November 28, 2022

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt held a tougher-than-expected challenge for his re-election on Tuesday, defeating Democrat Joy Hofmeister despite multimillion-dollar assault charges against him.

Stitt, 49, was helped in part by a late infusion of Republican Association of Governors ads linking Hofmeister to President Joe Biden, who lost each of the state’s 77 counties in the 2020 presidential election and remains unpopular in the state. The ads also criticized Hofmeister, the state’s superintendent for public schools, who switched parties to run against Stitt for backing a series of tax hikes in 2018 that helped fund teacher pay rises.

Hofmeister, 58, had blown up Stitt over his coupon-style plan to divert public education funds to private schools, an issue worrying voters in deep-red rural areas of the state with few private school opportunities for students.

But Stitt, a wealthy mortgage company owner who has poured nearly $2 million of his own money into his campaign in recent weeks, told voters he’s making progress on his promise made four years ago that the state’s low rankings in many qualitative improve quality areas. life indicators. The credits for his campaign took his total fundraising to more than $10 million, more than triple the $3.1 million raised by Hofmeister.

He boasted record federal savings and funding for public schools under his oversight and the state’s rapid recovery from pandemic-related closures, which helped the economy recover quickly and the state’s unemployment rate remained low.

“The about-face you singled me out for is working,” Stitt told more than 300 people who gathered at the Crossroads megachurch on Oklahoma City’s south side last week for a rally with US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. A separate rally was held with Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin in Tulsa.

Jessica Perez, 46, cast her ballot for Stitt at Oklahoma Christian University Tuesday and said his oversight of the state during the pandemic appealed to her.

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

Stitt also survived a spate of attack ads from dark money groups that don’t have to report their donors and have spent millions hammering his school voucher scheme since elementary school in June. Other ads highlighted his mass release of prisoners and a series of scandals in his administration, including a lucrative no-bid contract with a grill restaurant, misappropriated pandemic aid to education, and his plans to build a new mansion.

The dark-money attacks on Stitt and other media outlets that fueled Hofmeister followed ongoing feuds Stitt has engaged in with many of the 39 federally recognized Native American tribes, another issue that has hit Hofmeister hard during the campaign.

Independent Ervin Yen, an Oklahoma City anesthetist and former Republican state senator, and Edmond Libertarian Natalie Bruno also ran for gubernatorial election on Tuesday.

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