Patrick B. McGuigan
From an editor’s notebook, a rural senator backs Cathy Costello, the congressman for eastern Oklahoma backs Cindy Byrd, and locally-owned television stations will host and broadcast a debate in the contentious race for the GOP nomination as Oklahoma attorney general.
State Sen. Larry Boggs, R-Wilburton, has endorsed Cathy Costello in the Republican runoff race for Commissioner of Labor. A former director of the state Farm Bureau, Boggs explicitly encouraged – in a press release sent to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations – “all rural Oklahomans” to vote for Costello.
“Cathy Costello best represents the conservative values of rural Oklahoma and she knows what it takes to create good jobs,” Boggs said. “She wants to get rid of unnecessary occupational licensing that puts a disproportionate burden on people who work in rural areas. She wants to address mental health issues in the workplace, including substance abuse and addiction, that hold back rural Oklahomans from getting and keeping quality jobs.
“Cathy is the only candidate talking about Oklahoma’s high workplace fatality rates — especially in agriculture,” Boggs said. “Southeast Oklahoma has all the potential for an economic boom and the right Labor Commissioner can make the difference. She wants to build our workers to be ready for jobs in agriculture, energy and the emerging markets of tomorrow. Cathy Costello will help us develop the workforce we need.”
Costello owns several businesses, and is seeking the statewide elected position her late husband, Mark, held for five years. She has emerged as a national and state leader in pressing for policy reforms impacting mental health issues, including in the workplace.
The runoff for the GOP nomination is set for August 28. Costello faces state Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang.
Costello led the June 26 primary with 181,657 votes (43.26 percent of the total cast). Osborn had 137,484 supporters (35.92 percent). The third-place finisher was Keith Swinton, who gathered 87,446 backers (20.82 percent). Swinton has not endorsed, but issued statement with positive sentiments about each of his opponents.
Although the Republican nominee will have the edge in November, Democrats nominated Fred Dorrell, who gained just over 73 percent voter backing in the primary. Turnout for the primary was unusually high.
Although some drop-off is almost certain in the runoff, voter registrations are up, most notably among independents. No Libertarian filed in this race, but independent candidate Brandt Dismukes will be on the general election ballot.
U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville, has endorsed Cindy Byrd in the Republican race for Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector.
“Cindy Byrd is exactly the right person in Oklahoma to look out for how officials and agencies are spending federal funds,” Mullins said in a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK. “In my part of the state, we tend to look to FEMA for help following natural disasters. Cindy has been there making sure every dollar is accounted for. She even caught the attention of the Inspector General’s Office because of her audits.”
Mullin was elected in 2012 to replace U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, shifting the seat from Democrats to the GOP.
Mullin said Byrd is “the only candidate in this race with years of experience conducting government audits of federal funds. That’s important because with Cindy Byrd holding officials accountable, it increases the opportunity that FEMA funds will be able to fund recovery from the next natural disaster whether it’s in Oklahoma or another state.”
Byrd expressed gratitude for the endorsement, saying it was gratifying the member of Congress “is aware of the work we’ve done to safeguard public funds and provide accountability and transparency for taxpayers in the Second Congressional District. Being a government auditor is an awesome job.”
Byrd, who has worked as deputy auditor throughout the tenure of Gary Jones, nearly won the nomination outright on June 26, garnering 49.45 percent backing (204,249 votes).
Running second was Charlie Prater, who managed 42.08 percent, or 173,897 votes. A third candidate gained the remaining 8.47 percent, necessitating a runoff election for the nomination.
Although no independent candidates filed in the auditor’s face, Libertarian John Yeutter will carry the third-party banner in November.
Griffin Communications announced this week that the company’s television properties, News 9 and News On 6 will host a live attorney general runoff debate between Gentner Drummond and Mike Hunter.
A press release sent to CapitolBeatOK said the debate “will be carried live on News 9 in Oklahoma City and News On 6 in Tulsa at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 31. Additionally, the debate will be streamed live on News9.com, NewsOn6.com and the station Facebook pages.” The release also noted, “Griffin Communications, L.L.C. solely focuses its resources in the state of Oklahoma.”
Rob Krier, Griffin Communications vice president and COO, commented, “As Oklahoma’s only locally-owned television stations, we feel that it was our responsibility to help Oklahomans know where the candidates stand on the issues that are going to impact our state for years to come.”
Winner of the August 28 primary between the two lawyers will face the Democratic nominee, Mark Myles, in the November general election.