Rinehart defeated in county commissioner race

Tuesday, July 29th 2008, 10:45 pm
By: News 9

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY -- After being denounced for mailing out a crude campaign comic book and trounced in his Republican primary, Oklahoma County Commissioner Brent Rinehart now can move on to his next battle -- in district court.

Rinehart is scheduled to appear at an Oklahoma County District Court hearing on Thursday in connection with several felony campaign corruption charges he's facing in connection with his previous campaign.

On Tuesday, Rinehart was tossed out of office by voters in his district, finishing third in a three-way primary with 1,900 votes, or 21 percent.

"I've been battling and battling for many years, and I believe even though I still had some fight left in me, I don't believe the public had it left in them," Rinehart said Tuesday night. "I don't in any way blame them."

Brian Maughan, 31, a political consultant and former county employee, garnered 4,238 votes, or 47 percent. Former Bethany Mayor J.D. Johnston had 2,808 votes, or 32 percent, enough to force an Aug. 26 runoff election with Maughan.

The winner of that runoff will face Harrah Democrat Jim Dickinson, who captured 54 percent of the vote in a three-way Democratic primary.

Rinehart came under fire earlier this month when he mailed a 16-page cartoon book as part of his re-election campaign that makes fun of gays and criticizes his political opponents. The book featured an angel who supports Rinehart and Satan, who supports his critics. It also included a gay man in a toga chasing a Boy Scout.

Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel, one of the targets in Rinehart's book, called the campaign piece "extremely pathetic and very bigoted."

Keith Gaddie, a University of Oklahoma political science professor, called the book "one of the strangest things" he'd ever seen.

Despite the criticism, Rinehart defended the comic book Tuesday night.

"Even though the way the message was delivered might not have been accepted by many groups or many people, it doesn't mean the information wasn't true," he said. "I'm probably the first candidate who has been above board in my campaigns and in the stances that I take. I can understand how some of the public probably might not be used to that."

Rinehart is set for trial in September on several felony campaign corruption charges. He is accused of circumventing state campaign finance laws by having donors give money to a political action committee formed by his campaign manager, promising those funds would be used in his quest to be elected county commissioner in 2004.

Rinehart's campaign manager, Tim Pope, and a political donor, Walter Ray Pelfrey, also face felony charges in the alleged scheme.