In The Know: Crowded Oklahoma legislative races produce few upsets

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Crowded Oklahoma legislative races produce few upsets: Despite a grueling legislative session and a record number of primary challengers, the majority of Oklahoma House and Senate members seeking re-election were largely successful in Tuesday’s primary elections. Three incumbents fell — Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan, Rep. Ken Walker, R-Tulsa, and Sen. Corey Brooks, R-Washington. Twenty-five other incumbents won their primary races. But considering 29 of the last 30 challenged incumbents during the last two elections cycles won their primary elections, Tuesday’s results represented a bit of a turning tide, even if a small one [NewsOK]. The potential size of a so-called “teacher caucus” in the Legislature was significantly whittled down Tuesday after 20 current or former educators lost their primary battles [Oklahoma Watch]. Here’s a list of how candidates backed by Oklahomans for Public Education fared [NewsOK].

DC PAC spends thousands against public ed candidates: A Washington D.C.-based political action committee has pumped nearly $90,000 into legislative races over the last month in direct opposition to a slate of candidates running on a public education platform. Running under the unofficial title of the “teacher caucus,” nearly 30 candidates with ties to public schools are running for Oklahoma House and Senate seats. At least 18 of these candidates are current or former public education teachers campaigning on higher teacher salaries and increased funding for public schools [NewsOK].

Bynum tops Bartlett to become Tulsa’s mayor: G.T. Bynum has defeated two-term incumbent Dewey Bartlett to become the new mayor of Tulsa. Bynum had 56 percent of the vote. Bartlett had 38 percent, and three other candidates in the nonpartisan race had combined for 6 percent. “… When we unite as a city, we can achieve great things, and there are great things to be done in the next four years,” Bynum told a raucous watch-party crowd during a victory speech at Stokely Event Center [Tulsa World].

Some voters turned away by precinct volunteers due to confusion on nonpartisan mayor’s race: At least two precincts Tuesday morning turned some voters away from voting in the city of Tulsa’s nonpartisan mayor’s race, Tulsa County Election Board officials said. Patty Bryant, election board secretary, said at least two precincts turned away some number of voters due to confusion about different-colored, nonpartisan ballots. “Part of it is because we have a nonpartisan election going on at the same time as a partisan election,” Bryant said. “They were confused.” [Tulsa World]

Time to move forward on the Boren sales tax vote: More than 301,000 Oklahoma voters want a chance to consider a proposed 1 percent sales tax increase to support education, but an advocacy group wants to deny them that opportunity. OCPA Impact, the lobbying arm of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, filed a legal challenge to State Question 779 on Thursday, arguing that the proposal’s ballot title and the initiative petition were either inaccurate, misleading or confusing to voters. It’s OCPA Impact’s second bite at the apple [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. Our statement on the proposal is here.

Study Finds Racial Disparity In Oklahoma School Discipline: In a scathing report, the Oklahoma Advisory Commission for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) said Oklahoma schools are in desperate need of reform when it comes to discipline. …According to the report, Oklahoma students face a stark racial disparity when it comes to discipline. Black and Latino students are five times more likely to be given out of school suspension than white students [News9].

ETE cancels merger with Williams Cos.: allas-based Energy Transfer Equity announced in a filing just after midnight Wednesday that the company is calling off its merger with Williams Cos. ETE said that it is basing the breakup in part on the inability of the company’s tax attorneys to provide the proposed merger with a needed tax opinion. A Delaware judge ruled Friday that ETE, one of the master limited partnerships in the group of energy companies helmed by Texas billionaire Kelcy Warren, could legally use the tax opinion as a basis for canceling its merger with Williams [Tulsa World].

Adopting the National Popular Vote would make Oklahomans’ votes matter: The weeks before the Presidential primaries on Super Tuesday back in March were heady times in Oklahoma. The leading candidates for the Republican and Democratic nominations held large, enthusiastic rallies in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Voter registrations surged by nearly 30,000 in the weeks before the primary registration deadline. Small armies of volunteers knocked doors, organized meetings, and got out the vote [OK Policy].

