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Stories about Oklahoma

Campaign for marijuana legalization initiative submits signatures in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, the campaign behind a marijuana legalization initiative reported submitting 164,000 signatures for the ballot measure on July 5, 2022. Michelle Tilley, the campaign director, said, “The overwhelming number of signatures we have received demonstrates that our campaign has the momentum.” Of the signatures submitted, 94,911 signatures must be valid for the initiative to appear on the ballot in November.

Titled State Question 820, the ballot initiative would legalize the possession, transportation, and distribution of up to one ounce (28.35 grams) of marijuana, eight grams of marijuana in a concentrated form, and/or eight grams or less of concentrated marijuana in marijuana-infused products. Sales would be taxed at 15%. Under State Question 820, individuals could possess up to six mature marijuana plants and up to six seedlings. The initiative would also provide a process for individuals to seek the expungement or modification of certain previous marijuana-related convictions or sentences.

Revenue generated from marijuana sales taxes would be appropriated as follows:

  • 30% to the state General Fund;
  • 30% to grants for public school programs to support student retention and performance, after-school and enrichment programs, and substance abuse prevention programs;
  • 20% to grants for government agencies and not-for-profit organizations to fund drug addiction treatment and overdose prevention programs;
  • 10% to the state judicial revolving fund; and
  • 10% to the municipalities or counties where the marijuana was sold.

In 2018, voters approved a ballot measure to establish a medical marijuana program. The vote was 56.86% – 43.14%.

As of June 2022, 19 states and Washington, D.C., had legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Of these 19, 11 states and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot initiative process.

From 1985 to 2020, a total of 17 citizen-initiated measures were on state ballots in Oklahoma. Voters approved 52.94% (9 of 17) of the measures and rejected 47.06% (8 of 17) were defeated.



Mullin and Shannon advance to Aug. 23 special runoff for U.S. Senate in Oklahoma

Markwayne Mullin and T.W. Shannon advanced to an August 23, 2022, Republican primary runoff in the special U.S. Senate election in Oklahoma. Neither received the majority of the primary vote needed to win outright on June 28.

Ten candidates ran in the primary. The special election will fill the rest of the six-year term left by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R), who was last elected in 2020. Inhofe announced he would resign January 3, 2023, to spend time with family.

Mullin, Shannon, Nathan Dahm, Scott Pruitt, and Luke Holland led in polling, noteworthy endorsements, and media attention.

Mullin has represented Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District since 2013. He campaigned on making the country energy independent, lowering inflation, and defending the Second Amendment. Mullin said, “I entered the race for Senate because the people of Oklahoma deserve a Senator who will fight for their conservative values. I am a Christian, a family man and a proud supporter of President Trump and I will always fight for the America First policies that Oklahomans have been desperately missing during Joe Biden’s failed time in office.”

Shannon is the CEO of Chickasaw Community Bank in Oklahoma City. He previously served as a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 2006 to 2014. Shannon campaigned on opposing taxpayer-funded abortion, protecting the U.S. Constitution, and lowering taxes to create jobs. Shannon said he was running to “push back against this woke agenda” because “what made this country great is our constitution, capitalism and Christianity, and all three of those are under attack.” Former Vice Presidential and current U.S. House candidate Sarah Palin (R) endorsed Shannon.

Dahm is a member of the Oklahoma State Senate, a position to which he was first elected in 2011. Dahm campaigned on election integrity, protecting the Second Amendment, and term limits for members of U.S. Congress. Dahm said, “I’m running for the United States Senate because, like you, I am tired of the spineless politicians who turned their backs on President Donald J. Trump. We need proven Republican fighters, and I’ve proven I’ll never back down.” U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R) endorsed Dahm.

Holland was Inhofe’s chief of staff until he resigned in February 2022 to run for U.S. Senate. He began working with Inhofe in 2009 as a staff assistant. Holland campaigned on standing up to China and stopping what he described as a rush to socialism. Holland said, “As your next senator, I will continue the Inhofe legacy of defending our Christian values, fighting socialism, rebuilding our military and standing up to China.” Inhofe endorsed Holland.

Pruitt served as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under former President Donald Trump (R) from 2017 to 2018. Prior to that, he served as the Oklahoma Attorney General from 2011 to 2017. He campaigned on energy independence, securing the border, fighting what he calls Big Tech, and stopping inflation. Pruitt said: “I think Oklahomans know that I’m going to fight for their values, I think they know that I exhibited courage in working with the president historically to get things done and I think they know that I’ve also engaged in leadership and civility. I believe very strongly that we’ll have the resources that we need.” Former Secretary of Energy and former Governor of Texas Rick Perry (R) endorsed Pruitt.

