Marq Lewis was standing, leaning over a sloped, wooden table inside Inner Circle Vodka Bar on Tuesday night. Donald Trump was on the television behind him, but Lewis was scrolling on his phone.
“No, no, no, no.” he said. “This is not good. Not good.”
It was trivia night at the bar, but the only question Lewis was asking had already been answered: Vic Regalado, a decorated longtime Tulsa Police officer, was emerging from a crowded field of Republican candidates to win the party’s nomination.
Sure, it was only 7:15 p.m., and Lewis and his dozen or so companions had many hours left in their watch party, but Regalado had quickly distanced himself from the competition.
For Lewis, Regalado’s cakewalk to the April 5 special election presented a problem. He had yet to meet with Regalado personally, but his opinion had been shaped by news stories detailing the TPD sergeant’s fundraising activities and perceived ties to key figures Lewis saw as being involved in conflicts that embroiled the sheriff’s office.
The week before Lewis had sent a document to the media in which he rated the various candidates. Regalado got the worst ranking.
For his part, Regalado has told The Frontier that he’s promised no one a job, and that his plan if he wins the general election against Democrat Rex Berry in April is to immediately begin cleaning up lingering issues at the sheriff’s office.
“You just roll up your sleeves, and we evaluate,” Regalado told NewsOn6 of his post-election plans. “We see what we need to get after first, and we go to work. I’ve got to find people that are committed, ready for the long haul, long hours. It’s going to be a long road, but we’re going to do it.”
Tuesday night ended with Regalado breezing to victory — the 33,241 votes he received were nearly more than his three closest competitors combined — and Lewis said he was willing to withhold judgment until he could sit down with Regalado personally.
“Right now the focus needs to be on making sure that whoever becomes sheriff is doing the best things for Tulsa County,” Lewis said.
“Let’s say Vic does become sheriff. He knows that people are watching now, when maybe a year ago no one was paying attention (to the sheriff’s office.) Whoever the sheriff is has to do the right things or hell, there’ll be another grand jury.”
Flashback to last September. District Judge Rebecca Nightingale had just called reporters and spectators into her courtroom to announce that the grand jury — a grand jury Lewis had fought tooth and nail to get impaneled — was about to release its findings.
Nightingale’s bailiff handed out a piece of paper that included several recommendations the grand jury had made for the sheriff’s office. Missing from that document were any indictments of Stanley Glanz, or even any mention of his name.
Lewis and his group of volunteers had asked Glanz to resign from office in the wake of the Eric Harris shooting last April. Glanz had publicly called Robert Bates, the reserve deputy who killed Harris during a botched undercover sting, a personal friend and fishing buddy.
Bates, it turned out, was a campaign donor to Glanz and had gifted thousands of dollars of equipment to the sheriff’s office. In return, the 73-year-old reserve deputy was allowed to patrol on his own, given the ability to choose high-profile assignments, and, records show, allowed to act without reprimand from his superiors.
So, thinking Glanz had survived the grand jury investigation, Lewis was pissed. He stormed out of the courtroom and into an elevator. He was exasperated, he said later, and barely remembers what he did once the elevator doors closed.
He’d spent months organizing protests and signature-gathering events aimed at getting the grand jury impaneled. He’d weathered attacks from the sheriff’s office and attempts to halt not only the signature collection, but also to disqualify the signed petitions after he’d come up with over a thousand more names that needed.
And now he was walking past reporters who were in the Tulsa County District Courthouse, preparing to go on television and tell viewers that Glanz, the embattled sheriff Lewis had spent months attempting to remove from office, had not been indicted.
As Lewis entered the seventh floor elevator, he looked out at the crowd, shook his head and said “what the hell is going on?”
What he didn’t realize — as many didn’t at the time — was that the day was not over. Nightingale had closed that morning’s hearing by handing out a list of recommendations the grand jury — who met for weeks and interviewed about two dozen past and current members of TCSO — had written.
The big news broke hours later. Glanz, who was returning from a meeting in Colorado that day, had been charged with two crimes. Through his attorney, Scott Wood, the longtime sheriff announced his resignation.
Lewis, a North Carolina native who came to Tulsa via Atlanta, could barely contain his relief and excitement. He hugged his attorney, Laurie Phillips, who had taken on the grand jury case for free, knowing it would cost her hundreds of hours and a lot of heartache. Lewis danced with other We The People members.
For a brief moment, he was free.
“I don’t know how to explain the feeling when I realized what was happening,” Lewis said later in an interview with The Frontier. “I felt like a huge weight had left my body. We’d worked so hard and been through so much, and now it was over.”
If you count Glanz’s resignation as occurring in September (he officially took vacation and retired Nov. 1), that would mean Lewis spent nearly five months seeking to oust the sheriff.
“I didn’t know the way to do it,” Lewis said Tuesday night. “I went to Laurie (Phillips, the attorney who fought for the grand jury on Lewis’ behalf) at the end of April and I thought at first you could recall the sheriff. She was the one that told me you couldn’t do that, but you could get a grand jury. So that became my focus.”
So ten months later, Lewis was eating hot wings and watching the fruits of his labor roll in. And while he flatly said he was disappointed with Regalado’s victory (Lewis issued no official endorsement, but did give third-place finisher John Fitzpatrick his highest rating), he treated the night like a celebration.
After all, it was not that long ago that he was holding rallies, collecting signatures and wearing his #GlanzGottaGo shirt.
“It will be interesting to see what (Vic) does,” Lewis said. “I think it’s best we give him the benefit of the doubt, keep an eye on things and see what happens. And if things go wrong, we’re not going anywhere.”