Amy Lester, The Oklahoma Impact Team
OKLAHOMA CITY -- You may have noticed there were four journalists on the panel questioning gubernatorial candidates Thursday night in Tulsa. Originally the chamber planned to have five. The fifth one was one of ours. That's until the reporter we suggested was rejected, and it's unclear who made the call: The chamber or one of the campaigns.
Originally, the Tulsa Metro Chamber invited one of our reporters, Emory Bryan to ask questions on the panel. But when he initially had a scheduling conflict, we suggested Ashli Sims, instead. We were told that substitute was not allowed.
Ashli Sims has been busy lately covering politics and doing truth tests. So it made sense to us, for her to question the candidates in Emory's place. The Vice President of Communications for the Tulsa Metro Chamber told us on the phone the campaigns actually said no to the switch, but did not give a reason.
It made us wonder why they would not allow Ashli on the panel. Are they afraid of something?
Jari Askins campaign manager, Sid Hudson, had no problem with Ashli. She was on a list of panelists they approved.
"From my standpoint, I was always of the opinion that whomever the entities were proposing would be okay with me. I never objected to anybody," Hudson said.
Mary Fallin's communications director, Alex Weintz, told us he could not confirm or deny whether they declined Ashli's participation.
"There's a negotiation process with the Askins campaign, the Fallin campaign, and the Tulsa Chamber about the format of the debate and those negotiations are confidential," Weintz said.
There was another complication. After first telling The Oklahoma Impact Team the campaigns rejected Ashli, the Chamber spokesperson changed her story and said she was the one who decided not to accept panel substitutions.