Election season takes off on May 9th

Political races are gearing up in 2017 even though it is supposed to be an “off year” for elections.

It starts on May 9 with a primary election for Republicans and Democrats in Oklahoma House District 75. The top vote getters in the winner-take-all primaries will enter the special election on July 11.

That seat is open due to the resignation of former Rep. Dan Kirby, who was accused of sexual harassment.

The Republicans on the May 9 ballot are Tressa Nunley, Nic Berg, A.J. Oatsvall and Skip Steele. The Democrats are Karen Gaddis and Jamie Smith.

Gov. Mary Fallin will set a special election date for District 76 in Broken Arrow due to the passing of Rep. David Brumbaugh in April.

Fallin is term limited and that seat will be open in 2018. Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb has an exploratory committee and is expected to run. Tulsa attorney Gary Richardson, a previous candidate governor, announced that he is running for the Republican nomination.

Possible gubernatorial candidates include State Auditor Gary Jones, former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, Tulsa businessman Kevin Stitt. All are Republicans. Former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, a Democrat, may also run. State Rep. Scott Inman, a Democrat, has announced.

Former Republican official Matt Pinnell has announced he is running for lieutenant governor in 2018.

U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma, has announced that he won’t seek a fourth term in 2018. Also, Bridenstine is a finalist in consideration of top administrator for NASA. Should Bridenstine leave Congress for NASA, Fallin would schedule a special election later this year.

So far, the announced candidates for the 1st District are former Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris, businessman Kevin Hern, Andy Coleman and Pastor Danny Stockstill.

House District 75 Republicans

Nunley is a Tulsa businesswoman and Realtor who has been endorsed by the Tulsa Beacon, the Oklahoma Conservative PAC, Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel, Tim Harris and others.

“We were impressed with the way she articulated fiscal conservatism and the need to champion liberty,” said John Michener, president of OCPAC.

Nunley has been a licensed realtor since 2005, with previous experience in administration with Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City and St. John Medical Center in Tulsa, as well as an Employee Programs Coordinator in Strategic Practices for Williams Communications. She has a business administration degree from the University of Oklahoma.

“I believe that both my business and life experience have uniquely qualified me to represent the needs of individuals and families. I know that I can put that experience to work in advancing fiscal responsibility and opportunities for job growth,” Nunley said.

Nunley is a graduate of Nathan Hale High School. She and her family are members of Tulsa Bible Church.

Berg said he is running to lower the tax burden on families, create a good climate for small business, support the gun rights in the Second Amendment, oppose abortion, seek criminal justice reform and reform public education.

Berg has been actively involved in the local Republican Party, is currently a Republican precinct chairman in Tulsa County, and has volunteered for current Oklahoma elected officials.

A graduate of Broken Arrow High School, Berg currently helps manage his family’s local small business.

“Having served locally in the community and abroad, I look forward to the opportunity to represent the people of District 75. I plan on meeting the people of the district and listening to the issues that they value most so I can effectively represent them at the State Capitol.”

Steele was on the Tulsa City Council from 2011 to 2014. He was defeated by Connie Dodson in 2014 and then ran against in 2016, also losing to Dodson.

Steele and his family attend Boston Avenue Methodist Church. He owns and operates All Hours Computers.

Steele graduated from Edison High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business from John F. Kennedy College.

One of the themes of his campaigns for office was bringing economic development to East Tulsa. He also is concerned about public safety issues. Steele regularly hosted town hall meetings in his district while on the Tulsa City Council.

Oatsvall is a political blogger (Voices of Liberty) who reportedly has Libertarian leanings. He is a military veteran.

House District 75 Democrats

Jamie Smith doesn’t want the state to balance the budget “on the backs of students and working-class Oklahomans.

After completing her bachelor’s degree, Smith accepted a position as a graduate teaching assistant in the University of Oklahoma’s political science Ph.D. program. While working as a teaching assistant, she taught classes in government and politics. Smith was a teaching assistant for former Governor and OU President David L. Boren. She completed her master’s degree in 2012 and her Ph.D. in 2015.

After her graduate work, she continued working for OU, moving to the Tulsa campus as a post-doctoral Fellow. Smith has taught classes in policy making, nonprofit management, ethics, and public financial management and budgeting.

Karen Gaddis worked for 40 years in Tulsa Public Schools at Whitney Middle School, Edison Junior High and Memorial High School. She was a three-time finalist for “teacher of the year.”

In 1995, she and her husband Bill Gaddis were named the “Tulsa Leadership Family of the Year.” They are members of Boston Avenue Methodist Church.

Karen Gaddis has volunteered for the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetic Association, Exodus House, the Tulsa Mental Health Association and has been a mentor at McClain High School.

She has been endorsed by the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, Oklahomans for Public Schools and South Tulsa Metro Public Education Advocates.

Gaddis lost to Kirby in the November 2016 election by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent.

First District Congress Republicans

Tim Harris was Tulsa County District Attorney for 16 years – the longest sitting DA in Tulsa history. Harris started in the DA’s office right out of law school, eventually working his way up to First Assistant. He served on the first specialized prosecution team fighting child abuse and eventually became the first Director of the Crimes Against Children Division.

