A sitting Oklahoma County District Judge will face an Oklahoma City attorney in an election for the seat, the state’s election board ruled Monday.
District Judge Donald Deason challenged the candidacy of Orenthel Denson, citing a state statute that requires a hearing showing good faith of the challenger if their name is similar to the incumbent.
The Election Board decided unanimously that their names were not similar enough to warrant such a preliminary hearing.
Deason’s attorney called five witnesses, including two other Oklahoma County judges and three attorneys.
Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish testified that during a conversation with Denson, he stated that he was challenging Deason for three reasons: Deason had not formed a re-election committee, had not raised money for a race and that their last names were similar enough that Denson might draw some votes from the confusion.
Oklahoma County Special Judge Lisa Hammond recounted a conversation with Denson prior to him filing for the race. Though he did not specifically say that he was running for the seat due to the name similarities, his demeanor and smile when asked indicated that was indeed a reason, she testified.
“It was clear to me and whoever else was in that room that he was running because their names were similar,” said attorney Greg McCracken, who was a party to the conversation with Hammond and another attorney.
Denson called no witnesses and represented himself at the hearing.
“The names speak for themselves,” Denson said. “They’re spelled differently. Pronounced differently.”
Denson also said that his campaign materials will include his first name, which is uncommon and cannot be confused with Deason’s first name.
“I think that our voters are wise, that our voters are intelligent and that they can tell the names apart,” Denson said. “My intent is to serve the people of Oklahoma in an honorable way.”
Also on Monday, a challenge by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman resulted in the candidate being stricken from the ballot.
Joe Sills had pleaded guilty to a felony charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in April 2000. Dorman provided Cleveland County court records, and the board struck Sills from the ballot.
A second challenge by Dorman against independent gubernatorial candidate Kimberly Willis was withdrawn by Dorman on Thursday.