Hundreds of candidates ranging from well-known incumbents to political newcomers submitted paperwork and paid a fee Wednesday at the state Capitol to run for elective office.
The second-floor rotunda was full of people with declarations of candidacy in hand. And where there are politicians, there often will be people trying to influence them.
Opponents of Common Core academic standards, wearing lime green shirts, collared candidates and handed out literature explaining their views.
A total of 419 candidates filed to run by the time the exercise ended for the day at 5 p.m.
Well-known incumbents, such as Gov. Mary Fallin and Attorney General Scott Pruitt, were among the early filers.
Fallin gave a plug for her efforts to fund the long-stalled American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City. She compared it to MAPS projects that have revitalized the downtown area.
“Certainly it shows the history of our culture, the Native American heritage in our state,” she said. “It’s part of our history. I think we can bring many tourists.”
Fallin, 59, is running for her second and final term as governor. She previously served as lieutenant governor, state representative and U.S. representative.
“I am term-limited so I don’t have any other plans after this,” she said.
Her opponent, Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, also filed his candidacy papers Wednesday.
“We’re in danger of losing almost a dozen hospitals in Oklahoma because Mary Fallin has refused to accept the Medicaid expansion dollars,” he said.
One of the older candidates running for office this year is Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa. He filed for his fourth full term in the U.S. Senate. Inhofe, 79, first won the seat in 1994 to complete the term of David Boren, who resigned to become president of the University of Oklahoma.
Less familiar folks also filed Wednesday, such as Grove rancher Darrel Robertson and Frederick chiropractor Greg Howard.
Robertson who has previously worked in manufacturing and as a professional fisherman, said he’s ready for a new line of employment — politics. He is challenging U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin in the Republican primary.
“Our country is kind of in a mess,” Robertson said. “I voted for Markwayne. He’s got an ambition to be a politician. We don’t need a bunch of politicians. We need business people to go up there and run the country. We need people to go up there with some ideas and write some bills.”
Mullin called himself a citizen legislator.
“I will stand every day against the career politicians and the special interests bureaucrats who want to over-regulate our lives and rob us of our freedom,” he said.
Howard, the chiropractor, is running for state representative in District 63. He said he is on the Oklahoma Board of Chiropractic Examiners and has served on a variety of community boards. He seeks to succeed Rep. Don Armes, who is term-limited.
“Southwest Oklahoma needs good representation just like Don has always been for us,” he said. “I know how to listen. I know how to solve people’s problems and I know how to take that kind of action for a community as well as my patients.”
Candidates for state superintendent of public instruction also were among the early filers.
Republican Superintendent Janet Barresi, who is running for re-election, said she remains committed to implementing education reforms.
“This naturally upsets those who have grown comfortable in the old system and have an aversion to change,” she said. “There is no doubt my perseverance has upset much of the educational establishment.”
Jack Herron, who has served as a superintendent of four Oklahoma school districts, said he would like to see the system of grading schools on an A-F scale abolished and doesn’t like holding children back based on a third-grade reading test. Herron said the state needs its own academic standards that are higher than Common Core.
“I want to turn the state department back into a help-me organization rather than a hammer-me organization,” said Herron, of Edmond.
John Cox, superintendent of Peggs schools, also is seeking the state superintendent post.
“I feel like we’ve been taking it on the chin for the last three years,” Cox said.
“I’m absolutely against the retention process,” he said of the third-grade reading test. “I think that takes local control away from the parent and teacher....I do not support Common Core. What I plan on doing is bringing in teachers in each grade level and each discipline and we will make our own set of objectives and standards that really are Oklahoma made.”
First in line
Max Wolfley, who will challenge Rep. Charlie Joyner, R-Midwest City, in the primary, ensured he was first in line by coming to the state Capitol at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and spending the night outside state offices. Filing began at 8 a.m. Wednesday. Filing continues Thursday and Friday.
“We slept on chairs and brought big coats,” he said. “We’re used to it because the family does Black Friday.”
The forms candidates file consist of personal information such as who is filing, age, political party and which office is being sought. Candidates also are asked to provide information about any criminal background. People convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor involving embezzlement must wait 15 years from the end of their sentence to run for office.
Fee requirements range from $1,500 for those wishing to run for governor to $200 for state representative. Candidates can avoid the fee by submitting petitions with sufficient signatures.
Candidates are filing for more than 300 offices with the state Election Board. Candidates also are filing with county election boards for a variety of other offices.
The primary election is June 24, the runoff is Aug. 26 and the general election is Nov. 4.