Incumbent O’Connor faces challenger Drummond in Republican primary for Oklahoma attorney general

Incumbent John O’Connor and Gentner Drummond are running in the Republican primary for attorney general of Oklahoma on June 28. Libertarian candidate Lynda Steele is running in the general election, but no Democratic candidate filed to run, meaning that the winner of the Republican primary will be heavily favored in November. Republicans have held the office of Oklahoma attorney general continuously since voters elected Scott Pruitt (R) to the position in 2010.

Ben Felder wrote in The Oklahoman that “One attorney general candidate is running on his close working relationship with the governor and his fidelity to the former president, while his challenger has presented himself as an independent who would serve as a check on state government power.”

Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) appointed O’Connor to the office on July 23, 2021, to succeed Mike Hunter (R). Hunter—who was elected in 2018—resigned on June 1, 2021, after The Oklahoman inquired about whether he was having an extramarital affair.

O’Connor’s professional experience includes being a founding shareholder in the law firm of Newton, O’Connor, Turner & Ketchum, P.C. and working as an attorney at Hall, Estill, Hardwick, Gable, Golden & Nelson, P.C. President Donald Trump (R) nominated O’Connor for a federal judgeship in 2018 but his nomination was returned by the U.S. Senate before the conclusion of the 115th United States Congress, and he withdrew from consideration for re-nomination in 2019. During the campaign, O’Connor highlighted his efforts as state attorney general against some Biden administration policies, including joining lawsuits against vaccine and mask mandates.

Drummond ran for attorney general in 2018 and advanced from that year’s Republican primary with 38.5% of the vote to Hunter’s 44.5%. In the primary runoff, Hunter defeated Drummond by 273 votes, 50.05% to 49.95%. Drummond served as a pilot and instructor in the U.S. Air Force during the Gulf War. His professional experience includes owning The Drummond Law Firm and serving as a principal shareholder and director of Blue Sky Bank. Drummond said on his campaign website that “As attorney general, he will defend our rights, uphold the rule of law, and serve the people of Oklahoma, not the political elite.”

Both candidates criticized the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma but differed on how the state should proceed. In July 2020, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to reverse a decision by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals and ruled that under the Indian Major Crimes Act, lands reserved for the Creek Nation in eastern Oklahoma constituted Indian Country and that the state of Oklahoma could not legally try a Creek citizen for criminal conduct in state court. It confirmed that a large portion of eastern Oklahoma are Indian reservations and not under the state’s law enforcement jurisdiction.

Drummond said he would work with the tribes in that area to develop a solution to jurisdictional issues. At a campaign forum, Drummond said, “The Supreme Court has ruled. That was two years ago. For two years we have not had a solution in the state of Oklahoma. … What must be resolved right now is a collaboration with the Native American tribes. O’Connor said that he has met with leaders from four of the six main tribes in the area and would still continue to pursue legal action on cases related to tribal jurisdictional matters. He also said, “Job number one is to protect the sovereignty of the state of Oklahoma.”

A June 2022 poll of 400 likely Republican primary voters by Amber Integrated found Drummond leading O’Connor, 41% to 28%, with 30% undecided. The margin of error was +/- 4.9 percentage points. A poll of 455 likely Republican primary voters also conducted by Amber Integrated in March showed Drummond with 37% support, O’Connor with 16%, and 47% undecided. The margin of error of that poll was +/- 4.6 percentage points.

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