Patrick B. McGuigan
From an editor’s notebook: State Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, is dominating the race for mayor of Oklahoma City.
If endorsements matter, across the broad and diverse community in this capital city, Holt is demonstrating impressive strength, gaining an early edge over every known opponent. His support from across the political spectrum seems astonishing, perhaps without precedent, in a municipal race which, on paper, could normally be categorized as competitive.
If money is still the mother’s milk of politics, Holt has the advantage.
If momentum created from the campaign’s inception is a sound indicator of the future, Holt is the front-runner.
State Rep. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, announced last week he will run for the state Senate in 2018, passing up the mayor’s race where he could have built on the Democratic base. Young followed up announcement of his senate intentions with an explicit endorsement of Holt’s candidacy on Monday (June 12).
“After considering a run myself for Oklahoma City Mayor and receiving great encouragement to do that, I have decided to pursue a different path and run for the Oklahoma Senate,” said Young in a statement send to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations.
“But I am still passionate about the future of Oklahoma City, and that is why I am endorsing David Holt to be the next Mayor. He is the best candidate. I have worked alongside David in the Legislature, and I know him to be someone who cares about many of the things I care about. I also know from his record of service that he will work hard to include all parts of our city in major decisions, and that’s important to me. David and I both envision a strong working relationship in our future roles, and we will collaborate to move all of Oklahoma City forward.”
Holt responded enthusiastically, saying in a press release, “George Young is someone I greatly respect and admire. There is probably no one more universally loved by his fellow legislators, and that affection comes from both sides of the aisle. I am deeply grateful that George believes in my campaign and is willing to give it his public support.
“George will be someone I turn to in the years ahead for advice and counsel. I am also very excited he is seeking election to the Senate, where we always need strong voices fighting for Oklahoma City.”
Just two weeks ago, Barry Switzer gave Holt a ringing endorsement.
In a statement circulated to journalists on May 30, Switzer said he had decided to “strongly endorse” Holt for the city’s top job. Switzer said, “He is by far the most qualified candidate.
To keep the Oklahoma City renaissance going, let’s elect David Holt.”
A release from Holt’s mayoral campaign emphasized Switzer’s long-standing involvement in local issues, including passage of the original MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects) referendum. The popular former football coach of the Dallas Cowboys (with whom he won a Super Bowl) and the University of Oklahoma Sooners has been a popular “go-to guy” for politicians wanting sure boost in positive perception.
While Switzer’s preferred candidates do not always win, they usually do, and Holt clearly hopes to be the next in the latter category.
In a statement concerning Switzer’s backing, Holt reflected, “There’s a short list of people who have been as committed to Oklahoma City for as long as Coach Switzer. I am humbled that Coach Switzer believes in our campaign.”
On May 10, Holt circulated news of an early endorsement from the Oklahoma City Firefighters Association, arguably the most influential union of public employees (to be clear, some will argue the Fraternal Order of Police deserves that designation) in these parts.
“Over the course of many months and many conversations, we have built a relationship with David, and we believe in his candidacy to be Oklahoma City’s next Mayor,” said Scott VanHorn, President of the Oklahoma City Firefighters Association, IAFF Local 157. “David and our members stand united on the need for a more diverse revenue stream to fund public safety. David has repeatedly shown attentiveness to the issues that matter to us. Most of all, we feel that as Mayor, David will have an open door and an open line of communication with us. The vote of our members to endorse him was unanimous, and we stand ready to help him become Oklahoma City’s next Mayor.”
Holt was enthusiastic in his response, sent to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations:
“I am honored to receive the support of Oklahoma City’s firefighters. I am grateful for their service to our community, and I am grateful for their belief in my candidacy. Public safety will always be one of my top priorities as Mayor, and success requires working together with our firefighters to ensure the City’s needs are met. This endorsement reflects our mutual desire to have a strong collaborative relationship.”
Another mayoral hopeful, County Commissioner Brian Maughan, expressed disappointment with the union’s choice. In a letter to VanHorn which he widely distributed, including to reporters, Maughan said he was assured he would have an opportunity to meet with firefighters before any endorsement action. Maughan asserted the endorsement vote took palce at a meeting with “minimal turnout.”
