandal over a restaurant contract to operate restaurants at state parks that cost taxpayers millions of dollars. At that time, outside groups were outspending Stitt by a margin of 4-1.

Hofmeister trails Stitt in fundraising, but independent expenditures on her behalf far outpace his.

Hofmeister reported contributions of a little over $1.5 million during the Aug. 9-Oct. 24 reporting period, bringing her total for the entire election cycle to $3.1 million.

By comparison, Republican incumbent Kevin Stitt raised $2.3 million during the reporting period and is at $8.5 million for the cycle, according to his preelection report, filed Monday afternoon.

Stitt’s and Hofmeister’s totals include contributions received after the end of the reporting period but not the nearly $2 million Stitt has loaned his campaign.

They also don’t reflect more than $10.3 million in independent expenditures on Hofmeister’s behalf or $1.7 million on Stitt’s.

Last week Governor Stitt got some heavy-hitting help. He was endorsed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. DeSantis has been stepping up and helping where he can as he runs his own re-election campaign.

“Governor Kevin Stitt has been a fierce fighter against the radical left, protecting and promoting our shared values of freedom, smaller government and less taxes,” said DeSantis. “He pushed against the liberal agenda during the pandemic, keeping Oklahoma’s schools and businesses open. Governor Stitt has been a champion for parents, giving them a voice in their child’s future and saying no to leftist indoctrination in schools. It’s an honor to give him my complete and total endorsement.”

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) campaigned for Stitt last week at an Oklahoma City church .

At times, Cruz’s 35-minute speech to fire up local Republicans closely resembled a stand-up comedy routine as he mocked the Democratic president, vice president and congressional leaders. He also criticized Stitt’s opponent.

“Oklahoma is blessed to have a remarkable man, a patriot and a lover of liberty as your governor,” Cruz said of Stitt. “If you look at the socialist assault in Washington, understand there is nothing they would like more than to take bright red Oklahoma and flip it Democrat.”

Calling Stitt a warrior for education freedom, Cruz praised him for fighting for greater school choice options. He also accused Hofmeister of fearmongering by saying plans to expand school vouchers would “kill” rural schools.

He also accused Hofmeister of closing schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cruz asked a good question of the audience when he blasted Hofmeister for switching political parties – “Who in their right mind sees the insanity that’s happening in Washington, sees Joe Biden selling America down the river and says, ‘that’s what I want to be with?'”

Remember former Rep. J.C. Watts from the GW Bush administration days? He was a rising star in the Republican Party at the time. Well, he has endorsed Hofmeister. 

“I was a Republican then, and I’m a Republican now, and, friends, I’m voting for Joy Hofmeister,” Watts says in a new ad.

“All this scandal and corruption is just too much. Joy is a woman of faith and integrity. She’ll always put Oklahoma first. I know Joy personally, and I trust her, and you can too,” the former Oklahoma congressman said.

Stitt links the Watts endorsement to his position on a board of directors of a technology provider. Always follow the money. Stitt also mentioned the connection on his appearance on the Fox Sunday show.

The Stitt campaign provided no comment other than a reference to a recent article in Tulsa World that links Watts’ position on the board of directors of technology provider Paycom, headquartered in Oklahoma City, to his support of Hofmeister.

“As it happens, Watts is a director of Oklahoma City’s Paycom Inc. Paycom’s president and chief executive officer, Chad Richison, is known not to be a Stitt fan, and Stitt has said he suspects Richison of being behind much of the dark money that’s been spent against him,” Tulsa World reported.

As I said, this race is turning out to be a nail-biter. 

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