Alex Gray, Randy Grellner, Adam Holley, Laura Moreno, Paul Royse, and John Tompkins also ran in the election.

As of June 29, 2022, 16 special elections have been called during the 117th Congress. From the 113th Congress to the 116th Congress, 50 special elections were held.



Drummond defeats incumbent O’Connor in Republican primary for attorney general of Oklahoma

Gentner Drummond defeated incumbent John O’Connor in the Republican primary for attorney general of Oklahoma on June 28, 2022. Libertarian candidate Lynda Steele is running in the general election, but no Democratic candidates filed to run. According to Ben Felder in The Oklahoman, “Libertarians have never won a statewide race in Oklahoma, giving the Republican primary winner a sizable advantage in November.” Republicans have held the office of Oklahoma attorney general since voters elected Scott Pruitt (R) to the position in 2010.

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.

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 included 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.”

O’Connor’s professional experience included 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.

Before the primary, Felder described the race this way: “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.”

During the campaign, 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 holding 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.”

Before the primary, 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. An earlier 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, with a margin of error of 4.6 percentage points.

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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.

Additional reading:



Ten candidates running in Republican primary for the special U.S. Senate election in Oklahoma

Ten candidates are running in the Republican primary for the special U.S. Senate election in Oklahoma on June 28, 2022. The special election will fill the rest of the six-year term left by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R), who was last elected in 2020. Inhofe announced in February 2022 that he would resign on January 3, 2023, to spend time with family. 

If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, a runoff featuring the two top finishers will take place on August 23, 2022.

Markwayne Mullin, T.W. Shannon, Nathan Dahm, Scott Pruitt, and Luke Holland have led in polling, noteworthy endorsements, and media attention.

Dahm is a member of the Oklahoma State Senate, a position to which he was first elected in 2011. Dahm has campaigned on what he calls election integrity, protecting the Second Amendment, and term limits for members of U.S. Congress. Dahm said, “I’m running for the United States Senate because, like you, I am tired of the spineless politicians who turned their backs on President Donald J. Trump. We need proven Republican fighters, and I’ve proven I’ll never back down.” U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R) endorsed Dahm.

Holland was Inhofe’s chief of staff until resigning in February 2022 to run for U.S. Senate. He began working with Inhofe in 2009 as a staff assistant. Holland has campaigned on standing up to China and stopping what he describes as a rush to socialism. Holland said, “As your next senator, I will continue the Inhofe legacy of defending our Christian values, fighting socialism, rebuilding our military and standing up to China.” Inhofe endorsed Holland.

Mullin has represented Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District since 2013. He has campaigned on making the country energy independent, lowering inflation, and defending the Second Amendment. Mullin said, “I entered the race for Senate because the people of Oklahoma deserve a Senator who will fight for their conservative values. I am a Christian, a family man and a proud supporter of President Trump and I will always fight for the America First policies that Oklahomans have been desperately missing during Joe Biden’s failed time in office.”

Pruitt served as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President Donald Trump (R) from 2017 to 2018. Pruitt served as the Oklahoma attorney general from 2011 to 2017. He has campaigned on energy independence, securing the border, fighting what he calls Big Tech, and stopping inflation. Pruitt said: “I think Oklahomans know that I’m going to fight for their values, I think they know that I exhibited courage in working with the president historically to get things done and I think they know that I’ve also engaged in leadership and civility. I believe very strongly that we’ll have the resources that we need.” Former U.S. secretary of energy and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) endorsed Pruitt.

Shannon is the CEO of Chickasaw Community Bank in Oklahoma City. He served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 2006 to 2014. Shannon has campaigned on opposing taxpayer-funded abortion, protecting the U.S. Constitution, and lowering taxes to create jobs. Shannon said he was running to “push back against this woke agenda” because “what made this country great is our constitution, capitalism and Christianity, and all three of those are under attack.” Former U.S. vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) endorsed Shannon.

Alex Gray, Randy Grellner, Adam Holley, Laura Moreno, Paul Royse, and John Tompkins are also running in the election.

As of June 14, 2022, 16 special elections have been called during the 117th Congress. 



