Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett acknowledges challenge of reaching Tulsans as he kicks off campaign for governor

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Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett speaks to a group of Tulsans on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, during his campaign kickoff event. DYLAN GOFORTH/ The Frontier

Seeking to become the state’s next governor, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett touched on several topics on Wednesday during his campaign kickoff event in Tulsa.

Education? The state isn’t funding it enough. Incarceration? We put too many people in jail, he said.

Mental health? The cuts to those agencies are a travesty. The Legislature? Too partisan.

Budget crisis?

“It’s a catastrophe,” he told the crowd of about three-dozen. “You could use harsher adjectives if you’d like.”

Maybe that shotgun style of discussion is necessary, given Cornett admitted he faces an uphill battle reaching voters in Green Country.

During his 30-minute speech, Cornett told the story of how he met his wife Terri, a Tulsa native. Cornett said that his friend introduced the two of them in a text message. After some discussion back and forth, Terri asked Cornett — who at that point had been Oklahoma City’s mayor for years — what he did for a job.

“I’m the mayor of Oklahoma City,” Cornett responded, to which he said a surprised Terri replied. “What, now?”

After the speech, Cornett, who aside from his time as Mayor in Oklahoma City was also a well known television reporter, said that his campaign had done some polling in the Tulsa area and had found that he was recognized by only about 15 percent of the residents.

“But hopefully that’s gone up by now,” he said.

Cornett’s appearance was his first in Tulsa and second of a day that began in Oklahoma City’s Bicentennial Park with a kickoff event there. The Oklahoma City event, predictably, had a greater turnout that Cornett’s turn in Tulsa.

That’s the challenge Cornett, a Republican, faces as he tries to hurdle other candidates who might be more well-known across the state.

But he said he has been met with good support from Tulsa business owners, many of whom he’d met over the years at different functions. So with that as a starting point, he’s trying to reach across the state.

Cornett said that as Oklahoma City’s mayor, he focused on “problem solving and solutions,” something he said he had previously thought would not necessarily help a state legislature mired in partisan politics.

“I thought there’s really not a path there for a mayor (to become governor,)” he said.

But the politics of Oklahoma’s disastrous 2017 legislative session — one now in a special session that seems to be stuck in neutral — were “so unsettling” that he began to eye a run for the governor’s office.

“We saw then we had a clear path to win this race,” he said. “We have to run it, raise the money … but we saw a clear path and with that we were on the road.”

Lamb lapping field in fundraising
Cornett’s appearance in Tulsa on Wednesday came about two weeks out from the next campaign contributions and expenditures reporting period. And while it’s unclear how much money the gubernatorial candidates will have raised during the last quarter, it’s unlikely any of them have caught up to Lt. Gov Todd Lamb.

Lamb reported in his second quarter report that he’d raised more than $2 million, a figure that dwarfed the other contenders. A strong fundraiser, Lamb totaled $1,030,677 in direct and in-kind donations, but added an additional $1,004,772 that remained in his account from his previous lieutenant governor campaign.

Third quarter reports are due Oct. 31.

Democrat Drew Edmondson was second in fundraising according to the latest filings, raising $300,211. Cornett was third, having totaled $181,000 in donations.

For a handful of candidates, the third quarter reporting period will represent their first public contribution and expenditure filings — Republicans Kevin Stitt and Dan Fisher, and Libertarian Rex Lawhorn, officially joined the race after the second quarter filing deadline.

As it currently stands, there are 13 people running to be Oklahoma’s next governor, including three Libertarians (Chris Powell, Joseph Maldonado, Lawhorn,) four Democrats (Norman Brown, Scott Inman, Edmondson, and Connie Johnson,) and six Republicans (Lamb, Gary Richardson, Gary Jones, Cornett, Fisher and Stitt.)

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Dylan Goforth

Editor in Chief/Staff Writer

Dylan is a news junkie, fantasy sports advocate and QuikTrip addict. When he's not refreshing Twitter, setting too many fantasy lineups or munching on a taquito, he spends his time covering crime and social issues in Tulsa and around the state. Contact: dylan@readfrontier.com or 918-931-9405.
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