Kevin Stitt, Tulsa businessman and Republican gubernatorial candidate, made a stop in Miami, Okla., Wednesday to host an open Town Hall where he shared some of his primary platform goals and took questions from a packed crowd.
MIAMI – Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Stitt's message of being an outsider in politics and touting a home-grown business acumen to make Oklahoma a "Top 10 State" has been seemingly resonating with conservatives and moderates alike.
Stitt made a stop in Ottawa County on Wednesday, addressing the Intertribal Council at their monthly meeting, and visiting the Coleman Theatre before hosting a very well attended open Town Hall at the Miami Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Stitt secured his place on the Republican ticket as the party's candidate for Oklahoma governor by first beating out four Republican opponents, including current Lt. Governor Todd Lamb in the June primary. He then moved on to go head-to-head with former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett to come out on top as the Republican select in the August runoff following a very contentious secondary primary race.
Stitt will now face Democrat Drew Edmondson and Libertarian Chris Powell on Nov. 6, 2018.
From the beginning of his campaign, Stitt has maintained that he breaks the mold of those running for public office in Oklahoma.
“We need an outsider and a fresh approach to turn our state around,” said Stitt during a campaign visit to Ottawa County in March.
During his most recent visit, Stitt again emphasized his role as a political outsider and recapped his leadership plan, which encompasses a five-part approach he says he has used to grow and prosper Gateway Mortgage, his Tulsa-based real estate firm with national reach.
Stitt's "Five Pillars" plan for the state is categorized as prioritizing economic prosperity, reforming the education system, improving infrastructure, fostering a healthy Oklahoma, and common sense efficiency.
At the packed Town Hall meeting Wednesday, Stitt again emphasized that his primary motivation in getting into the gubernatorial race was about flipping the script on what he frames as "politics as usual".
"I really started digging into who was going to be our next governor...I really started looking at all of their resumes and I realized it was the same resumes as the last administration, and the administration before that," said Stitt. "And I didn't think anything was going to change if we kept electing political elites, so that's why I did it. I took off from my company, I said, 'I want to go make a difference in my state' and focus on the next generation, not the next election."
Stitt, a fourth-generation Oklahoman, raised in Norman classifies himself as a proud conservative whose local ties come in through relationships with the Owens family, having grown up with the children of former Miamian Tinker Owens.
Stitt has also garnered the full support of State Senator Micheal Bergstrom (R-Adair), a former Bluejacket teacher who was elected in 2016 from District 1, which encompasses Craig County, Delaware County, Mayes County and Ottawa County.
"I have been talking to Kevin for about six months now. Getting to know him and talking about the issues and his vision and I've come to the conclusion that this is someone who is a consensus builder. This is someone who wants to represent and do the best he can for all Oklahomans and is willing to work hard and work with the legislature to pull that off," said Bergstrom. "Because of that, I have bought into his vision and I happily endorse him and want to see him become our next governor."
When Stitt opened the floor for questions, attendees were primarily focused on the issues of economic development and education in the state.
Stitt credits his business success with providing him with the skills needed to help steer Oklahoma toward economic growth and added that part of improving education in the state meant revisiting and revising how schools are supported by allowing districts to have more control over how allocated funding is utilized.
He added that his goals for education were designed around providing sustainable solutions and not temporary fixes, and spoke to creating pathways to serve the broader needs of Oklahoma students by preparing them for the workforce. One emphasis being to improve the collaboration between colleges, career techs and K through 12 schools.
"I need your help talking to the teaching community and education community because my vision is to be top 10 in education and it's to really focus on getting our kids ready for the workforce," said Stitt.
"When I first got in the race, I was shocked that we didn't pay teachers in Oklahoma what they do in the states around us. I think that's a basic. We have to pay competitive wages...but that's just one lever," he added.
View Wednesday's Town Hall meeting in its entirety here on www.MiamiOK.com, on Facebook @miamioknews, or the Miami News-Record YouTube channel.
To learn more about Stitt and his conservative Republican platform, connect with his campaign at www.stittforgovernor.com.
Dorothy Ballard is the managing news editor of the Miami News-Record. Email her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @dm_ballard.