BY ARNOLD HAMILTON
Inman managed to do what few thought possible: keep House Democrats united through several years of head-knocking budget battles with the Legislature’s Republican supermajorities – including the current special session.
He also helped create some electoral momentum for Democrats who have captured five of six special legislative elections in the last two years, all victories coming in urban seats previously held by Republicans.
A Del City attorney, Inman was elected in 2007 – then selected by his Democratic colleagues as their leader in May 2011. In his sixth and final legislative term, he announced last spring that he would be a candidate for governor in 2018.
In today’s announcement, he said he not only is ending his gubernatorial campaign, but also will resign his House seat effective the beginning of next year.
The Democratic gubernatorial race still includes two well-known party figures – former Attorney General Drew Edmondson and former state Sen. Connie Johnson, who was the party’s 2014 nominee for U.S. Senate.
Where Inman’s decision will be felt most acutely – at least in the near-term – is in the House, where lawmakers remain in a pitched battle over fixing the state’s budget long-term.
Democrats already had selected Beggs Rep. Steve Kouplen to succeed Inman after next year.
What also remains to be seen: Will Inman’s departure have any affect on three more special legislative elections on the ballot Nov. 14 – two in Tulsa and one in Oklahoma City?
The two Tulsa seats [SD 37 and HD 76] are in traditional Republican strongholds. If Democrats flip one or both, it would be a seismic political event. The Oklahoma City seat [SD 45] has been in GOP hands – former Sen. Kyle Loveless resigned because of campaign law violations – but it includes neighborhoods that recently elected Democrats.
A fourth special election – to replace former Woodward Republican Sen. Bryce Marlatt – isn’t until Feb. 13, after the Legislature returns to regular session.
Three of the four elections are for open Senate, not House, seats, so the impact – if any – would probably be psychological on a party regaining its political sea legs after a series of tough election cycles over the last decade.
Here is the statement released by Inman’s gubernatorial campaign at 1:14 p.m.:
For the last eleven years, it has been my honor and privilege to represent the people of my hometown of Del City at the State Capitol. For the last seven years it has been a true pleasure to lead the honorable women and men of the House Democratic Caucus as House Minority Leader. And for the last six months, it has been the dream of a lifetime to travel across this great state to visit with my fellow Oklahomans about the issues important to them in my campaign for Governor.
Those roles and responsibilities, while at times enjoyable and rewarding, did not come without a price. Unfortunately, that price was paid by those nearest and dearest to me. The stresses and strains of my career, the time away from my family, and the choice to wrongly prioritize my life’s decisions have brought me to this moment. I can no longer ask my wife and children to sacrifice for me. It is time for me to reprioritize what is important in this world.
Therefore, I am announcing today, that I will be immediately ending my campaign for Governor of Oklahoma and will be stepping down from the legislature at the beginning of next year, leaving me time to complete the important work of the special session before us in the legislature.
To those who believed and invested in me over the years, especially during these last six months, I am truly grateful for your support. To the kind-hearted citizens who called, emailed, and messaged me during the campaign to encourage my family and me along the journey, I offer a sincere thank you. To those who volunteered for my campaign, sacrificing their time and talent to aid in our run for Governor, I thank you as well. To the campaign team that helped make my dream a reality, I will never forget your devotion, drive, and passion to make a real change in this state. To the incredibly talented and thoughtful Representatives with whom I have served in the House Democratic Caucus, those who honored me by allowing me to serve as their leader, words cannot express the love and gratitude I have for you. To the citizens of House District 94, my hometown, serving you will always stand as one of the highest honors of my life. And to my family, both immediate and extended, what you have sacrificed for me will leave me forever indebted to you.
This moment is certainly disappointing for me and I am certain it will come as a disappointment to those who believed in my campaign and our vision for Oklahoma’s future. To you, I would offer that my time in the legislature has taught me ideals and goals are much bigger than one person or one campaign. Those things we collectively fought for like better public schools for our children, access to quality health care for all of our citizens, a more fair and just criminal justice system, and a tax structure that fairly balances the burden of funding core services in this state are no less important or no less worthy today.
I implore you to keep up the fight. Always hold those in power accountable for the decisions they make that have sweeping effects on the nearly four million people who call our state home. And never forget that those of us blessed to be called Representative, Senator, or Governor work for you.
The next few days will be challenging for my friends and family. I ask for your understanding, your prayers, and privacy during this time. And I once again thank you for the allowing me to take part in this incredible journey. I have been abundantly blessed. I pray God will bless each of you.
– Arnold Hamilton is editor of The Oklahoma Observer