When Vic Regalado emerged from a crowded group of candidates on Super Tuesday, cruising to a decisive victory, he did more than earn the Republican nomination for the upcoming shortened sheriff term.
He may have whittled down the list of potential competitors for the full four-year sheriff term election later this year.
The Frontier reached out to the eight Republican candidates Regalado defeated on Tuesday, and only two would commit to running again for the full term.
Regalado got 40 percent of the vote Tuesday night (33,241 votes), while his nearest opponent, Luke Sherman, garnered 13,228 votes. Regalado’s win ensures he will face democrat Rex Berry in the April 5 general election, the winner of which will fulfill departed former sheriff Stanley’s Glanz’s truncated term.
Glanz resigned last year after being indicted on two misdemeanors following a grand jury investigation into the sheriff’s office.
The winner of the Regalado-Berry showdown next month takes office April 11 and will remain sheriff until Jan. 1, 2017.
Berry has also not committed to seeking the full term.
Most of the candidates referenced the amount of money Regalado raised as their biggest reason for possibly not running for the full term. Heading into Tuesday’s primary election, Regalado reported raising nearly $160,000 in campaign contributions — more than every other candidate combined — and at least half of that total was spent on radio and television commercials, giving him exposure none of the other candidates could match.
Before the votes started to roll in Tuesday, Regalado’s competitors said they hoped the number of candidates on the ballot would result in the votes being split, and the winning margin being tight.
Instead, what happened was Sherman, Tom Helm, and John Fitzpatrick split votes, while Regalado got almost every other remaining vote.
Those four candidates grabbed 84 percent of the overall votes cast.
Only Sherman and Dan Miller, a Tulsa Police Department Corporal, committed to running again for the full term. Randy Pierce and Brandon Hendrix, both current employees of the sheriff’s office, said they would not file to run again (the filing period is April 13-15.) Fitzpatrick, Helm and Jason Jackson all said they were taking time off before making a final decision.
The primary election for the full term is set for June 28, with a runoff date set for Aug. 23 if needed. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 8, and the victor will begin that four-year term on Jan. 1, 2017.
Sherman told The Frontier that his campaign team was always more focused on the June 28 primary, and that he’s using his Super Tuesday loss as an opportunity to see “what worked and what didn’t” and to adjust his game plan.
“We knew going in (to March 1) that it was going to be tough,” he said. “When one campaign has the money to roll out commercials for two solid weeks — and radio too — and robocalls, you can’t counter that unless you have that money. The voting public really only got to see one candidate.”
Helm said he “felt deflated” by the money Regalado raised and the exposure it gave the longtime Tulsa police officer.
“My immediate answer is that I will probably not be running,” Helm said.
He called fundraising “the hardest part” of campaigning, and said that whoever challenges Regalado in June will have to make sure they can match his war chest.
“It was just not in me to ask for money, and you have to,” Helm said. “It made it really hard for me to get my campaign off the ground.
“I still feel like I’m the right guy for the job.”
Fitzpatrick said he would make his decision “early next week,” saying he was doing “some serious research” on the campaign process and that he “wanted to be part of the solution, not the problem.
Pierce said he planned to support Regalado moving forward, while Jackson said he was going to “take a few days off” and then come to a final decision. Hendrix said he would not run again “unless God tells me to.”
“And it needs to be in a really loud voice,” he said, laughing.
For Regalado, the turnaround will be rapid. He’ll face off with Berry in a debate March 10 at Tulsa Community College’s downtown campus, and at least one other debate is planned between that date and the April 5 election.
He said he was caught off guard by his margin of victory, and that as someone who “prepares for the worst,” he didn’t relax on Tuesday until TV stations started to call him to ask for comment.
“Going into the night, I was comfortable in our plan,” he said. “Was I expecting that margin? No. But I felt great about the plan. I was focused on our plan the entire time and it worked.”
He said insinuations that the money he raised was solely responsible for his victory were “misplaced.”
“Campaigning for elected office requires support in many forms, and it takes a lot of work,” he said. “For anyone to believe that money came easy, it didn’t just show up out of nowhere. Anyone who believes that either didn’t do the work or didn’t engage in the process.”
He said he felt one of the biggest turning points of his campaign was the Donald Trump rally on Jan. 20 at the Mabee Center. With an estimated 20,000 Republicans all gathered in one place, his team handed out pamphlets, talked with voters and drove around the arena in a vehicle covered with large “Vic For Sheriff” decals.
“That was a pivotal point,” he said. “It was mentioned on the radio what a great idea that was, and only my campaign and Helm’s campaign were (at the rally) that day. We attended forums, filled out questionnaires, met with voters … to act like it was just the money would be shortchanging the campaign.”