Oklahoma Politics: June 2006 Archives

NOTE: The information below is for the 2006 election. The details for the 2010 Tulsa County and Pawnee County judicial elections may be found by following this link.

It took me a while to puzzle all this out, and I thought others might be interested as well.

Oklahoma has 26 District Courts. Tulsa County and Pawnee County constitute Judicial District No. 14. State law says that District 14 has 14 district judge offices.

One judge must reside in and be nominated from Pawnee County, eight must reside in and be nominated from Tulsa County. If there are more than two candidates for any of those nine offices, there is a non-partisan nominating primary in the appropriate county, and the top two vote-getters are on the general election ballot. (Even if one gets more than 50% of the vote, the top two still advance.)

In the general election, all voters in Pawnee and Tulsa Counties vote on those nine seats.

The remaining five district judges are selected by electoral division in Tulsa County. In order to comply with the Voting Rights Act, Tulsa County is divided into five electoral divisions of equal population, one of which (Electoral Division 3) has a "minority-majority" population. For each of these five offices, if there are three or more candidates, there is a non-partisan nominating primary. If one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, he is elected; otherwise, the top two advance to the general election. For each of these five offices, the candidates must reside in the corresponding electoral division, and only voters in that electoral division will vote for that office in the primary and general election. (Oklahoma County, Judicial District No. 7, is the only other county with judges elected by division.)

(CORRECTION: I'm told that the electoral division are not in fact of equal population. The minority-majority district is much smaller than the other four, as it must be in order to guarantee that the electorate is majority African-American.)

Despite the three different paths one can take to be elected, a Judge in Judicial District No. 14 can be assigned to try any case within the two counties.

Each county in the state also elects an Associate District Judge, nominated and elected countywide. There will be a general election contest for Tulsa County Associate District Judge between Caroline Wall and Dana Kuehn. Pawnee County Associate District Judge Matthew Henry was re-elected without opposition. (He was probably helped by all that free publicity from his Bible commentary.)

In addition to the elected judges, the District has a certain number of Special Judges, who are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the District Judges. Several candidates for District Judge currently serve as Special Judges.

All this I was able to puzzle out from prior knowledge and browsing through the relevant sections of the Oklahoma Statutes. What I still couldn't quite figure out is which of the 14 offices corresponded with the five electoral divisions, and which one was nominated from Pawnee County. Although electoral division 4 votes for office 4, I was pretty sure the pattern did not apply to the other offices. After a few phone calls, someone from the Tulsa County Election Board found the relevant info in the League of Women Voters handbook. So here it is, for your reference and mine:

Office Incumbent Nominated by Primary 2006 Elected by General 2006
1 Shaffer1 Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes
2 Harris Tulsa Co. ED 3   Tulsa Co. ED 3  
3 Smith Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
4 Peterson1 Tulsa Co. ED 4 Yes Tulsa Co. ED 4 ? 2
5 Sellers Pawnee Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
6 McAllister Tulsa Co. ED 2   Tulsa Co. ED 2  
7 Gillert Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
8 Thornbrugh Tulsa Co. ED 5   Tulsa Co. ED 5 Yes
9 Morrissey Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
10 Frizzell3 Tulsa Co. Yes Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes
11 Nightingale Tulsa Co. ED 1   Tulsa Co. ED 1  
12 Fransein Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
13 Shallcross Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes
14 Gassett Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  

Offices elected by Tulsa County Electoral Divisions in red.
Offices nominated by Pawnee County in blue.

1 Not seeking re-election.
2 Three candidates in this race; if none of them receive more than 50% in the primary, there will be a runoff.
3 Judge Frizzell was nominated by President Bush to the Federal District Court and withdrew his candidacy for re-election.

Although all 14 offices are up for election this year, only five offices are contested, and only two of those will be on the primary ballot.

Only one of the five offices elected by electoral division is contested this year. Jim Caputo, the municipal judge for Collinsville, Special Judge Damon Cantrell, and David Blades are seeking the post being vacated by David Peterson. The approximate boundaries of the district are all of Tulsa County north of 66th St. N.; east of Sheridan between Admiral and 66th St. N.; Memorial to 193rd East Ave. between Admiral and 31st; Memorial to 129th East Ave., between 31st and 61st. To know for sure which electoral division you live in, use the precinct locator at the Tulsa County Election Board website.

Passing judgment

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I'm working on a column about our local slate of judicial candidates. Most sitting district judges drew no opposition, but there are five contested district judgeships in District 14 (Tulsa and Pawnee counties) and a race for Tulsa County associate district judge.

Only two of the races have more than two candidates. These will be on the primary ballot, with the top two candidates going on to the general election.