Seventy percent of state legislative districts will be without major party competition in Oklahoma this year

Eighty-eight of the 125 state legislative districts up for election in Oklahoma this year are uncontested, meaning voters in 70% of districts will see either only a Democrat or only a Republican on their general election ballots. This is both the largest number and highest rate of uncontested districts since 2014.

Uncontested districts lack major party competition, which effectively guarantees that candidates from one of the two major parties will win the general election. This year, there are 14 districts with only Democratic candidates on the ballot and 74 with only Republicans. The remaining 37 districts currently feature candidates from both major parties, though that may change if candidates withdraw from their races.

In 2016 and 2018, Oklahoma candidates from both major parties ran in a majority of races. That changed in 2020 and the number of uncontested districts continued to grow this year.

Uncontested Democratic districts are concentrated in the urban areas of Oklahoma City and Tulsa, while uncontested Republican districts occupy the state’s more rural areas. Districts contested by both major parties are primarily located outside of the urban areas and in the state’s southwestern corner.

Here’s a look at all 101 districts up for election in the House:

And a look at the 24 Senate districts holding elections this year:

Overall, 237 major party candidates—58 Democrats and 179 Republicans—filed to run this year, down from 247 in 2020 and 418 in 2018.

There are 50 contested primaries where candidates from the same party compete against one another for their respective party’s nomination.

This is the second-lowest number of primaries since 2014. The number of contested Democratic primaries decreased from eight in 2020 to six in 2022. For Republicans, the number remained the same at 44.

The filing deadline for candidates running for state legislative office in Oklahoma this year was April 15.

Oklahoma has had a Republican trifecta since Republicans won control of the governorship in 2010. Republicans currently hold 39-9 majority in the Senate and an 82-18 majority in the House, which currently has one vacancy.

Oklahoma’s state legislative primaries are scheduled for June 28, the eighth statewide primary date of the 2022 state legislative election cycle. General elections will be held on November 8.

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Oklahoma sees no contested Democratic U.S. House primaries for the first time since at least 2014

The filing deadline for candidates running for Congress in Oklahoma this year was April 14, 2022. Twenty-eight candidates are running for Oklahoma’s five U.S. House districts, including five Democrats and 23 Republicans. That’s 5.6 candidates per district, more than the 5.4 candidates per district in 2020 and less than the 7.2 in 2018.

Here are some other highlights from this year’s filings:

  • This is the first election to take place under new district lines following the 2020 census. Oklahoma was apportioned five districts, the same number it was apportioned after the 2010 census.
  • The 2nd district is the only open seat this year. That’s one more seat than in 2020 and the same as in 2018. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R), who represents the 2nd district, is running for the U.S. Senate. 
  • Fifteen candidates — one Democrat and 14 Republicans — are running to replace Mullin, the most candidates running for a seat this year. 
  • There are four contested Republican primaries this year, and no contested Democratic primaries. That’s the fewest contested primaries since at least 2014, and the first time since at least then when there are no contested Democratic primaries.
  • Rep. Kevin Hern (R), who represents the 1st district, is the only incumbent not facing a primary challenger this year. 
  • Republican and Democratic candidates filed to run in all five districts, so no seats are guaranteed to either party this year. 

Oklahoma and four other states — Colorado, Illinois, New York, and Utah — are holding primary elections on June 28. In Oklahoma, winners in primary contests are determined by majority vote. In the event no candidate wins a majority of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to an August 23 runoff.

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New Oklahoma law governs bathroom use in public schools

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (R) on May 25, 2022, signed a bill into law requiring transgender students to use the restroom that matches their sex assigned at birth. Senate Bill 615 passed the House with a vote of 69-14 and the Senate by a vote of 38-7. 

The law governs the use of multiple-occupancy restrooms in the state’s public and charter schools. The law also requires schools to make a single-occupancy restroom or changing room available to students who do not feel comfortable using multiple-occupancy facilities. Parents and students under the law are encouraged to report to school officials any students they suspect of using the restroom not corresponding with their sex assigned at birth. Any school district that does not enforce the law could lose up to 5 percent of state funding. 

The House author of S.B. 615, Republican state Rep. Danny Williams, said the purpose of the bill was to protect our children, according to KTUL Tulsa. Williams continued, “It’s about safety, it’s about protection, it’s about common sense.”