Each year he was responsible for the prosecution of approximately 12,000 criminal cases and 1,700 juvenile cases. Harris managed an $8 million yearly budget, having to raise half of that amount each year. He returned approximately $1 million to the small business community from the Bogus Check Restitution Program every year he was in office.

“Just as I fought for families and the safety of our communities, I will be an advocate for our freedoms, our security and our jobs,” Harris said. “There is far too much at stake right now to remain on the sidelines.”

Since leaving the DA’s office, Harris has served on the board of directors of the Tulsa Boys’ Home, Oklahoma Methodist Manor, and The Demand Project, which advocates stopping the exploitation and trafficking of vulnerable young girls and women. Harris helped establish and chairs the nonprofit Tulsa County Sheriff’s Foundation, Inc. He also teaches constitutional law at ORU and MBA/graduate studies at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

Andy Coleman graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he double majored in Foreign Area Studies and Political Science, and also minored in German.

Upon graduation, Coleman served as an Air Force intelligence officer with USCENTAF, the Air Force component focused on the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa. This required Andy to briefly deploy to the Middle East to support operations throughout the region.

Coleman later transitioned to the Reserves and was remotely assigned to USAFE, where he served in a similar role focused on the European theater. This shift to the Reserves allowed Andy to attend law school at The University of Kansas School of Law.

At KU Law, Coleman served as an editor for the Law Review, a leader in the school’s Christian Legal Society and Federalist Society chapters, and also as a student ambassador. Coleman interned with the Alliance Defense Fund. Andy also served as a judicial extern for a federal district judge, and a district attorney’s office.

Andy’s law school experience was interrupted after his first year, when he was mobilized to active duty. Activated during the “surge” in Iraq and assigned to the U.S. Army, Captain Coleman deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, with a Civil Affairs brigade.

Following his tour in Iraq, Coleman returned home, graduated from law school, and became an associate at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, an international law firm. Coleman joined the Voice of the Martyrs in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. VOM is an interdenominational Christian ministry that assists persecuted Christians in the most difficult countries of the world.

Coleman and his family are members of First Baptist Church in Owasso.

Born on an Air Force Base, Kevin Hern worked a variety of jobs including in the Aerospace industry for Rockwell, writing computer programs to automate tasks for businesses, real estate, and even hog farming. In 1999, Kevin bought the two McDonald’s in Muskogee.

By 2012, as the owner of KTAK Corporation, Hern leads the operations of an organization that owns 10 McDonald’s restaurants. It employs over 400 people in the Tulsa area.

Hern has served in various regional, divisional, and national leadership positions within the McDonald’s system. He recently served 5 years as the chairman of the Systems Economic Team for the 3000+ franchisees that own the 15,000 U.S. restaurants

Hern served as the chairman of the finance committee of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority from 2011 to 2015. He has also served as a State Board Member on the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Oklahoma and FFA of Oklahoma and is currently serving as the Finance Committee Chair for the OKGOP.

Hern and his wife Tammy have three children and they are members at the Church at Battle Creek.

Danny Stockstill is pastor of Brookside Baptist Church in Tulsa.

Governor – Republicans

Gary Richardson graduated from Bethany Nazarene College (now Southern Nazarene University). He has a law degree from South Texas College of Law. In the 1970s, Richardson was assistant insurance commissioner and later assistant district attorney in Muskogee.

He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Congress in the 2nd District in 1978 and 1980. He later accepted President Ronald Reagan’s appointment as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Oklahoma.

In 1981, Gary gave up his lucrative practice to tackle one the largest corruption cases in Oklahoma. Gary, along with two other U.S. attorneys in Oklahoma, convicted 210 County Commissioners who were engaged in a systematic kickback scheme that had been going on for decades.

In 1984, Gary returned to private practice and oversees one of the leading law practices in Oklahoma. In 2002, he made an unsuccessful campaign for governor, running as an Independent. He has since reregistered as a Republican.

Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb is expected to enter the race for the GOP nomination. Tulsa businessman Kevin Stitt may also run for governor.

Governor – Democrats

Del City state Rep. Scott Inman is the Democrat leader in the Oklahoma House and will serve his last term in the Legislature next year because of term limits.

The only other candidate to announce is former state Sen. Connie Johnson, also a Democrat, has also announced she will run.

Inman has served for years as the minority leader in the Oklahoma House.

Former Attorney General Drew Edmondson has announced that he will run for governor.

Lieutenant Governor

Former Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman and small business owner Matt Pinnell formally began his campaign for lieutenant governor of Oklahoma by filing a statement of organization with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.

“Following months of encouragement from my family, friends, and fellow Oklahomans, I am excited today to announce I am running for Lt. Governor in 2018,” said Pinnell. “As I’ve traveled the state in various capacities over the past several years, I have met so many Oklahomans who share my vision for an innovative, prosperous, and forward-looking state.”

Pinnell led the transition of the newly appointed Republican National Committee Chairman and served as chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party during the 2010 and 2012 election cycles.

The youngest state Republican Party chairman in the country at the time of his election, Pinnell helped the party secure all five congressional seats and every statewide elected office simultaneously for the first time in Oklahoma history.

In 2013, former Republican National Committee Chairman and current White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus appointed Pinnell as the RNC’s National State Party Director to serve as the chief liaison between the RNC and state parties.