Republican primary to decide Oklahoma regulators

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 22, 2014 at 9:37 am •  Published: June 22, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Republicans who head to the polls for next week's primary election will choose Oklahoma's next regulators of both the insurance industry and a wide range of other businesses overseen by the three-member Oklahoma Corporation Commission, including the important oil and gas sector.

Term-limited state Sen. Cliff Branan of Oklahoma City and former Oklahoma House Speaker Todd Hiett of Kellyville square off in a winner-take-all Republican primary in the race for a six-year term on the commission, which oversees oil and gas production, public utilities, pipelines, trucking and railroads, among others. Both are seeking to replace Republican Commissioner Patrice Douglas, who is running for Congress.

Another statewide officeholder who will be determined in next Tuesday's election is Oklahoma's insurance commissioner. Republican incumbent John Doak of Tulsa, who rode a tea party wave to oust a Democratic incumbent in 2010, faces a primary challenge from Bill Viner, a longtime insurance examiner with more than 30 years in the industry.

No Democrats or independents are running either for the corporation commission or as insurance commissioner.

Viner, of Moore, said he's campaigning on a promise to reduce insurance rates, and he criticized Doak for accepting campaign funds from companies regulated by the department.

"I don't see how you can take money from the companies you regulate, and do it fairly," said Viner, 61.

Oklahoma has no prohibition on contributions from donors from regulated entities, and Doak said all of his contributions are legitimate.

"It's part of our election process for folks to contribute and support folks they believe in," said Doak, 51.

Doak reported total contributions of about $500,000. Among his last-minute donations were $5,000 from the president of Falcon Insurance and $4,750 from a political action committee with ties to the insurance industry. Viner said he intended to use about $20,000 of his own money to buy radio ads as part of a final campaign blitz before Tuesday's vote.

Doak touted his visits to all of the state's 77 counties during his first four-year term and his efforts to ensure that victims of severe weather like last year's Moore tornado were fairly compensated from insurers for losses.

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