Democratic state Rep. Jacob Rosencrants, whose son is transgender, argued against the bill. He said, “My child wants to go to the bathroom where he feels comfortable. My kid just wants to ‘be’ … and he doesn’t feel like he can do that in this state.”

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Oklahoma Legislature adjourns without referring any measures to 2022 ballot

The Oklahoma State Legislature adjourned its 2022 Regular Session on May 27 without referring any measures to the 2022 ballot for voters to consider.

During the 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions, the Legislature considered referring constitutional amendments and state statutes to the ballot. Fifteen constitutional amendments and one state statute had passed in the chamber of origin, but did not receive final approval in the opposite chamber before adjournment.

Proposed constitutional amendments must be referred to the ballot and receive voter approval to be enacted. To put a proposed constitutional amendment on a ballot, a simple majority vote of all members in both the Senate and House is required.

The Legislature can also refer state statutes to the ballot. Bills that raise revenue must pass in both the House and Senate with at least a three-fourths supermajority to be enacted without voter approval; if revenue increasing bills pass a simple majority but less than a three-fourths supermajority, they must be referred to the ballot.

Oklahoma also allows for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments, citizen-initiated state statutes, and veto referendums, making it one of 26 states in which statewide ballot measures can qualify for the ballot through a signature drive. The number of signatures required to qualify initiatives and veto referendums for the ballot is tied to the total votes cast for governor in the last gubernatorial election. For an initiated constitutional amendment, proponents must collect valid signatures equal to 15% of votes cast for governor — 177,958 for 2022. For initiated state statutes, the requirement is 8% — 94,911. For veto referendums, the requirement is 5% — 59,320.

Three measures concerning marijuana legalization and medical marijuana regulation have been cleared to collect signatures.

Two constitutional measures sponsored by Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action (ORCA) were cleared for signature gathering on May 2, with signatures due by August 22, 2022. One of the measures, State Question 818, would create the State Cannabis Commission to replace the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority and to regulate medical marijuana, cannabis, and hemp. The other measure, State Question 819, would legalize and regulate marijuana for persons 21 years old and older and would impose a 15% excise tax on marijuana sales for purchases by an individual without a medical marijuana license.

The other measure, State Question 820, is supported by New Approach PAC. The initiative would amend state law (rather than the state constitution) to legalize and regulate marijuana for persons 21 years old and older. The measure would also impose a 15% excise tax on marijuana purchases by individuals without a medical marijuana license. Under the measure, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority would be responsible for administering and regulating marijuana access. Signatures for the measure are due by August 1.

Medical marijuana was established in Oklahoma following voter approval of State Question 788, a statutory measure, in 2018. Under State Question 788, the Oklahoma State Department of Health was tasked with overseeing the medical marijuana program through the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority. Following approval of the measure, lawsuits were filed alleging that the Authority was implementing the medical marijuana program in a way that did not align with provisions of the approved ballot measure.

Since State Question 788 was approved, the Legislature has passed and the governor has signed bills altering the state’s medical marijuana program and regulations. On May 11, 2022, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed Senate Bill 1367, which increased penalties for sharing medical marijuana products with individuals who do not have medical marijuana licenses.

A total of 71 measures appeared on statewide ballots in Oklahoma from 2000 to 2020. Of the measures, 74.65% (53 of 71) were approved, and 25.35% (18 of 71) were defeated.



Oklahoma governor signs unemployment insurance indexing bill

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed House Bill 1933 into law on May 20, which will cut the maximum length of unemployment insurance benefits from 26 weeks to 16 weeks starting Jan. 1, 2023. The law will index unemployment insurance benefits starting Jan. 1, 2025, tying the length of benefits to the state’s unemployment rate. Oklahoma will provide shorter periods of benefits during times of low unemployment (with a minimum of 16 weeks) and longer periods of benefits during times of high unemployment (with a maximum of 26 weeks).

At least five states have already implemented some form of unemployment insurance benefits indexing: Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, and North Carolina.

Unemployment insurance is a joint federal and state program that provides temporary monetary benefits to eligible laid-off workers who are actively seeking new employment. Qualifying individuals receive unemployment compensation as a percentage of their lost wages in the form of weekly cash benefits while they search for new employment.

The federal government oversees the general administration of state unemployment insurance programs. The states control the specific features of their unemployment insurance programs, such as eligibility requirements and length of benefits.

For more information on Oklahoma’s unemployment insurance program, click here. For information about unemployment insurance programs across the country, click here.

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