Gov. Kevin Stitt’s reelection victory solidifies the strong grasp the Republican Party has in Oklahoma where millions of dollars in spending from opposition groups didn’t make much of a dent.
Outside groups spent more than $14 million against Stitt in his re-election bid, according to media tracking firms and state campaign filings. And yet Stitt still won by a wider margin than in 2018.
The millions that dark money groups pumped into the race against Stitt show that such attacks have limited value when it comes to overcoming voters’ loyalties to political parties, said Pat McFerron, an Oklahoma City based Republican consultant and pollster.
“Politics — whether right or wrong — it’s become a team sport. You’re either red or blue. You’re either R or D,” McFerron said. “And there are people that are upset with things within their own party but at the end of the day it’s kind of like ‘this is family, I’m still gonna support them.’”
In an interview after his victory, Stitt said he believes his decisive win shows Oklahoma is poised to be a Republican state for years to come.
“Overwhelmingly they’re supporting our policies,” Stitt said. “Part of being a governor is running the state like a business, we’ve got the largest savings account and we cut taxes and that’s what people want. Voters don’t want their government to grow and grow like some of these other states.”
Every other statewide Republican candidate also won their race handily, with an average margin of nearly 32%. About 480,000 Oklahomans cast straight-party ballots, and 69% of those ballots went straight Republican.
Republicans outnumber Democrats in Oklahoma by over 480,000 registered voters but Joy Hofmeister believed her moderate stances could siphon votes away from Stitt. But at the end of the day, Hofmeister didn’t even excite Democrats, fewer of whom voted for her in 2022 than voted for Drew Edmondson in the 2018 gubernatorial election.
The only areas Stitt lost were the mostly urban Oklahoma, Tulsa and Cleveland counties. Stitt also flipped Muskogee and Cherokee counties, places where Edmondson won in 2018.
Even with the endorsement of Oklahoma’s five largest tribes, Hofmeister still lost most of the counties in eastern Oklahoma that cover tribal lands.
Hofmeister also underperformed in bluer Oklahoma County, receiving fewer votes there than Edmondson did in 2018. The county also saw voter turnout decrease by about 4% from 2018.
Following the trend from 2018, rural counties showed the heaviest support for Stitt.
“There is a live free or die kind of mindset in rural Oklahoma,” said Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, a former chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party who won his re-election bid by 33 points. “So, I think, when push comes to shove 72 hours before an election, most of the time I’ve seen those conservatives start to rally. It may not be until then, but at the end of the day they rally behind those conservative candidates.”
And rally they did. Hofmeister had hoped to make some gains in rural areas by campaigning on Stitt’s support of school vouchers, saying the plan would “defund rural schools,” but the message didn’t deliver many votes.
Instead of education, 55% of Oklahoma voters surveyed said inflation was top of mind, with 75% of them voting Republican, according to APVote Cast, a survey of the electorate conducted by NORC, Fox News, University of Chicago, The Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal.
In an interview Tuesday night, Stitt sought to reassure voters that rural schools would be protected as he goes forward with his voucher plan and promised to provide inflation relief, starting with cutting taxes on groceries.
“We’re going to have a budget surplus next year and we have to give some of that back to the taxpayer,” Stitt said.