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Split party power possible at top of state gov

Republican Lt. Governor candidate Matt Pinnell

Republican Lt. Governor candidate Matt Pinnell

A close gubernatorial race could result in split party representation at the top of state government for the first time in 12 years.

Multiple polls show a close contest between Republican Kevin Stitt and Democrat Drew Edmondson in the race for governor.

However, the lieutenant governor race is more one-sided with Republican Matt Pinnell holding a 19-point lead over Democrat Sen. Anastasia Pittman, according to pollster Pat McFerron, president of Cole, Hargrave, Snodgrass and Associates, in Oklahoma City.

“The governor and lieutenant governor are kind of tied together, whether you like it or not, and I don't think the governor and lieutenant governor should be swimming in opposite directions,” said Pinnell, who added he believes he could work well with either a Republican or Democratic governor.

In 2002, Democrat Brad Henry was elected Oklahoma governor, and Republican Mary Fallin, the state's current governor, was re-elected to a third term as lieutenant governor.

Fallin is now nearing the end of her second and final term as governor, and Stitt, Edmondson and Libertarian Chris Powell are running to fill her seat.

For the past eight years, Republicans have held a state government trifecta with control of the House, Senate and governor's office.

The state Legislature is largely expected to remain in Republican control, but the election-tracking website Ballotpedia lists Oklahoma as one of 25 vulnerable state trifectas due to the competitive governor's race.

Pittman hopes Edmondson's competitiveness in the gubernatorial race will trickle down to her.

“Oklahoma voters are ready for a change and I think you see that with the support (Edmondson) is getting,” Pittman said.

Oklahoma voters could elect a governor and lieutenant governor from different political parties on the Nov. 6 ballot, but they will also decide a state question that would make the two positions a join ticket, beginning in 2026.

Pinnell, who is a former chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party and has worked for the Republican National Committee, said he supports State Question 798, even though it would not be in effect for another eight years.

Pittman said a joint ticket would save election costs and increase efficiency of state government, but worries it could limit opportunities for women and nonwhite candidates like herself to run for lieutenant governor.

"I haven't made up my mind on that state question yet," Pittman said.

Duties and direction

Oklahoma's lieutenant governor serves as president of the Oklahoma Senate, casting a vote in the event of a tie.

While the lieutenant governor takes over the duties of a governor who is unable to perform the functions of the job or leaves office midterm, the standard duties typically include a focus on business growth in the governor's cabinet and overseeing the state's tourism commission.

Following years of state budget cuts and service reductions, both Edmondson and Stitt are running as change agents who will reinvest in core services and increase government efficiency.

While the two candidates differ on key policy issues, Pinnell said whoever wins will represent a new direction for the state.

"I think I could work with Drew or Kevin," Pinnell said. "I think both of them would put me in a position to succeed as lieutenant governor and both are saying, 'enough is enough, we want to be a better state,' and I can support that.”

If he was elected governor, Edmondson would likely have to work with a GOP-controlled House and Senate that may not be eager to adopt his position of higher taxes and Medicaid expansion.

Pinnell said he wants to focus on bringing more business to Oklahoma and increase the number of startup programs and partnerships across the state.

"We have to have more taxpayers in the state of Oklahoma and I think both Drew and Kevin understand that," Pinnell said. "But Kevin Stitt has built one of the most successful businesses in Oklahoma that I know of and I think that's valuable experience to have as governor."

Pittman said she would work with either Edmondson or Stitt, especially when it comes to improving education.

"I bring institutional knowledge to the table and 12 years of working across the aisle," Pittman said. "We have had eight years of our state declining in rankings in certain things and it's time for us to have more of a balance of power at the Capitol."

Related Photos
<p>Democratic Lt. Governor candidate state Sen. Anastasia Pittman </p>

Democratic Lt. Governor candidate state Sen. Anastasia Pittman 

<figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - Democratic Lt. Governor candidate state Sen. Anastasia Pittman  " title=" Democratic Lt. Governor candidate state Sen. Anastasia Pittman  "><figcaption> Democratic Lt. Governor candidate state Sen. Anastasia Pittman  </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - Republican Lt. Governor candidate Matt Pinnell " title=" Republican Lt. Governor candidate Matt Pinnell "><figcaption> Republican Lt. Governor candidate Matt Pinnell </figcaption></figure>
Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›