Gov. Kevin Stitt won re-election on Tuesday, staving off a challenge from outgoing State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister as Republicans swept the most high-profile races in Oklahoma on Tuesday.
Ryan Walters was elected as State Superintendent Tuesday night, defeating Oklahoma City teacher Jena Nelson. Walters is a political newcomer, who Stitt appointed as Secretary of Education in 2020.
Republicans did extremely well across Oklahoma, a ruby red state where they outnumber Democrats nearly 2-to-1. Still, there was plenty of enthusiasm on Tuesday for Hofmeister and Nelson, two candidates Oklahoma Democrats had staked their hopes on.
Stitt had angered a large swath of Oklahoma during his first term, warring with the state’s tribal nations over the gaming compact and the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt decision, frustrating health officials with his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and battling public school educators with his voucher plan.
All that led to a record number of outside spending in the governor’s race, with tens of millions of dollars pouring in, much of it favoring Hofmeister. But it wasn’t enough for her to pull off what would have still been a surprising upset victory.
Hofmeister and Nelson jumped out to leads as early and absentee votes were counted, but their advantage was quickly wiped out by election day returns that heavily favored Stitt and Walters.
“Today, dark money lost and the people of Oklahoma won,” Stitt said during his acceptance speech. “This is proof God has his hand on a very bright future for Oklahoma.”
Stitt compared himself to Nehemiah, an Old Testament biblical figure who became governor of Jerusalem.
“He set out on a task to rebuild the walls, but had to lead the people through fear, disinformation and chaos brought on by those who wanted the people to fail,” Stitt said. “Tonight’s victory is a resounding rejection of the secret dishonest tactics in Oklahoma politics.”
Hofmeister, in her concession speech, told her supporters that “Oklahoma belongs” to them, and urged them to keep fighting for the state’s children.
“Even if the results were not in our favor tonight, never forget that your voice is necessary and important,” Hofmeister said in her concession speech.
Nelson urged supporters to “write your legislators” and “go to your school boards.”
“We came closer than anyone thought was possible,” said Nelson, who lost to Walters by about 150,000 votes.
Both James Lankford and Markwayne Mullin cruised to wins in their respective U.S. Senate races. The Associated Press called both races as soon as polls closed at 7 p.m.
Lankford defeated Madison Horn, a political newcomer, by nearly 300,000 votes.
Likewise, Mullin’s race was called as soon as polls closed. He defeated Democrat Kendra Horn, who was first elected as a U.S. Representative in 2018, unseating incumbent Republican Steve Russell. Horn was then unseated herself in 2020 by Stephanie Bice, who also won re-election tonight.
Mullin is replacing Jim Inhofe, a mainstay in Oklahoma politics for decades, who chose to step down this year. Inhofe, 87, was re-elected to the U.S. Senate in 2020 but chose to step down after serving just two years of that six-year term.
During his victory speech, Mullin said the victory would not have been possible without his family, supporters and Christian faith.
“We knew we wanted to do something besides occupy this seat, we want to fight for this country,” Mullin said. “The fight is too big for us to just sit back, and we want to be in the fight.”
In other Congressional races, Kevin Hern, Frank Lucas, Tom Cole and Stephanie Bice all coasted to re-election. Josh Brecheen easily defeated Democrat Naomi Andrews and Independent Bulldog Ben Robinson. Brecheen will replace Mullin as Oklahoma’s 2nd District U.S. Representative.
Only two state Legislative seats flipped parties this election cycle.
In Tulsa’s House District 70, Suzanne Schreiber defeated Brad Banks. Schreiber will replace Carol Bush, a Republican who elected not to run for re-election as she primes for a run for Tulsa mayor in 2024.
Owasso Democrat J.J. Dossett lost his bid for re-election in Senate District 34 to Republican Dana Prieto. Dossett was elected in 2016 to replace Republican Rick Brinkley, who had resigned after admitting in court he had embezzled nearly $2 million from the Better Business Bureau.
House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said in a statement following a decisive night for Republicans across the state that “we are ready to get to work.”
“Once again, the people of Oklahoma have shown through their votes that they believe Republicans are best suited to lead our state,” McCall said.
In Oklahoma County, Democrat Vicki Behenna will replace outgoing District Attorney David Prater. Behenna defeated Republican Kevin Calvey, a former state legislator.