(replacing David L. Peterson)

David Blades, 44, 4740 S. 90th E. Ave., Tulsa
James M. Caputo, 47, 9304 E 126 St. North, Collinsville 74021
Daman H. Cantrell, 46, 8757 N. 97th E. Ave., #1117, Owasso 74055

(replacing Gregory K. Frizzell)

Deirdre Dexter, 50, 620 Valley Drive, Sand Springs 74063
James W. Dunham, 53, 7640 S. Oswego Place, Tulsa 74136
David C Youll, 43, 2404 West C Street, Jenks 74037
J. Anthony Miller, 49, 1709 S. Carson Avenue, Tulsa 74119
Mary Fitzgerald, 54, 2729 E. 22nd St., Tulsa 74114
Steven E. Hjelm, Sr., 42, 9010 S. Darlington Ave, Tulsa 74137

Frizzell had filed for a new term, but on Wednesday of the filing period he got the word that President Bush was nominating him to the Federal District Court, replacing Clinton appointee Sven Erik Holmes, who retired to go to work for KPMG.

Most voters don't feel like they have enough information when they vote for judge. There are restrictions on the way a judicial candidate can campaign. Judicial candidates can't talk about anything that might come before them as a case.

I do think it's fair game, however, to ask about the influences that shape the thinking of the candidates, their judicial philosophy, and their character.

So I'd like to know what you know about these men and women -- their ideological leanings; personal, political, and religious associations; anecdotes that reveal something of their character and temperament. Some of these people have already served as special district judges or municipal judges -- perhaps you've witnessed them in that role.

In a departure from my usual policy, I will assume you want to remain anonymous unless you specifically authorize me to quote you by name. Send any info to blog AT batesline DOT com. Although I will keep you anonymous in my column, it's important that I know who you are, so please provide your real name. If you'd prefer to speak to me by phone, please provide your phone number to me by e-mail along with the best times to call. Thanks.

By the way, you'll notice that two of the campaigns for Office 10, J. Anthony Miller and Dierdre Dexter, have placed ads on BatesLine, as has Lt. Governor candidate Scott Pruitt. I'll take the opportunity to say that my allowing an ad to run doesn't constitute an endorsement from me. While I wouldn't accept every political ad that is placed (forget it, Hillary!), if a candidate is in generally in line with my views, I would let it run.

OKRA endorsements

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The Oklahoma Republican Assembly, affiliated with the National Federation of Republican Assemblies, held an endorsing convention last Saturday at the State Capitol. Here is a link to the list of OKRA's 2006 nominees.

Notable endorsements in contested Republican primaries: John Sullivan for re-election in the 1st Congressional District, Kevin Calvey for the 5th Congressional District seat, Bob Sullivan for Governor, Scott Pruitt for Lt. Governor, Dan Keating for Treasurer, Tahl Willard for Insurance Commissioner, Joe Lester in Senate 36, Chris Medlock in House 69, Tim Harris for Tulsa DA, Brian Kuester for DA of Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, and Adair Counties, Anna Falling for County Commission District 1, and Fred Perry for County Commission District 3.

They also made endorsements in District Court races. In District 14 (Tulsa and Pawnee Counties), they endorsed Tom Thornbrugh for re-election to office 8, Dierdre Dexter for office 10 (held by Gregory Frizzell, who has been nominated to the Federal bench), Jonathan Sutton to office 13, and Dana Kuehn for Tulsa County Associate District Judge.

I was told by someone who participated in the convention that Instant Runoff Voting was used in the process. Local Republicans started using that method for the selection of national convention delegates and alternates at the 1st District Republican Convention in 2000 and again in 2004; it's nice to see the practice spread.

At a time when you get the impression that all the talk about fiscal restraint is only lip service, this should help restore your faith that some of these politicians really mean it. State Rep. Mark Liotta set out two years ago to find a way to boost state spending on roads and bridges without raising taxes. At long last Liotta's plan is expected to pass as part of the budget plan on the agenda for this week's special legislative session:

Two Years of GOP Road Work More Than Doubles Investment to Fix Crumbling Infrastructure OKLAHOMA CITY (June 19, 2006) – A state budget framework agreed to last week will invest more than $3 billion additional dollars to fix Oklahoma’s crumbling roads and bridges over the next decade – a top priority for House GOP leaders this year.

“This is the most significant improvement in road funding in state history,” said Rep. Mark Liotta (R-Tulsa), the House GOP leader who crafted the Oklahoma’s Road to the Future plan. “Over the last quarter century, our state’s investment in roads has remained flat and our roads have suffered. But in just two short years, the new Republican majority in the House has made roads and bridges a top priority.”

Without a tax increase, the state budget agreement announced last week will expand the state’s annual roads budget from $200 million to $470 million each year when fully implemented. County road money will also double, from $85 million to $170 million every year.

“The most significant aspect to this plan is that we did not tie the money to a list of political projects,” said Liotta. “No specific projects are named. We leave those decisions to our state road professionals who know the needs of the system. We have significantly eliminated the politics in road building.”

The funds accelerate a Republican program to improve Oklahoma’s roads first passed last year. And earlier this year, Republican leaders achieved $125 million for emergency bridge repairs across the state. The new money will come on top of an extra $111.8 million provided for road maintenance and bridge repair during the 2005 legislative session.

Under the Republican plan that is part of the state budget accord, the total amount of new road money guaranteed over the next several years will increase from $170 million to at least $270 million. The plan also includes a $70 million annualization of the debt service on bonds that the Department of Transportation has been forced to pay in the past out of maintenance funds.

