Republicans Work To Oust Own Party Members In Primary Election

Friday, October 5th 2018, 6:43 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

The Oklahoma legislature is absent a handful of Republican incumbents.  They lost their re-election bids after voting against tax increases to fund teacher pay raises.

Teachers have gotten much of the credit for ousting them. But it turns out, their own party members turned against them while they were targeted by an out of state PAC with local ties.

Republican members of the so called “Platform Caucus” voted against house bill 1010XX, the tax increase that paid for teacher raises, and they paid for that decision at the polls. 

The associated press was first to report Republican Representative Chris Kannady (R) Assistant Majority Floor Leader had conversations to oust his ultra conservative republican counterparts. 

He wouldn’t say who he had those conversations with and refused to answer our questions on camera, but said the platform caucus drew first blood, and in a statement said,  “I’m a Marine, so it should not have surprised them that I supported most of their opponents after being provoked.”

Kannady also stressed, leadership didn’t know what he was doing, and GOP house leaders say that’s true. 

"A couple days before the election I did become aware that there was a group inside the caucus that were targeting some races at other republicans inside the caucus." Said Representative Jon Echols (R) Majority Floor Leader.

Representative George Fought (R) Muskogee, one of the republicans ousted in the primaries, said “I don’t know how leadership couldn’t know about it.”

Echols won’t say whether Kannedy will be disciplined. 

“This fight had been going on for a while and it had been going on both sides. Both sides felt attacked by the other side.  It's not necessarily the way I would go about doing things I'd never want to see republicans fighting against each other." Echols said.

An out of state dark money group called the Conservative Alliance PAC also worked to oust incumbent Platform Caucus members.  Although it’s impossible to track all donations to dark money PACS, records show one of it’s top 10 vendors was Advocacy Insights, a print company run by political strategist Trebor Worthen. 

Worthen is a former partner with A.H. Strategies which managed Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hoffmeister’s campaign when she was accused in an illegal fundraising scheme.  He says his company’s only connection to the Conservative Alliance PAC is that it made fliers slamming Platform Caucus Member Representative Mike Ritz (R) Broken Arrow, who lost in the primaries.

Echols says he’s ready for the November elections, and what he hopes is an end to republican infighting. 

"I think what's important at this phase though, we're past that, we've gone through the election cycle.” Echols said, “It’s time for the caucus to come back together and work for the good of the entire state of Oklahoma."