Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado is inaugurated by District Judge Bill Musseman. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

Sure, the next election for Tulsa County sheriff is more than three years away, but it’s apparently never too soon to begin raising funds.

An emailed “Save the date” invitation went out this week from “Vic & Jennifer Regalado” advertising a “fundraising reception to benefit Sheriff Regalado.” Jennifer Regalado is Vic Regalado’s wife.

“There’s no other way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo than with Sheriff Vic Regalado!” the invitation states.

Regalado is the first Hispanic sheriff in Tulsa County and is one of the only minority sheriffs in the state’s history.

The fundraiser invitation is adorned with a chili pepper wearing a sombrero, a stereotypical Mexican straw hat. It does not state where the fundraiser is being held, but notes a “formal invitation is forthcoming” and asks for sponsors for the event.

Regalado has recently announced the creation of a Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office Foundation, a non-profit that would raise money for a sheriff’s office that’s been in dire financial straits since well before Regalado was elected.

An electronic invitation for a campaign fundraiser for Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado.

Campaign officials for the sheriff confirmed, however, that this event was a campaign fundraiser and was not connected to the foundation.

The Frontier requested comment from Regalado through his campaign, but did not receive a comment from the sheriff by publication time.

Why start raising funds now for an election that’s three years away? The Regalado campaign’s current financial situation is cloudy, at the very least.

Regalado was a fundraising powerhouse in 2016, raising more than $150,000 prior to last April’s special election which he won handily. He then surpassed the $50,000 fundraising mark during last year’s general election cycle, another election he won easily.

That was an unprecedented amount of financial contributions for a sheriff’s race, one that hadn’t been closely contested since former Sheriff Stanley Glanz was first elected nearly three decades ago.

As for where Regalado’s war chest stands now, the answer is murky. Joel Sander, Regalado’s treasurer, first agreed to talk to The Frontier but later said Regalado’s campaign had told him not to speak to the media.

“They’ve told me I can’t answer any questions,” Sander said.

Regalado’s latest campaign finance filing was submitted to the Tulsa County Election Board Jan. 31 and a new report won’t be due until the end of July.

The January report lists an “ending balance” of $72,252.98 but notes an apparent outstanding loan balance of $60,550.30. The campaign reported raising $8,825.50 between Oct. 25, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2016, $8,000 of which was from an unspecified loan.

The report listed $525 raised from two contributors, as well as $300 in “In Kind Contributions.”

The outstanding loans, listed as “unpaid invoices,” are as follows.

  • $28,382.98 to AH Strategies, an embattled political consultant group, a member of which is facing criminal charges related to State Superintendent of Schools Joy Hofmeister’s campaign.
  • $3,000 to Sander.
  • $3,000 to ROI Media for radio advertising.
  • $317.32 to Majority Designs, a political consulting group in Oklahoma City that designs mailers and signs.
  • $1,000 to Aaron Brewer, Regalado’s campaign manager.
  • $24,850 to Regalado himself.

Those loans total $60,550.30. Under each different loan, “Payment to be made ASAP as funds become available” is written. The $8,000 in new loans from this past cycle is included in that $60,550.30 total, although it’s unclear which entities loaned the campaign that money.

The only expenditures made by Regalado’s campaign during the last fundraising cycle were three credit card processing fee payments totaling $55.07.

It’s early, but Regalado looks strong heading into the future election cycle. Glanz’s first election in 1988 set the stage for a 27-year career in which he largely ran unopposed. He did not face an opponent in four of his seven terms as sheriff.

As for Regalado’s future, it appears bright. Tulsa County Democrats struggled to find an opponent to square off against Regalado, eventually settling on 66-year-old former Tulsa Police Department Officer Rex Berry.

Berry faced Regalado in both the special and general election, but never seriously posed a threat in a largely Republican county.

Challengers in Regalado’s own party fared about as well. Regalado knocked off nearly a dozen Republican challengers in the special election, then again bested TPD SWAT Team Sgt. Luke Sherman in the November general election.