Public schools superintendent Joy Hofmeister will run for governor in 2022 as a Democrat, multiple sources confirmed to The Oklahoman.
Hofmeister, of Tulsa, is expected to announce his campaign against Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday.
Stitt, a Republican from Tulsa, won the 2018 election and began raising money for his re-election.
Hofmeister, 57, is still listed in the state’s online electoral registers as a Republican. She can no longer run for the post of state superintendent as she will reach the limit of her term in 2023.
Hofmeister did not return the Oklahoman’s requests for comment. She confirmed to Tulsa World that she was running for governorship as a Democrat, saying Stitt had “hijacked the Republican Party from Oklahoma.”
“Governor Stitt is driving the state into the ground,” Hofmeister told Le Monde. “Through extremism, partisanship, ineffective leadership, it harms our education system, our health care, our infrastructure.
Trent Smith, a member of the Oklahoma State Board of Education, confirmed that Hofmeister contacted him on Wednesday evening to inform him of his candidacy for governor.
“Yeah, Joy called me tonight,” Smith said. “She told me that she was going to run for governor and that she was running as a Democrat.”
Smith said Hofmeister is committed to keeping politics out of Education Council meetings and reaffirmed his commitment to Oklahoma students.
Two other state officials, who asked not to be named, said they also received personal calls from Hofmeister informing them that she would run for governor as a Democrat.
A source close to the Oklahoma Democratic Party has confirmed that Hofmeister intends to run as a Democrat.
Hofmeister increasingly outspoken in criticism of Stitt
Hofmeister has become an increasingly vocal critic of Stitt, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. She and the governor have repeatedly disagreed over COVID-19 protocols, including mask warrants in public schools.
Hofmeister has been a strong supporter of mask mandates while Stitt signed legislation blocking such requirements in schools.
The conflict between the two came to a head on September 16 when the governor requested an investigative audit of the Oklahoma Department of Education.
Hofmeister said the audit is “another attack on Oklahoma’s public education system.”
“At a time when we have called for serious audits that potentially involve criminal activity, and when 541 school districts struggle to find normality during a pandemic, the governor’s attack on public education could not be a worst time for students, families, teachers and taxpayers, ”she said in a statement on September 16.
Oklahoma has reached an all-time high in education funding with $ 3.2 billion spent on public schools. However, the state still lags its surrounding neighbors in per-student funding.
“Under Governor Kevin Stitt’s leadership, the state increased funding for public education to historic levels and enacted yet another increase in teacher salaries while cutting taxes and creating the world’s largest savings account state, “Donelle Harder, Stitt’s campaign manager, said in a statement. “After decades of politicians leaving us in last place, Stitt has already proven himself in moving Oklahoma to the Top Ten in critical categories while protecting our freedoms and core values.”
Republicans Ervin Yen and Mark Sherwood, Democrat Connie Johnson and libertarian Natalie Bruno have also launched 2022 governor campaigns.
Political consultant Emily Lang said Hofmeister would be a formidable electoral opponent.
Hofmeister received more than 42,000 more votes than Stitt in the last election cycle, said Lang, a staff member of Democratic candidate Drew Edmondson’s 2018 campaign against the current governor.
“Joy Hofmeister has always stood up for the children and families of Oklahoma,” Lang said. “These are values she shares with Democrats, and I think she would be welcomed into the party with open arms.”
She garnered more than 687,400 votes in the 2018 general election for state superintendent. Stitt won over 644,500 votes in his general election victory.
Hofmeister first elected to public office in 2014
Hofmeister was first elected in 2014 when she defeated outgoing superintendent Janet Barresi in the Republican primaries and Democrat John Cox in the general election.
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She again defeated Cox in the 2018 general election by nearly 300,000 votes.
Hofmeister was charged in a criminal case of campaign and conspiracy violations in 2016, stemming from her 2014 campaign.
The case against Hofmeister and four others was dropped in 2017.
“I knew I was innocent and behaved appropriately, and I’m happy that day has come,” Hofmeister said at the time.
Reporters Chris Casteel and Nolan Clay contributed to this report.
Journalist Nuria Martinez-Keel covers Kindergarten to Grade 12 and higher education throughout the state of Oklahoma. Do you have a story idea for Nuria? She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @NuriaMKeel. Support the work of Nuria and that of fellow Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at subscribe.oklahoman.com.