Mick Cornett swept to victory Tuesday night, overwhelming a spirited challenge by Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid to become Oklahoma City’s first four-term mayor.
Cornett convinced voters that his stewardship of the Oklahoma City renaissance had positioned the city for a bright and prosperous future.
“This is, I think, a very important juncture in Oklahoma City’s history,” Cornett told the crowd at his election night party at the Grill on the Hill in Capitol Hill. “This city has a long, long way to go and we ain't done yet.”
With all 235 precincts reporting, Cornett had 31,495 votes, or 65.7 percent, to 15,739, or 32.8 percent for Shadid. Two other candidates, Phil Hughes and Joe B. Sarge Nelson, drew a combined 1.5 percent.
Speaking at his election night party at Farmers Public Market, Shadid said he was “at peace, because I have given the city of Oklahoma City everything I have — in this chapter, because we are just getting started.”
In his 10 years in the mayor’s suite at City Hall, Cornett has become known as ambassador and marketing director, as cheerleader and consensus-builder, as caretaker and persuader-in-chief.
Leveraging his skills from a career in local television news and sports, Cornett has shared Oklahoma City’s story of transformation — the renaissance that began with passage of the first MAPS initiative in 1993 — with audiences across the nation.
Kate Huston, 32, who voted for Cornett at The Rock Church in southwest Oklahoma City and had voted for him in the past, said the mayor “hasn’t done anything to disappoint.”
“I see the changes that are spreading out from the center of town,” she said. “When downtown benefits, the whole city benefits.”
Lavelle Carbajal, 38, who voted for Cornett at Wildewood Baptist Church in northeast Oklahoma City, said with the benefit of Cornett’s vision the city had set an example for how other communities can better themselves.
“Oklahoma City is about forward movement, about the future,” said Carbajal, a producer with TeamBreakerBox, which describes itself as a global “music+media” social empowerment team.
Carbajal singled out the arrival of the NBA’s Thunder basketball team and the burgeoning entertainment districts along Film Row and in Bricktown as evidence of the city’s success under Cornett.
Robyn Lemon Sellers, 56, attended Shadid’s election night party.
“The more diversity we have in the decision-making process, where we have a lot of different kinds of people coming together and sharing their ideas, I think that is the best way to have democracy,” she said.
“Everybody has a legitimate way of being heard. But it takes real leadership to do that. I feel like Ed Shadid is really genuine about wanting that kind of process to take place,” Sellers said. “Everybody here, win or lose, feels that we have won just because Ed decided to run and raise all these issues.”
Becky Benton, 51, a teacher who also voted for Cornett at The Rock Church on S Pennsylvania Avenue, said she thought it was “neat to see how the city has embraced its own success.”
“I think Mick has done a good job,” Benton said. She said she’s been working concessions at Thunder games to raise money to send her Southmoore High School children on a band trip. Cornett has stopped by to visit with the volunteers, she said.
“That personal touch was meaningful,” Benton said.
A record of leadership
Colleagues on the council give Cornett credit for keeping lines of communication open. He has overseen the second decade of Metropolitan Area Projects — the MAPS capital improvements plan.
Cornett also led the 2009 campaign for MAPS 3, which set the stage for a third decade of taxpayer investment in the city.
He gets credit for persuading the NBA to give Oklahoma City the chance to prove it could be a big-league city. He gained national recognition for taking on obesity. While losing weight himself, he brought along thousands of other residents who collectively shed 1 million pounds.
He’s been a champion for MAPS 3 projects, including the trails, sidewalks and senior health and wellness centers that are to serve seniors throughout the city.
Raised in the Coronado Heights neighborhood in northwest Oklahoma City, Cornett graduated from Putnam City High School before earning a journalism degree at the University of Oklahoma. While mayor, he earned an MBA from New York University.
As a sportscaster in the 1980s, he was instrumental in creating the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, which is honoring him as an inductee this year. Later, he shifted to news.
In 2001, Cornett won a seat from Ward 1 on the city council. Three years later he was elected mayor, succeeding Kirk Humphreys, who resigned to run for the U.S. Senate.
Cornett was re-elected in 2006, winning nearly nine of every 10 votes, then later that year ran for Congress, losing the GOP runoff election to now-Gov. Mary Fallin. He won re-election in 2010 with 58 percent of the vote.
Million dollar election
In campaign finance reports filed before the election, Cornett reported out-raising Shadid almost 2-to-1, as their combined fund-raising topped $1 million.
Ad spending reflected the disparity: Cornett was set to outspend Shadid 4-to-1 on local television. Shadid made a point of not taking money from political action committees, the same stance he took in his 2011 race for the Ward 2 council seat.
Shadid officially opened his campaign with a rally that drew about 600 people to the Farmers Public Market on Aug. 15. During the campaign, he organized town hall meetings on public safety and the MAPS 3 convention center.
Shadid established his themes early, saying in June — when he announced his candidacy with an Internet video — that he planned a campaign “emphasizing honesty, transparency, unprecedented public participation and neighborhood interests over special interests.”
Shadid won the support of police and fire unions. A physician and recovering addict, he said poverty, disease, addiction, and crime take an inordinate toll on the city.
Shadid is leading an initiative drive to call a vote on whether to drop the $252 million convention center from the list of MAPS 3 projects and end the 1-cent MAPS 3 sales tax early. A vote could occur, perhaps this time next year, if supporters gather about 6,000 valid signatures.
“You can win even in loss,” Shadid said. “You can lose the battle and win the war. That's what's happening. There is a movement growing in Oklahoma City. There is dialogue, deliberation and debate ... into how we transition into being a big-league city. There are alternate views that need to be heard.”
Shadid has another year to go in his first term on the council and is expected to continue serving Ward 2.
CONTRIBUTING: GRAHAM BREWER AND KYLE FREDRICKSON, STAFF WRITERS