Oklahoma GOP Governor Kevin Stitt is fighting for a second term | app

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — In dark red Oklahoma, the first term of Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, a wealthy businessman whose first term was rocked by feuds with tribal nations and members of his own party, finds himself in a surprisingly tough re-election campaign against Democrat Joy Hofmeister.

Hofmeister, 58, the two-term state superintendent of public schools who switched sides to run against Stitt, lambasted Stitt for his good-guy plan to divert public education money to schools private.

She launched a 50-stop bus tour across 27 counties in the final week of the campaign to hammer home the message, stepping off the coach for the 1970 Three Dog Night hit “Joy to the World.”

“He’s a rural school killer,” she said in her stump speech. “And if you kill the school, you kill the community.”

Jack Zedlitz, 48, a lifelong Republican who recently sided with Independence, voted for Hofmeister at the Crown Heights Church of the Nazarene in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, saying Stitt’s support for school vouchers was too much. harmful to public schools.

“One of the unintended consequences is that it will hurt some of the most vulnerable school districts that typically educate the poorest and most marginalized communities,” Zedlitz said.

The issue is also one that resonates in rural Oklahoma, which in 2018 helped provide Stitt, 49, a wealthy mortgage company owner and political outsider, the state governorship. He won 73 of the state’s 77 counties, many by huge margins, after campaigning to bring a businessman’s “fresh look” to state government.

“The turnaround you elected me for is working,” Stitt told a crowd of more than 300 gathered at the Crossroads megachurch on the south side of Oklahoma City for a rally last week with the U.S. senator. Ted Cruz from Texas. took place with Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin in Tulsa.

Stitt brags about the state’s record savings and funding for public schools under his watch, and the state’s rapid emergence from pandemic-related shutdowns that have helped the economy rebound quickly and sustain the state unemployment rate at a low level.

Jessica Perez, 46, voted for Stitt at Oklahoma Christian University on Tuesday and said her state oversight during the pandemic appealed to her.

“It didn’t make sense to me that you could go to Home Depot but not go to church,” Perez said. “I believe he’s an effective leader. What he says he’s going to do, he does.”

Although Democrats haven’t won a statewide election in Oklahoma since 2006, Stitt has faced a barrage of blistering attack ads from black money groups. . The groups don’t have to report their donors and have spent millions since the June primary hammering out its school voucher plan. Other ads highlighted his mass release of prisoners and a series of scandals in his administration, including a lucrative no-tender contract with a barbecue restaurant, mis-spent pandemic relief funds for the education and his plans to build a new state mansion.

The black money attacks on Stitt and other media boosting Hofmeister follow ongoing feuds Stitt has engaged in with many of the 39 federally recognized Native American tribes, another issue that Hofmeister has come down hard on. affected during the election campaign.

In a sign Hofmeister posed a tall order, the Republican Governor’s Association super PAC launched a late ad buy tying Hofmeister to high gas prices and President Joe Biden, who lost Oklahoma to the profit from Donald Trump by more than 33 percentage points and remains highly unpopular in the state. Stitt also loaned his campaign $2 million, bringing his total fundraising to more than $10 million, more than triple the $3.1 million raised by Hofmeister.

Independent Ervin Yen, an Oklahoma City anesthetist and former Republican state senator, and libertarian Natalie Bruno d’Edmond are also running for governor.

Follow AP’s election coverage at: https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections

Visit https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the 2022 midterm elections.

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