John Fitzpatrick, one of 10 remaining candidates for Tulsa County Sheriff, speaks during a candidate forum in December. ADAM FORGASH / The Frontier

John Fitzpatrick, one of 10 remaining candidates for Tulsa County Sheriff, speaks during a candidate forum in December.
ADAM FORGASH / The Frontier

A divided state Supreme Court has declined to hear a legal challenge to the candidacy of John Fitzpatrick, one of nine Republicans running for Tulsa County sheriff.

Fitzpatrick told The Frontier Wednesday the court’s ruling sends a message that his challenger, Jason Jackson, did not follow proper procedures in filing the case.

“We view it as a win for us,” Fitzpatrick told The Frontier.

The state’s high court voted 5-4 Monday to decline jurisdiction in Jackson’s challenge, records show.

Fitzpatrick said he is unsure whether Jackson will now file a challenge in Tulsa District Court but that he believes the chances of success are unlikely.

Jackson said Thursday that he’s disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision and believes the law is on his side. However, he added, “at this point it’s too close to do anything else. ”

Fitzpatrick, a retired business executive and former fighter pilot, is a Tulsa Police Department reserve police officer.  Jackson, a sergeant for the Jenks Police Department, had challenged his qualifications to run for sheriff.

Jackson’s challenge pointed to the definition of a police or peace officer in one section of state law that he claimed would have required all candidates to be full-time, certified police officers. That law only applies to candidates in Tulsa and Oklahoma counties.

Fitzpatrick, in court filings, claims Jackson has misconstrued the law and that section applies only to the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training. He points to two other sections of state law that define peace officer as a “law enforcement officer whose duty it is to enforce and preserve the public peace.”

He notes he has served as a reserve police officer for more than 10 years and has more than 8,000 hours of active police patrol. Fitzpatrick argues in court filings he is certified to carry firearms, execute search warrants, make arrests and carry out other duties that involve protecting the public.

He also pointed to a Tulsa County criminal case brought against a man for assault on a police officer in which he was the victim.

The Tulsa County Election Board heard Jackson’s challenge and ruled in December that Fitzpatrick is a “current, certified peace officer” under the law and qualified to remain on the ballot. Rather than appealing that ruling to district court, Jackson filed his challenge in the Oklahoma Supreme Court, noting the March 1 primary was approaching.

The court docket does not include any opinion outlining the court’s reason for declining the case.

Fitzpatrick said that during oral argument earlier this month, Jackson’s attorney was asked why the case was filed directly with the Supreme Court.

Justices Douglas Combs, Joseph Watt, James Winchester, James Edmondson and Steven Taylor voted to decline hearing the case while justices John Reif, Yvonne Kauger, Tom Colbert and Noma Gurich voted to hear the case.

Nine Republicans are on the ballot for the March 1 primary and the winner will face Democrat Rex Berry during the general election April 5. The newly elected sheriff will serve a partial term of eight months before facing election again.

The seat was vacated in November when former Sheriff Stanley Glanz, the longest serving sheriff in state history, resigned. He was indicted in in September on two criminal misdemeanor counts following a grand jury investigation into his reserve program, his failure to release public records and other issues.

Before the court’s ruling, attorneys for the state Election Board filed a brief stating that the board “takes no position as to whether this Court should assume original jurisdiction or grant the relief requested.” However, the board noted the disruption to the election that could occur should Fitzpatrick’s name be ordered removed from the ballot.

On Jan. 13, the board began sending absentee ballots to voters who are overseas or in the military. On Friday, the board will send absentee ballots to other classes of voters who have requested them, the brief states.

“These ballots have already been printed The Board and the Tulsa County Election Board have already incurred significant expenses for the administration of this election,” states the filing.

Jackson said Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel pushed for the change in law to ensure more qualified candidates in larger counties.


“This year they’re pushing this legislation for all 77 counties,” he said.

Jackson also challenged the candidacies of two other candidates, Arthur Jackson and Henry Jones, in December. Those challenges were successful and their names have been removed from the ballot.

Want to find your polling place, confirm your registration, view sample ballots or track your absentee ballot? Use the state Election Board’s online voter tool.

For more information about Tulsa County elections, visit the county’s Election Board website.