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Stitt supporters see positive similarities with Trump

In a year when Democrats nationwide are hoping President Donald Trump's unpopularity with women will provide a midterm election boost, some of Kevin Stitt's female supporters say they see positive similarities to the president, but don't view the Republican gubernatorial candidate as a complete Trump replica.

“Trump is an outsider, and Stitt is an outsider,” said Kathryn Kitchen, a Stitt supporter from Oklahoma City.

Trump ran for president promising to shake up Washington, pointing to his lack of government experience as a positive.

Stitt has a similar platform, saying his career as a business owner is what Oklahoma needs, rather than "another career politician."

Kitchen said she likes the business management approach Trump has brought to the White House and believes Stitt would be similar.

Catherine Oster, a Stitt supporter from Nichols Hills, agrees. But like Kitchen, she sees differences between Trump and Stitt.

“Stitt is not a Trump copycat," Oster said. "They are both similar in that they are not career politicians. They are both similar in that they have run successful businesses. But Stitt is not a celebrity. I find him more approachable and more real. He comes from humble roots."

As it is on the national stage, Oklahoma's female vote could be critical in deciding a closely contested gubernatorial race between Stitt and Democrat Drew Edmondson.

Following years of school budget cuts under Republican leadership, some traditionally Republican female voters have expressed support for Edmondson, raising the possibility that Stitt may not perform as strong with this demographic as past Republican candidates.

Multiple national polls have shown a growing gender gap, with women more likely to support Democratic congressional candidates and disapprove of Trump's performance.

But Trump remains popular with other large voting blocs in Oklahoma, including Republicans and evangelicals.

The Edmondson campaign hasn't spent much time trying to link Stitt with Trump, and national issues are not dominating Oklahoma's gubernatorial race.

Instead, education funding has been one of the biggest campaign topics.

"This is the giant we have to overcome," said Sarah Stitt, Kevin's wife, speaking about education with voters in Oklahoma City on Wednesday.

She said there is a misconception that Stitt doesn't have an education plan just because he doesn't want to raise taxes.

Oklahoma teachers staged a two-week walkout in April over more funding, attempting to push the state Legislature to raise taxes to put more money in public schools.

Edmondson has said he would seek to raise taxes on oil and gas production, cigarettes and eliminate the capital gains tax deduction to put more money into state services, including education.

It's a plan that has gained some support among education-centric voters who believe additional revenue is necessary to increase school spending.

Sarah Stitt says her husband, Trump differ on style

But Sarah Stitt said her husband has a plan to increase education spending through a more efficient budget and a growing tax base.

“Kevin's plan for education … is to be top 10 in the nation, and that means top 10 in classroom outcomes and funding structure," she said. “There is no way you can't be for education and want to be top 10.”

While the campaign is focused on state issues, it did welcome a visit this month from Vice President Mike Pence.

“What Trump has done in the White House, Stitt will do in the statehouse,” Pence said at a rally in Tulsa.

The rally showed Trump continues to have energetic support among some voters in Oklahoma, making a Stitt and Trump comparison an effective strategy.

But Sarah Stitt said Trump and her husgand and different styles when it comes to leadership.

"I think a lot of people early on say, 'Oh, you are like Trump,' which is a great compliment when you think about it, but also Kevin is his own independent person," she told The Oklahoman. "(Kevin) respects everyone and that's what I think makes a great leader. You can do things on your own and you can get things done, but if you really want to lead people well you have to acknowledge that everybody has to have a seat at the table.

"You have to take advice from other people. You can't think you are the top dog, smartest person in the room. And I think that's what separates Kevin a little bit. He listens and he ... looks at other people's opinions and positions in order to get to where he needs to go. It's not just about his agenda and where he wants to go."

Related Photos
President Trump and Kevin Stitt [File photos]

President Trump and Kevin Stitt [File photos]

<figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - President Trump and Kevin Stitt [File photos]" title="President Trump and Kevin Stitt [File photos]"><figcaption>President Trump and Kevin Stitt [File photos]</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 ›