OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday tried to tie President Joe Biden’s policies around Joy Hofmeister’s neck.
Hofmeister, meanwhile, accused Stitt of sowing chaos and division and called his administration corrupt.
The pair met during an hour-long forum sponsored by the Petroleum Alliance at its headquarters in Oklahoma City.
About a year ago, Hofmeister, the state superintendent, said she was switching parties from Republican to Democrat to run against Stitt, a Republican, in the race for governor.
With a large majority of the state’s voters registered Republicans, Stitt was the early favorite to win the general election. Some polls, however, show the race narrowing as the Nov. 8 election draws closer, while at least one poll shows Hofmeister in the lead a month out from the election.
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Stitt painted a rosy picture of his administration’s successes, citing the state’s large savings account and an increased number of people moving to Oklahoma.
“The turnaround is working,” he said. “What you elected me to do is working. We don’t want to go backwards to a Biden-controlled party of higher taxes, spend everything you have, no money in savings, more regulation.”
Biden’s Democratic Party, facing record inflation, is seeking tax hikes, while Oklahoma has cut taxes, Stitt said, adding that he wants to phase out the state’s income tax over the next decade.
Hofmeister said she is concerned about some of the Biden administration’s positions on energy, and she told the Petroleum Alliance that the energy sector has been under attack.
She said neither Biden nor Stitt has done enough to help the energy industry, adding that hundreds of wells in the state are not online and that Oklahoma does not have a comprehensive energy plan to provide heat for residents when the next polar vortex hits the state.
Hofmeister described herself as a moderate and an independent thinker.
“Oklahomans are tired of the extremism,” she said. “They are tired of the fighting.”
She said a school voucher bill supported by Stitt will kill rural Oklahoma schools.
“You kill the school; you kill the community,” she said. “This is a serious threat.”
Stitt countered that the state needs more competition in education.
While he took credit for helping farmers during the current drought by supporting $20 million for relief and lifting restrictions for hay hauling, Hofmeister said that was “too little too late.”
“We are all going to have to pay that cost when cattle have to be sold,” she said.
Farmers and ranchers sought relief from restrictions early on in the drought — well before 27 days before the election, Hofmeister said. The Nov. 8 election is 27 days from Wednesday’s forum.
Stitt signed a bill making $20 million in emergency drought relief available for the state’s farmers and ranchers on Oct. 4, and he issued an executive order easing some trucking regulations to facilitate hay hauling.
Stitt said Hofmeister and her party have never seen a dollar they didn’t want to spend, and he said Hofmeister has criticized him for saving money.
Hofmeister said Stitt mishandled the repercussions of the 2020 Supreme Court case McGirt v. Oklahoma, saying the state could have created a compact with the tribes designating responsibilities for criminal prosecutions in Indian Country, the tribal reservations affected by the ruling.
“He didn’t because he had already burned bridges with the sovereign tribal nations in Oklahoma,” said Hofmeister, who on Tuesday was endorsed by the leaders of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee and Seminole nations. “It is critical we are working together.”
The affected reservations — those of the Five Tribes and the Quapaw Nation — make up most of the eastern half of Oklahoma, and Stitt said he wouldn’t be the governor who gave half of the state away. There should be one set of rules to follow regardless of where one lives in the state, Stitt said.
He accused Hofmeister of being naive on the issue, saying he has great relations with tribal members.
“The naivete of my opponent here on this issue — I still don’t know what she said. She is a politician, and she is just spinning us in a circle here,” Stitt said. “Basically, the question is: Would you have fought McGirt, or would you have just let it go? That is the big issue.”
2021 video: Joy Hofmeister to challenge Kevin Stitt for governor in 2022
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