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Young candidate calls election 'humbling'

By Julie Bisbee Modified: April 4, 2008 at 4:50 pm •  Published: April 4, 2008
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MUSKOGEE — While his classmates were recounting their spring break trips, tuning up their pickups or making plans for the weekend, John Tyler Hammons was campaigning to be mayor of his hometown.

So far, that campaign has been a success. Hammons, a freshman at the University of Oklahoma, was the top vote getter in the mayor's race Tuesday.

He faces May 13 runoff against a 70-year-old veteran politician who has been working in the community longer than Hammons has been alive.

When Hammons was one of six people vying for the mayor's spot in Muskogee, he was the novelty candidate.

Now that he was the top vote-getter, the reality of a 19-year-old leading one of Oklahoma's larger cities could come true. But he's not the first teenager to hold a city's highest office.

In 1994, an 18-year-old was elected to Tishomingo's city council and later named mayor.

In 2005, a Michigan high school senior unseated an incumbent as a write-in candidate.

It happened in Tishomingo
In 1994, Dustin Rowe was elected to the Tishomingo City Council 11 days after his 18th birthday. Rowe was later named mayor as a high school senior and still may hold the distinction of being Oklahoma's youngest mayor.

No one really keeps track for sure. But in Oklahoma, people must be 18 to hold public office.

"Even to this day, I'm still referred to as the young mayor,” said Rowe, 32, who is now an attorney in Tishomingo and a special judge for the Chickasaw Nation. "I never thought it would stick with me to this day.”

More recently, an 18-year-old high school senior unseated an incumbent mayor as a write-in candidate in Hillsdale, Mich., a community of about 8,200. Michael Sessions, 20, now a college junior, is in his third year as mayor. His advice:

"Keep on knocking on doors. I won by two votes.

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Runoff set
The office of Muskogee mayor will be decided in a May 13 runoff election. The candidates are John Tyler Hammons, 19; and former Muskogee Mayor Hershel McBride, 70.

Other vote
Two city council seats will also be decided in runoffs that day. Candidates for Ward 2 are Frank C. Borovetz Jr. and Charles Shawn Raper. The Ward 4 runoff foes are Jackie DeWayne Luckey and Barry Alexander Rader III.

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