Tulsa’s municipal election may not be for another 14 months, but Mayor Dewey Bartlett is already planning to seek a third term, several sources close to the mayor have told The Frontier.
The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity.
City Councilor Blake Ewing, meanwhile, said he has not ruled out a run for the city’s highest elected office, and three other elected officials say they’ve been encouraged to enter the race.
The officials include City Councilors Phil Lakin and G.T. Bynum and County Commissioner Karen Keith.
In an interview with The Frontier earlier this year, Bartlett said he was thinking about running again.
“I enjoy this job very much,” he said. “I love this job, and we have accomplished a lot, and there is always more to accomplish.”
Bartlett, 68, struck a similar note Tuesday but added that he does not want politics to get in the way of doing his job.
“I think that is important,” he said. “We’ll start addressing it when the time is right. (I) have to talk to the family, make sure they’re OK with it, all that kind of stuff.”
The mayor said he’s proud of his service over the last six years.
“There is always more to do, and there are a lot of good people encouraging me to consider” a run, Bartlett said.
Bartlett, a Republican, was first elected in 2009 when he defeated Democrat Tom Adelson. In 2013, he won 55 percent of the vote to defeat former Mayor Kathy Taylor in city’s first nonpartisan mayoral election.
Although the city’s municipal election is not until Nov. 8, 2016, candidates for office — including the mayor, city councilors and the auditor — must file paperwork with the Tulsa County Election Board on April 11-13.
That means potential candidates have seven months to make up their minds.
The fact that several people have been encouraged to run against Bartlett is telling, said Ewing, 36.
“It speaks to the growing discontent with the lack of leadership and action from the administration,” Ewing said. “While Mayor Bartlett is an affable man, it has become quite clear we’re going to have to have a different mayor in office to realize the kind of bold and visionary leadership Tulsans want and deserve.”
Bynum, 38, is typically the first name that comes up in discussions of possible challengers.
It was Bynum, in explaining his decision not to run in 2013, who said, “Short of some tragic accident, I will run for mayor someday, rest assured. … You can quote me on that.”
But that someday may not be sometime soon. He told The Frontier on Tuesday that the job of mayor has a greater impact on the people he loves than any other elected office.
“So of course who might occupy that office is of importance to me,” Bynum said. “I haven’t had a week go by in the last year without someone encouraging me to run.
“But that election isn’t until next year and my focus this year has been on working with my City Council colleagues to enhance the Arkansas River, improve public safety and renew Vision 2025. I don’t spend a lot of time focusing on my political future.”
Lakin said he was surprised to hear his name thrown out as a possible candidate but did not dismiss the notion out of hand.
“Many have encouraged me to run and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t given the notion some good consideration,” Lakin said.
Lakin, 48, is the chief executive officer of the Tulsa Community Foundation. He was elected to the City Council in 2011.
Another name getting a lot of circulation in political circles is Karen Keith.
“I have had a lot of people ask me to run, from the man on the street as well as community and business leaders,” Keith said Monday. “It’s really flattering, and that is all I will say.”
Keith, 61, is in her seventh year as District 2 county commissioner. She, like the mayor and city councilors, is up for re-election next year.
None of the the potential candidates has been especially active raising campaign funds, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.
In fact, Bartlett has just $432.08 in his campaign account, the smallest amount of any of the known potential candidates.
Keith leads the pack with $212,628, followed by Bynum ($32,004), Lakin ($16,102) and Ewing ($897).
City elected officials can use campaign funds from previous city races to run for another city office. However, county elected officials such as Keith cannot use funds raised for county office to run for a city office, according to the Ethics Commission.
Under the city’s nonpartisan election format, races with more than two candidates are narrowed down in a primary — and runoff primary if necessary — with the final two candidates squaring off in the general election.
Next year’s primary is scheduled for June 28. The primary runoff, if needed, would be Aug. 24.
Tulsa’s next mayor will serve a four-year term. City councilors and the city auditor are elected to two-year terms.