DUNCAN — Kevin Stitt, a Republican running for governor, said Tuesday he’s hoping the Legislature would give him more control over the executive branch and that he would populate his administration with outsiders and insiders.
“I’m totally responsible for my company and all of our employees, and I’m ready to be responsible for state government,” the mortgage company CEO told a dozen people at a local restaurant.
Stitt, making his first run for public office, has been pitching his private sector success as the remedy for an executive branch often criticized as being unaccountable because its power is so widely dispersed among boards and commissions.
Stitt noted here that the Legislature voted to give the next governor the authority to hire and fire the head of the state Health Department. A board currently has that power.
“We need more of that,” he said. “The governor’s hands are tied of actually delivering services and fixing it and getting it structured right.”
Mick Cornett, Stitt’s opponent, made the same case in Woodward last week, saying constitutional changes may be necessary to ensure the chief executive has more authority over agencies.
Cornett, 60, and Stitt, 45, finished first and second in the June 26 Republican primary and will face each other in the Aug. 28 runoff for the nomination. Drew Edmondson is the Democratic gubernatorial nominee.
Cornett’s campaign this week began airing its first television ad of the runoff campaign, a 60-second spot that portrays the former Oklahoma City mayor as a conservative with a record of economic success.
Stitt, who toured southwestern Oklahoma towns on Monday and Tuesday, was asked here whom he would hire for his administration.
“I’ll have a combination of a lot of outsiders and people from the private sector … people that are taking off from their careers for a year or two like I am,” he said.
“Because that’s what I think our forefathers envisioned. They never envisioned career politicians. They wanted someone to temporarily leave their farm or business, go serve and then come back.
“But then I know I’ll bring in some insiders, some guys who have actually worked in the House and the Senate and know their way around.”
Stitt said people should take note of what he built in the private sector and as a candidate. The campaign team he assembled defeated candidates in the primary who had been running for office in Oklahoma for 20 years, he said.
Stitt’s wife, Sarah, who has been making more campaign events during the summer break, spoke here and in Chickasha on Tuesday, making the same case as her husband that his business background is sorely needed.
“We’ve tried the other way,” she said. “We’ve tried the career politician, the guys that know the business. But it’s time to bring someone in with a fresh approach and a fresh perspective.”