Political candidates like to talk, which is what made Tuesday’s Republican Women’s Club of Tulsa County appearance such a challenge for five gubernatorial candidates.
The five were limited to one-minute openings and responses to a series of a questions, plus two-minute closings. One candidate later likened the format to speed-dating, but it forced the five to condense their grand plans to simple sentences.
They agreed a lot — they are, after all, members of the same party — but diverged some when asked about the state’s most pressing problem beside the budget.
Mortgage broker Kevin Stitt said the state lacks vision. Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, who has cited vision in the past, said “education, education, education.”
Attorney Gary Richardson agreed but then turned to a familiar topic for him. Turnpikes, he said, “are like a cancer” and “Exhibit A for corruption.”
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett named jobs and low standards for health and education. State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones, after eight years in state government, said it is gridlock.
“We’re still looking at the same problems we’ve been looking at the last 10 years,” Jones said.
GOP voters have a lot to sort out by late June, when those five candidates plus former state Rep. Dan Fisher, who didn’t participate in Tuesday’s event, will be on the primary ballot.
Jones touts himself as the candidate who will “stand up and tell the truth,” even when his audience doesn’t want to hear it, and as the one who has been in a position, as auditor and inspector, to see what needs to be done to fix government.
Cornett noted that he has made “more than 200 national television appearances” as Oklahoma City mayor and said, “We need a governor who can stand up and defend this state.”
“I want to implore you not to give up on us,” Cornett said. “We have some incredible opportunities ahead.”
Richardson explained why he opposes business incentives.
“It’s kind of like the man looking for a wife,” he said. “If he has to pay her to come, it’s probably a big mistake. … We need to clean up our state. Again, it’s like a man looking for a wife. Brush his teeth, comb his hair, dress nice.”
Stitt said his lack of experience in government is a bonus, while Lamb took the opposite approach.
“I’m tired of always being in last place,” Stitt said. “I don’t think the guys that got us into this are the ones who will get us out.”
Lamb said detailed planning is the trick and that he is uniquely qualified in that area, both as someone with more than a decade in state government and before that as a Secret Service agent.
“As a dad and in the future as a granddad, I don’t want to be visiting my kids and grandkids in another state,” he said.
Several of the candidates were scheduled to speak later Tuesday at Brookside Baptist Church, 3615 S. Peoria Ave. This story will be updated after that event.