Would Hofmeister rule like a Democrat? | New

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Joy Hofmeister describes herself as a moderate who can appeal to Republicans in Oklahoma unhappy with the party’s Trumpist turn to the right.

After converting to a Democrat and announcing his candidacy for governor, Hofmeister takes a centrist approach to many key political issues, including abortion rights, taxation and race education in schools.

In an interview with The Frontier on Thursday, the two-term superintendent of public education and longtime former Republican said she was motivated to change parties because she disagreed with many policies of the Governor of Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt.

“It has become very clear to me that I no longer identify with Gov. Stitt’s Republican Party,” she said.

But she insists that she hasn’t changed her beliefs.

While Stitt has said he will sign any anti-abortion bill that crosses her office, Hofmeister said there were limits to the legislation she would approve, even if she said she was pro-life.

“It’s a personal decision and between a woman, her doctor and her faith,” Hofmeister told The Frontier.

Hofmeister criticized the bills signed by Stitt, which the courts later ruled unconstitutional. The bills include two new abortion laws that an Oklahoma County judge struck down this month, banning abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected and declaring the abortion “unprofessional conduct” for the doctors.

Another bill that Stitt approved earlier this year banned certain teachings about race and gender and was prompted by a conservative backlash against critical race theory. Hofmeister said legislation was rushed and state educators were never consulted, making it a “recipe for trouble.”

Hofmeister would not say if she is in favor of raising taxes to increase funding for education and says she is “very tax conservative”. However, she hailed a tax hike in 2018 that funded a pay rise for teachers in the state. Stitt opposed the tax hike when he ran for governor in 2018, despite being enacted by a Republican-controlled legislature and governor.

Stitt made a big problem with the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling McGirt, which ruled that Oklahoma’s Native American reservations were never removed and that the state did not have jurisdiction over any of them. numerous crimes committed on tribal lands. The governor called the decision a disaster and warned that it could lead to further erosion of state sovereignty over taxation and property rights.

Hofmeister did not say whether she agreed with the court ruling, but accused the governor of making it a political issue.

“I think Governor Stitt is using this to create chaos and it’s a politically charged area that divides,” Hofmeister said.

She has vowed to work closely with tribal chiefs if the Oklahomans elect her in the 2022 gubernatorial race.

“This is the perfect example of why he needs to be challenged and why I am running against him,” she said.

‘I believe in the big tent’

Hofmeister’s decision to change political parties allows her to campaign for an entire year before the general election if she wins the Democratic nomination instead of focusing on a Republican primary in June which is expected to attract some of the more conservative voters of the state – a base where Stitt remains popular.

Oklahoma’s political environment is tough for Democrats, but some party members believe Hofmeister might be the right candidate to appeal to moderate Republicans willing to cross party lines.

“I think she’s giving Republicans permission to consider voting for a Democrat,” said Alicia Andrews, president of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

When Andrews heard that Hofmeister was going to change parties, her first question was: “Is she presenting herself as a true Democrat or is she looking for the path of least resistance?”

After speaking with Hofmeister and observing her recent political moves, Andrews is convinced the party change is real, even though she hasn’t ended up embracing a progressive platform like former State Senator Connie Johnson, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination.

“I believe in the big tent, so talking about non-negotiable (positions) is not a language I speak,” Andrews told The Frontier. “That’s what I think is great about this primary, there is absolutely a choice and it’s a clear choice.”

Hofmesiter had the support of 34% of Democrats, compared to just 13% for Johnson in a recent Amber Integrated poll.

The same poll showed Stitt had a 16 point lead over Hofmeister.

As Hofmeister moved to the Democratic Party, Stitt’s campaign highlighted that more Oklahomish people have leaned to the right in recent years.

“Gov. Kevin Stitt is the most popular elected official in the state because he continues to demonstrate that he is a political underdog and that he is focused on making sensible decisions for the next generation and not for the next election, ”a said Stitt campaign manager Donelle Harder. in a report. “If you need more proof that his Oklahoma turnaround is working, more than 100,000 Oklahoma residents have changed their registration to join the Republican Party since Governor Stitt took office, while 80,000 left the Democratic Party. “

Hofmeister kicked off his campaign by claiming that Stitt’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has failed the state and that he has not been a strong advocate for public schools – an issue some Republicans say is enough for them to support a democrat.

“I supported Kevin Stitt but I feel like he was not for public education, like when he claimed private (school) vouchers,” said Jenny Kirkland, mother of three. children in Jenks.

Kirkland, who is a registered Republican, said she realizes that Hofmeister’s move to the Democratic Party could mean she wouldn’t be okay with every political issue she brings up. But she also believes that Hofmeister’s recent status as a Republican will make some Tory voters feel better about supporting her.

“People will feel that connection with her and hopefully relate to her,” Kirkland said. “I’m still a Republican and I’m not changing parties. (Hofmeister) just picks the best platform to run for governor.

Stitt’s campaign responded to Hofmeister’s candidacy by drawing attention to increased funding for schools this year, as well as a pay hike for teachers adopted in his first year in office.

Hofmeister said she hopes voters will consider the candidate rather than the party, as she has done in recent years.

Hofmeister voted for Donald Trump in 2016, but not in 2020, she told The Frontier. In the 2018 gubernatorial race, she voted for Democrat Drew Edmondson, another self-proclaimed moderate.

“I feel like we put moderate Democrats up there every time, but I think Joy is a very unique situation,” said Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa. “I firmly believe that there are a lot of Republicans out there who want an alternative and maybe Joy Flipper gives some Republicans a chance to feel better about supporting a Democrat.”


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