All fuel tax dollars from gas and diesel currently funneled into the state’s general revenue will be redirected into a new high priority state bridge fund to address critical bridge projects.

“The taxpayers want to know that their fuel tax dollars are being applied to critical road needs. With this plan we are well on our way to achieving that goal,” Liotta concluded.

Fuel taxes going to pay for roads and bridges; no earmarking or "demonstration projects" (aka pork barrel); more money for maintenance; all without a tax increase. Good news all the way around.

How will the Whirled editorial board, a fervent backer of the failed plan to increase the fuel tax, spin this? Look for the following thought in an upcoming editorial: "That's good, but just think what we could accomplish if only we raised taxes."

UPDATE: I sent a question to Rep. Liotta: Doesn't this just
mean less money in the general fund for tax cuts or other spending priorities?

Here's his response:

Of Course! Road funding has been flat for over 25 years. It has literally remained at around $200 million over that period, which means road funding has been cut every single year. Nearly every other area of state spending has received massive increases over the same period. Concrete, rebar and right-of-way all cost more every year. We have not built a road in Oklahoma with appropriated state dollars in years. They have been built either with federal funds matched with toll road credits, or bond issues (a very expensive method). This has endangered our ability to receive federal matching funds and left critical maintenance undone (again, an expensive way to operate). In fact, if we had not increased road funding last year in my sub-committee, we would no longer be eligible for federal matching by 2009. So yes, I am re-establishing roads as a high priority because they have been neglected for so long, and yes, that means less money to waste on nonsense. It's time somebody stood up for roads and bridges. I know it sounds simplistic but, what good are the best schools, hospitals, and businesses if you can't get there?

State your name

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On Friday, I went to the Tulsa County Republican Men's Club luncheon to hear various county, legislative, and judicial candidates introduce themselves. (I attended, but didn't buy lunch, because the meeting is still at the Radisson, which is run by Jon Davidson, who chaired the recall effort against Republican City Councilors Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock.)

Each candidate had two minutes to speak. We heard from most of the candidates for Judicial District 14 (Tulsa and Pawnee Counties), Offices 4 (north Tulsa County and a bit of the City of Tulsa) and 10 (the whole district). We heard from candidates to replace Sen. Scott Pruitt in Senate District 36 and Rep. Fred Perry in House District 69. Nearly all of the candidates for County Commission Districts 1 and 3 were there.

Most of the candidates made the most basic political mistake: They forgot to say who they were and what they were running for. The MC briefly mentioned each candidate by name to call him or her up to the podium, but by the time the candidate had finished speaking, I had forgotten who it was. The judicial candidates were especially bad about this. Lots of pronouns -- I did this, my career, my family -- but no names. The political candidates usually remembered to work in their name and office at least once at the beginning and once at the end of their two minutes.

Another curious omission came from House District 69 candidate Darrell Gwartney. Gwartney mentioned spending most of his career in public school administration, mentioning being an administrator in the Broken Arrow school system, but he never mentioned his lengthy and most recent assignment as superintendent of Catoosa Public Schools, from 1992 to 2003. He was assistant superintendent at Catoosa from 1990 to 1992.

Getting a free ride

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The following statewide and Tulsa-area Democratic candidates are currently without a challenger. The filing deadline is 5 p.m. today.

  • Sandy Garrett, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • Mary Easley, State Senate District 18
  • Lucky Lamons, State House District 66
  • Darrell Gilbert, State House District 72
  • Jabar Shumate, State House District 73

Additionally, Doris Fransein, the District Judge who bizarrely reversed herself on the Tulsa City Council District 5 voting irregularities case, has yet to draw an opponent for her re-election. Unlike appeals court and supreme court judges, who face a yes-or-no retention ballot, district judges face contested elections, so in order to get rid of a district judge, someone has to run against her or him.

Also yet to draw an opponent: Ron Peters, from State House District 70, one of a handful of renegade Republicans who supported the lottery and the expansion of casino gambling, and the sponsor of a number of developer-backed bills intruding on local control of zoning and land use regulation. He hasn't had a challenger since 2000.

Greg Peters, son of Ron, is running for the open District 74 house seat, which covers Owasso and Catoosa, but Greg Peters has drawn a primary opponent, David Derby, and there are three Democrats and an independent in the race.

To my surprise, only one candidate, Weldon Watson, has entered the State House District 79 race, an open seat now held by Chris Hastings, who is leaving because of term limits. That's a very Republican district, so I'm surprised more candidates haven't seized that opportunity. (UPDATE: Deborah Davis, also a Republican, has now filed for that seat.)

Caroline Wall, one of the candidates for Tulsa County Associate District Judge lists, 500 S. Denver Rm 633, as her place of residence. I guess she loves her job -- that is a room in the Tulsa County Courthouse. Seems to me another candidate could contest that declaration of candidacy.

Candidate filing


Here, from the Oklahoma State Election Board, is the list of candidates who have filed for statewide office, Congress, state legislature, district judges, and district attorneys, updated in near-real-time.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Oklahoma Politics category from June 2006.

Oklahoma Politics: May 2006 is the previous archive.

Oklahoma Politics: July 2006 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



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