NEWS

Osage County voters go to polls

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital
Osage County voters go to polls

City voters endorsed five-year extensions of a pair of beneficial sales tax assessments and a highly contentious race for Osage County Commissioner went down to the wire — and beyond — during general elections Tuesday.

The race for District One County Commissioner had Pawhuska Republican Randall Jones as the apparent victor in his quest to unseat Democratic incumbent Bob Jackson of Grainola.

With all the District One precincts reported in, Jones was prevailing by a slim 31-vote margin — with a 1,591-ballot count compared to 1,560 for Jackson. But final tallies taken from the voting machines resulted in a reversal and gave the race (unofficially) to Jackson by 45 votes, 1,789 to 1,744.

Jones lost to Jackson by 700 votes in the 2010 commission race when nearly 4,800 total votes were cast. He also had been unsuccessful in previous campaigns against Jackson’s predecessor (and Jones’ former boss), the late Clarence Brantley.

The District Three Commissioner’s race also remained close until the end before Democratic incumbent Darren McKinney of Fairfax gained re-election to a four-year term by defeating two-time challenger John Blackney, a Skiatook Republican. McKinney received 1,953 votes to 1,733 for Blackney.

McKinney was initially voted into the office in early 2013 to complete the unexpired term of Osage Democrat Jim Clark, who had resigned due to health. Blackney lost that race to McKinney after both candidates had won three-person primaries.

Another contest saw incumbent Gail Hedgcoth, a Pawhuska Democrat, earn a seventh term as Osage County Assessor by fending off a challenge from Hominy Republican Raymond Leach. Unofficial final totals showed 6,169 votes for Hedgcoth and 4,992 for Leach.

District Judge John Kane of Pawhuska was the overwhelmingly choice over Skiatook attorney Phil Best and will continue to serve as the magistrate for District 10. Kane, who has held the Osage County’s top seat on the bench since 2005, received 6,782 votes compared to 2,130 for his opponent.

In another repeat matchup from four years ago, incumbent District 36 state Rep. Sean Roberts of Hominy defeated Democrat Jim Massey of Sperry to earn his second term in the Oklahoma House. Roberts, a Republican, received 4,222 Osage County votes while Massey had 2,225.

The Pawhuska sales tax propositions gained approval by margins of approximately 65 to 70 percent and will continue needed funding support for civic improvements. The twin ordinances provide for renewal of a three quarters of one percent assessment to be used for the construction and repair of city streets and sidewalks, as well as on local water and sewer improvement projects.

Initially enacted in 1984, the tax assessment has now been extended six times. The second sales tax proposition designates one quarter of one percent to be used for the city’s Economic Development Program. That tax has been in effect locally since 1989.

In addition to the passing the sales tax issues, city voters also granted approval for two minor amendments to the Pawhuska City Charter. The amendments were approved 561-88 and 568-76. One will adjust the filing period for Pawhuska City Council candidates to coincide with those of local school elections and the other changes the starting time for the meetings at which newly-elected council members are sworn in. State officials recommended the changes to reduce costs and streamline the election process.

Several incumbent office-holders from the area did not draw challenges in their election bids.

Sally Hulse won an uncontested four-year term as Osage County Treasurer, the post she has held since being appointed to succeed Joyce Hathcoat, who retired in June 2013 after serving 30 years.

Associate District Judge B. David Gambill of Pawhuska was not challenged for his position at the Osage County Courthouse. District Attorney Rex Duncan likewise drew no opposition for a second full term as the chief legal official of Osage and Pawnee counties.

District 10 state Sen. Eddie Fields of Wynona will return to office without being challenged for his second term.

State races in this year’s general elections had Republican Gov. Mary Fallin battling in her bid for re-election against term-limited Democratic state representative Joe Dorman of Rush Springs, as well as two Independent candidates. Also, incumbent, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, a Republicab, was facing Democratic challenger Cathy Cummings.

In the race to find a new Superintendent of Public Instruction, Republican Joy Hofmeister and John Cox, a Democrat. Hofmeister, a Tulsan, knocked off one-term incumbent Janet Barresi in the April primary. Incumbent Labor Commissioner Mark Costello, a Republican, challenge from Democrat Mike Workman.

All eight state judges on the ballot also were retained.

Three state questions easily gained approval. One calls for an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution that will insure office-holders permission to simultaneously serve in military positions with the National Guard or U.S. Reserves. The second will provide for homestead exemption benefits to certain qualifying disabled veterans, and the third calls for a constitutional amendment which gives homestead exemptions to surviving spouses of military personnel who have died in the line of duty.

Oklahoma’s U.S. Senate positions and four of the five congressional seats saw Republican U.S. Congressman James Lankford of Edmond elected to the Senate seat being vacated by Tom Coburn.

Incumbent senior Sen. Jim Inhofe was elected to his fourth six-year term in the upper house after serving four full stints as a U.S. Representative. The 79-year-old Tulsa Republican defeated the Democratic primary winner, Matt Silverstein of Bixby, and three independent candidates.

U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, a Republican from Cheyenne, earned his ninth term in Congress when he was re-elected to represent Oklahoma’s expansive Third District — which includes Osage County and all or part covers the middle of the state and all the way to its western border.