Maughan wrote in his letter, “One can hardly be blamed for coming to the conclusion that, as they say, the fix was in.”
Holt’s early fundraising dwarfs the results for all candidates and potential candidates. As of May 31, he had $142,841 in contributions, with donors spread across 36 zip codes in the Oklahoma City metro area.
Holt celebrated the story of dollars and cents – combined with other expressions of support – with these comments: “The volunteer sign-ups, the endorsements, and the donations have overwhelmed us. Specifically in regards to donations, we know that it will take major financial resources to get our optimistic message out to the people of Oklahoma City, and though we recognize we have a long way to go, we feel blessed by the support we have already received. The donations have come from people from all walks of life and from all across Oklahoma City. They all have in common that they want to see Oklahoma City’s Renaissance continue.”
Holt launched his campaign on February 27 — and within two days released a list of 450 endorsements at the grass roots level.
Holt’s catalog of local leaders included former Governors Brad Henry and Frank Ketaing. City Council members Meg Salyer, John Pettis, and Mark Stonecipher, County Commissioner Willa Johnson, former Council members Pat Ryan, Gary Marrs, Guy Liebmann and Walt Morris, state Treasurer Ken Miller and Commissioner of Labor Melissa Houston – and a bipartisan list of state legislators, including Republican Senators Stephanie Bice, Greg Treat, Ervin Yen, Adam Pugh, Rob Standridge, AJ Griffin, Anthony Sykes and Anastasia Pittman, as well as state Representatives Tammy West, Tess Teague, Mike Osburn, Cyndi Munson, Elise Hall, and Chris Kannady.
Business leaders in Holt’s corner include Larry Nichols, Harold Hamm, Gene Rainbolt, David Rainbolt, Greg Love, George Records, and Brad Naifeh, while his broad range of civic leader backing features Rhonda Hooper, Percy Kirk, Steve Hahn, Dave Lopez, Carl Edwards, Bob Ross, Brad Krieger, Lou Kerr, Dick Tanenbaum, Judy Hatfield, David Jackson, Bob Funk, Jr., Tim McLaughlin, Bob Spinks, John Kennedy, Rick Moore and Patrick Rooney.
Two newspaper publishers have already signed up for Holt: Russell Perry of The Black Chronicle, and Vicki Clark Gourley of The Friday paper. Also reflecting the diversity of Holt’s backing are educators Robert Henry, Tracy McDaniel, Fred Rhodes, Renee Porter, Valerie Couch, Becky Haliburton, Carrie Coppernoll Jacobs and Dr. Reggies Wenyika; along with former U.S. Rep. Dan Boren and former state Corporation Commissioner Jim Roth.
Arts advocates backing Sen. Holt in his bid for the top elective post in city government include Jim Tolbert, Dick Sias, James Pickel, Scott Booker, Deborah Senner, Peter Dolese, Terri Cooper, John Seward, Jim Loftis, Stephen Kovash, Renzi Stone, Julia Kirt, Susan McCalmont, and Eddie Walker.
Acting in concert with the late February wave of support were community volunteers and activists – each a leader in her or his own right – including Mary Pointer, Tricia Everest, Polly Nichols, Sally Starling, Michael Laird, Steve Mason, Harry Wilson, Vinh Nguyen, John Yoeckel, Nathaniel Harding, Leslie Batchelor, Jeff Bezdek, Pam Henry, Kris Steele, Jan Peery, Andy Moore, Brenda & Jorge Hernandez, Laura Massenat, Edie Roodman, Xavier Neira, Kadir Akkus, Cher Golding, Kim Funk, Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, and Mary Melon.
Several small business leaders are on the Holt bandwagon, including Kevin Perry, Bruce Rinehart, Tracey Zeeck, Teresa Moisant, Brett Brewer, Brent Brewer, Beverly Morgan and Ba Luong.
It’s a long time until election day – February 13, 2018. For now, Holt has overwhelming advantages as he seeks to take the spot held by his mentor, incumbent Mayor Mick Cornett.