Gov. Mary Fallin says she’s had no ‘direct conversations’ with Trump about vice presidency: Gov. Mary Fallin has had no “direct conversations” with apparent Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump about joining him on the GOP ticket, she said Tuesday, the same day an NBC News story touted her as a potential running mate. “It’s an honor to be mentioned for such a high office, but we have not had any direct conversations about that,” Fallin said after a noon speech to the Tulsa Regional Chamber [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma leaders pull funding from organization that services fire departments: Oklahoma leaders have pulled funding from an organization set to service volunteer departments across the state. The Council on Firefighters Training was established in 2004. Its main functions included identifying firefighter training needed and setting the firefighter training goals for the state. It was also responsible for administering and maintaining the incentive and recognition programs established for firefighters as well as the tax incentives for the volunteer departments [KOCO].

Oklahoma City School Board does not vote to change district’s leadership: The Oklahoma City School Board did not vote Monday night to change the status of acting Superintendent Aurora Lora. Board members met privately to consider the evaluation and employment of Lora, but did not reach a decision about her future. Lora, the district’s associate superintendent of student achievement and accountability, has run the district since school board members stripped Superintendent Rob Neu of his duties April 14 [NewsOK].

Walton foundation initiative includes OKC, Tulsa: A foundation run by the heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton has announced a $250 million initiative to support charter schools in 17 cities across the U.S., including Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The Walton Family Foundation on Tuesday announced its Building Equity Initiative aimed at helping charter schools establish and expand facilities. The foundation said it will initially focus on urban areas but will expand to help public charter schools serve at least 250,000 more students by 2027 [Journal Record].

Oklahomans Face Medicaid Fraud Charges: The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office announced they made several arrests for Medicaid fraud. Charges were filed against four Oklahomans as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, according to a news release from AG Scott Pruitt’s office. Tulsan Steve Austin, 54, is accused of submitting claims for counseling services that never took place. He’s charged with two felony and two misdemeanor counts of Medicaid fraud [NewsOn6].

Bigger than Uzbekistan: Growth slows in Oklahoma’s largest metro areas: Oklahoma’s metro areas recovered more quickly from the recession than most of the country. But employment growth and gross metro product in those cities are now slowing, a recent study reveals. The Metro Economies report released this week at the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Indianapolis shows Oklahoma City had already attained peak, pre-recession job numbers by the first quarter of 2012, followed by Tulsa in 2014 and Lawton at the beginning of this year [Journal Record]. The full report is available here.

Waterline break forces Oklahoma prison to truck in bottled water: Inmates at the Dick Conner Correctional Center are drinking bottled water and using buckets of water to fill their toilets after a Saturday waterline break. “We had a waterline break, and then they got the water back on, and then there was a leak at the city level. And now we’re trying to pressurize the water,” said Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terri Watkins [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“I think maybe the public is waking up to some of the important issues. But I think we all struggle with cynicism thinking it’s too big to fix, and it can be hard to get out (the vote) in a primary race.”

– Andy Moore, organizer of the grassroots group Let’s Fix This, which has been advocating for state funding reform (Source)

Number of the Day


Deaths due to firearms per 100,000 Oklahomans in 2014, the 9th highest rate in the US.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

House GOP’s Attention to Poverty Is Welcome, But Plan Is Seriously Flawed: Poverty in America doesn’t get enough attention. That House Speaker Paul Ryan and his colleagues seek to foster debate on it is welcome. And in several areas, the poverty document that they issued today proposes positive steps to address poverty. These are largely in areas of growing bipartisan support, such as reforming juvenile justice policies to reduce incarceration, making it easier for low-income families to use rental vouchers to move to low-poverty areas with better schools and job opportunities, and restoring low-income students’ ability to use Pell Grants in the summer so they can complete their education more quickly. Nevertheless, the new poverty plan is disappointing [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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