Super PACs and dark money groups are dumping millions into the Oklahoma governor’s race, inundating voters with a flurry of confusing claims about both candidates. The Frontier used public records and other sources to check the facts. We found some ads that contained inaccurate or misleading statements.
Claim: Gov. Kevin Stitt failed to stop foreign investors like China from buying up Oklahoma farmland.
Source: “Stitt failed to stop foreigners from buying up our precious farmland,” a man identified as “Dusty” in Minco says in an ad from the political action committee The Oklahoma Project. The ad also features an image of the Chinese flag and mentions “foreign investors like China.”
Fact check: Mixed
It’s true that Oklahoma had one of the largest increases in foreign-held farm land in the nation in 2020, with 383,600 acres purchased, according to the latest report by the United State Department of Agriculture. About 4% of agricultural land in the state was held by foreign investors by the end of 2020, according to the report. Canada holds over half of the foreign-held land, followed by Italy.
Oklahoma already restricts foreign ownership of agricultural land, but there are some exceptions. A bill that would have clarified that non-U.S. citizens cannot own land in the state did not pass in the Oklahoma Legislature this year. Lawmakers have cited the state’s medical marijuana industry as a source of the increase in foreign-held land. Stitt signed a bill this year to put a moratorium on approving new commercial licenses that will last until 2024.
Claim: Joy Hofmeister stood up to former Gov. Mary Fallin to get teachers a pay raise.
Source: “Joy stood up to Mary Fallin to get our teachers the pay raise they deserve,” the political action committee Imagine This Oklahoma claims in this ad.
Fact check: Mostly false
While Hofmeister supported a teacher pay raise years before the Oklahoma Legislature passed one, so did Fallin. Both Hofmeister and Fallin publicly advocated for teachers to get a raise before the Legislature passed a $6,100 per-year pay increase in 2018. In 2015, Hofmeister called for a $5,000 per-year pay raise. And when Fallin called for a $3,000 per-year increase in 2016, Hofmeister called the proposal “bold.” But the Legislature did not pass any raise that year, and a ballot measure to raise teacher pay also failed. Fallin again called for a teacher pay raise in 2017, but the Legislature failed to act. During her state-of-the-state address in 2018, Fallin threatened to veto any budget that did not include a pay raise for teachers. Staring down the barrel of the 2018 teacher walkout, the Legislature passed the $6,100 per-year raise, which Fallin signed into law.
Claim: Joy Hofmeister has aligned herself with Democratic President Joe Biden, pushing for tax increases on oil and gas.
Source: “They’ve pushed tax hikes at the pump, making it harder to fill your tank. More taxes on the production of oil and gas, putting 90,000 Oklahoma jobs at risk,” an ad opposing Hofmeister paid for by the Republican Governors Association claims.
Fact check: Mixed
Hofmeister did support and praise a gross production tax increase on the energy industry in 2018 that state lawmakers passed to increase teacher pay. But as State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Hofmeister could not vote for or enact any legislation to raise taxes. The tax increase was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed into law by a Republican governor.
“If Stitt attacks me for working with energy leaders back in 2018 to raise teacher pay, then he must also attack the Republican majority in the state legislature who were lockstep with the proposal,” Hofmeister said.
Claim: Oklahoma’s last Democratic governor passed a tax cut for all Oklahomans.
Source: “…we passed an income tax cut for all Oklahomans, that’s the kind of Governor Joy Hofmeister will be,” former Gov. Brad Henry says in an ad funded by Imagine This Oklahoma.
Fact check: True but misleading
It’s true that Henry signed off on a series of tax cuts passed by the Legislature during his time in office, but the ad neglects to mention that the reductions mostly benefited the wealthy and contributed to budget gaps in the years to follow.
The cuts included slashing the state’s top bracket, as well as raising the standard deduction for working families and reducing taxes for senior citizens.
Tax cuts that began under Henry’s watch reduced state revenue by more than $1 billion a year by 2016, according to an analysis by the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy and Oklahoma Policy Institute.
The tax cuts disproportionately benefited people with higher incomes, the analysis found.
Claim: Kevin Stitt appointees met behind closed doors and voted to send millions in tax dollars to a company he founded.
Source: “State appointees met behind closed doors and agreed to send millions to the company Stitt founded, now owned by his personal family trust,” an Oklahoma Project ad claims.
Fact check: True
Gateway First Bank — a company Stitt founded as Gateway Mortgage — received more than $2.5 million in taxpayer money through the state’s Quality Jobs incentive program between December 2019 and October 2022.
The company also got $876,000 from an incentive agreement with the state from 2016, before Stitt became governor. In January 2020, three members of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce’s Incentive Evaluation Committee, including two who were appointed by Stitt, discussed Gateway’s most recent application behind closed doors in executive session. A vote to approve the incentives was subsequently held in open session. Stitt, who stepped away from management of Gateway after he was elected in 2018 and transferred ownership to a family trust, denied knowledge of the application before it was presented to the board. The 10-year incentive deal requires Gateway to create 90 new qualifying jobs with an average annual salary of around $80,000 over three years.
True: A claim that is backed up by factual evidence
Mostly true: A claim that is mostly true but also contains some inaccurate details
Mixed: A claim that contains a combination of accurate and inaccurate or unproven information
True but misleading: A claim that is factually true but omits critical details or context
Mostly false: A claim that is mostly false but also contains some accurate details
False: A claim that has no basis in fact