After a lifelong Republican leader announced plans to run for governor as a democrat political analyst Scott Mitchell said it signals a larger trend within the GOP.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister is planning to switch parties and challenge Gov. Kevin Stitt.
She feels the move is necessary because of a growing extremist movement within the GOP, she said Thursday.
“We’ve had too much focus on extremism and partisanship, and ineffective leadership, frankly. I am going to be working to engage Oklahomans, and listen to experts,” Hofmeister said.
Hofmeister criticized Stitt’s leadership during the pandemic and throughout his term.
Stitt’s campaign responded saying the governor has funded education and lowered taxes.
“Under Governor Kevin Stitt’s leadership, the State has increased its funding of public education to historic highs and enacted another teacher pay raise all while lowering taxes and building the State’s largest savings account,” according to a statement from the campaign.
Sooner Poll results show Stitt’s favorability dropping over the course of his term, from 66% in August of 2019 to 47% in July of this year.
Sooner Poll analyst Bill Shapard said this suggests the pandemic took a toll on his approval rating.
The announcement raises questions about how voters will respond to the flip.
Shapard said to expect an uphill battle for Hofmeister to win Republican votes as the campaign unfolds, even as Hofmeister says she hasn’t changed her values.
“It was Reagen-esque, frankly. Ronald Reagan used to say, I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me. Joy Hofmeister basically said the same sort of thing,” Mitchell said.
The Oklahoma Democratic Party welcomed Hofmeister into their primary race.
Chair Alicia Andrews said the move signals a break from right-wing ideology.
"Oklahoma has been subjected to an extreme right-wing ideology for too long and it has hurt our state and its citizens. Perhaps we are seeing this spell finally break,” she said.
Mitchell said Hofmeister’s move is part of a larger national trend of Republicans switching parties as the GOP grapples with different viewpoints within the party.