The race to be the next mayor of Tulsa features two top candidates who are remarkably similar but who really don’t like each other.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett is being challenged by City Councilor G.T. Bynum and they figure to be the top two vote getters.
Lawrence Kirkpatrick, Tom E. McCay and Paul Tay also filed for mayor. A primary vote is set for June 28 in the “nonpartisan” election and the two top candidates will likely advance to the November ballot.
Bartlett and Bynum are very similar.
Both are registered Republicans but neither one is tuned into the conservative base of the local party. Both have supported huge increases in fines and tax increases, including the $884,100,000.00 sales tax increase that was passed April 5.
Bartlett and Bynum are both from “prominent” Tulsa families. Bartlett’s father was a former governor and U.S. senator while Bynum is related to former Tulsa Mayors Bill LaFortune and Bob LaFortune.
Both are Catholic. Bynum is a member of Christ the King Parish. He went to high school at Cascia Hall Preparatory School and got a degree from Villanova University. Bartlett graduated from Bishop Kelley High School and got a degree from Regis University.
Both are political moderates in a city with mostly conservative Republicans. Bynum and Bartlett both voted for a city ordinance that gives special protection to homosexuals in terms of hiring. Both are avid supporters of the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce, even when that private group uses city funding to promote development outside the Tulsa city limits. Both support casino gambling as “economic development.”
Even though they have followed the same path and same strikingly similar backgrounds, there is a rising level of contention in this race between Bartlett and Bynum.
On his Facebook account, Bartlett wrote, ”The negative campaign by Councilor G.T. Bynum has already started, and I’m really disappointed. I shouldn’t be surprised.
“I had hoped we had moved past the negative campaign from three years ago, but Councilor Bynum stooped to mudslinging on Day One of the mayoral campaign.”
Bynum has questioned Bartlett’s leadership in the crafting and passage of the $884,100,000.00 million dollar sales tax increase. Bynum said Bartlett had a “passive role” in the tax hike plan.
“Let’s be clear,” Bartlett wrote. “Not only was I involved in the negotiations of Vision from the very first day, but my administration established the framework. I had to draw a line in the sand, and refuse to budge, because Councilor Bynum and his backers fought for months and months against my plan.”
Bartlett claims that the sales tax was not a “tax increase” because the Vision 2025 Tulsa County sales tax is expiring at the end of this year. When Bartlett first ran for mayor, he promised he “would not raise taxes.”
“Councilor Bynum got on board with the Vision plan that incorporated my demands only in the very final weeks, after he had announced for mayor, and saw firsthand the support that I built behind the ‘public safety first, no tax increase plan,” Bartlett wrote. “I will not sit idly by and let Councilor Bynum attack our administration.”
While Bynum didn’t respond immediately to Bartlett’s criticism, Councilor Blake Ewing, also a registered Republican, blasted Bartlett on Facebook.
“I just watched my friend and colleague, G.T. Bynum, articulate his vision for our city’s future at a debate with other mayoral candidates,” Ewing wrote. “Not only does he do a remarkable job of articulating his vision for our city’s future without making up any new words, he also expresses an expectation of the highest standards for our city and a determination to achieve them. We’ve settled for too long. Start demanding excellence from your executive, Tulsa. Start requiring that he have the highest standards and that he be a leader who shows up to work. Expect him to refuse to take credit for the work of others. Require him to lead. Look to him to inspire us all to do our best to improve our community. GT is the guy. Not even a question.”
Ewing accused Bartlett of taking credit for the work of others.