Incumbent Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt and challenger Democrat State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister sparred during a debate in Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
Voters will decide the state’s next governor on Nov. 8. Here are takeaways from Wednesday night’s event:
Stitt modified his position on abortion after signing some of the most restrictive legislation in the country that practically outlawed abortion in Oklahoma. He has said he will sign any pro-life bill that came to his desk.
Some believe that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion, will draw more people to the polls who disagree with that ruling.
Under questioning, Stitt said Wednesday he would sign legislation that made exceptions in the cases of rape and incest and for women who are going into rehabilitation for chemical dependency.
People are also reading…
But there was a caveat. He said he would do so if lawmakers sent him such a bill — something that is highly unlikely.
For years, lawmakers have passed numerous bills putting more and more restrictions on abortion, and they have been signed into law. Before the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, many of those laws had been tossed out as unconstitutional by state courts.
Hofmeister, who said she personally is pro-life, said she believes the decision about abortion should be left to a woman and her doctor. She called for repealing some of the state’s extreme measures but is likely to have little luck with the Republican supermajorities in the Legislature.
During his first campaign, Stitt said he wanted to make Oklahoma a “Top Ten” state, a slogan he often repeated after his election. He changed his tune a little bit during the debate.
“Being Top 10 is an aspirational goal; it’s something we’re never going to hit,” he said.
Stitt tried to tie Hofmeister, who switched to Democrat from Republican, to the policies of President Joe Biden, a Democrat, on tax hikes and energy. Oklahoma is one of the most conservative states in the nation.
Hofmeister has pushed back, saying Stitt is reading from a “national script” and that she is an “independent thinker” and a “moderate.” She said she also disagrees with Biden on some issues.
Four years ago, Stitt was running, in part, against the policies of Mary Fallin, an easy target. Fallin, a two-term Republican governor, was serving her final year in office and had seen her popularity drop significantly.
Stitt has campaigned on leading the state to have the largest savings account in history at $3 billion. He said that when he took office, the state had seen a budget nightmare with deficits.
Hofmeister questioned why he was taking credit for the savings when it was the actions of lawmakers that led to it. She said Stitt had been left out of the budget process.
Stitt has lobbied legislative leaders to increase the state’s savings.
Stitt said people want to know about the $20 million in dark money spent to attack him, saying he would provide 20 million reasons why Hofmeister would be beholden to special interests.
“If there is a way to get money out of politics, sign me up,” Hofmeister said.
Hofmeister said that with Stitt as governor, Oklahoma has more violent crime than New York or California, a statement Stitt said was not true.
“So let’s talk about the facts. The fact is, the rates of violent crime are higher in Oklahoma under your watch than in New York and California. That’s a fact,” Hofmeister said without citing a source and with Stitt interjecting, “That’s not true.”
After moderator Tres Savage said her statement would be fact checked, Stitt cut off Hofmeister’s next statement, saying, “Hang on, Oklahomans, do you believe we have higher crime than New York or California? That’s what she just said.”