Kevin Stitt rallied volunteers at his Oklahoma City campaign office on Friday, urging them to get voters to the polls because the Republican gubernatorial primary race is tight.
“I’m super excited to see what the Lord does on Tuesday,” the Tulsa businessman said. “I feel like a kid that’s about 8 years old anticipating the best Christmas ever ’cause we have been working our tail off, and I know you guys have too.”
Stitt, 45, the CEO of Gateway Mortgage Group, is running an outsider race to succeed Gov. Mary Fallin, who must step aside because of term limits.
“Oklahoma’s turnaround is about to start,” Stitt said Friday. “I’m going to shine a light on the darkness of politics. It is not going to be any self-dealing. We’re going to bring transparency and accountability. And I’m going to run state government like a business because that’s what it’s about.”
Since the start of his campaign last summer, Stitt has spent over $3.8 million, more than twice the amount spent by rival Mick Cornett. Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb has spent about $3 million on his campaign for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
The cash and the appeal of an outsider have propelled Stitt into the top tier with Lamb and Cornett, the former mayor of Oklahoma City.
“The race right now is super, super tight,” Stitt told his volunteers on Friday. “The polling shows us actually taking a little bit of a lead. But the margin of error … . It’s a horse race right now.”
Six Republicans — Stitt, Lamb, Cornett, Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones, Yukon pastor Dan Fisher and Tulsa attorney Gary Richardson — have been campaigning since last year. Four others filed in April.
The crowded field all but assures a runoff on Aug. 28 between the top two finishers.
Stitt’s final tour before Tuesday’s primaries will include knocking doors in Tulsa on Saturday and stops in the Panhandle, Enid and Owasso.
Stitt is planning to vote in Tulsa and, according to a Tulsa World story this week, that will be the first time he has voted in a Republican gubernatorial race since at least 1999, as far back as records go.
Stitt’s general lack of experience was in evidence on Friday when he told supporters that the election on Tuesday would “turn over a $22 billion budget to the next governor.”
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Stitt left out some steps in the transition to a new governor, specifically a runoff primary in August, a general election in November and an inauguration in January.
In his closing television ad, Stitt, facing the camera, says, “If you like where Oklahoma’s headed, then take your pick between the career politicians. and things will stay the same. But if you’ve had enough of wasted tax dollars and letting our students down, we can go a different direction.”
Stitt’s candidacy has proved most troublesome for Lamb, since the lieutenant governor has been at the Capitol for the last few years of budget chaos, however remote he may have been. He has tried to walk a line between distancing himself from policy and reminding voters that he has the experience to steer a troubled ship.
Stitt told his volunteers on Friday that he doesn’t have all the answers.
“But I’m a much better chief executive today than when I started my company with $1,000 and a computer.”