Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
Meet Gentner Drummond, a Republican dedicated to making other Republicans accountable (and other good things, too)
A month into office and Oklahoma's new attorney general's batting a thousand
For the second time, anticipating the Thunder clawing their way back to .500, I charted the game, ready to write the next chapter of the Thunder-is-back series.
It didn’t happen.
Though cutting what had been a 21-point third-quarter deficit to only two, Golden State would not be denied.
So we’re writing about something more important and seemingly more improbable than Oklahoma City’s basketball team finding its way back to the postseason:
Republicans doing the right thing.
It’s a paradox, but it’s happening here and there; here and there mostly being in the state attorney general’s office, but maybe elsewhere, too.
Though Kevin Stitt did all he could to keep John O’Connor in office, he couldn’t.
The ballgame was the primary and Gentner Drummond knocked O’Connor off by 6,200 of 354,000 votes cast, even on a day Stitt won the Republican gubernatorial primary by 197,000 votes over Joel Kintsel and 199,000 over Mark Sherwood; Kintsel running on accountability and an end to corruption in the governor’s office and Sherwood on being an even bigger lunatic than every other Republican in our state, Ryan Walters included.
Here’s a passage from Sherwood’s campaign announcement:
“Our great state of Oklahoma is under attack from the rogue BIDEN COMMUNIST REGIME!! Even worse, we are left undefended by our current Governor who is unwilling or incapable of leading. To share in this complacency, we have an apathetic legislature, that is unmotivated in protecting our natural, inalienable rights granted to us by GOD.”
He got 43,172 votes.
But we digress.
Back to Drummond.
Among the thing’s Drummond’s done since taking office:
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• Take back the the prosecution of Epic Charter Schools co-founders Ben Harris and David Chaney — a case O’Connor originally kicked to then-Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater — for embezzlement, fraud and racketeering, among other charges, an action consistent with Drummond’s campaign promise to stare down corruption.
• Take back two other cases from Oklahoma County:
One, the criminal probe into Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen’s state contract — one you might have originally caught up to here — a case with the potential to seriously embarrass the governor, leaving O’Connor to kick it to the Oklahoma County AD, thereby forfeiting the opportunity to pretend to be his own man.
Two, as reported by The Frontier’s Reese Gorman, an investigation initiated by Prater “into the Commissioners of the Land Office after allegations surfaced of misappropriation of taxpayer funds, conflicts of interest and improper use of office by a state official.”
In that one, it appears then-CLO secretary Elliot Chambers, a Stitt appointee, didn’t appreciate the work of Erin Morgan, an auditor in the CLO office, so he fired her, only to resign himself amid the backlash effective Aug. 3 of last year.
• Appoint an independent counsel in the case of Richard Glossip, a death-row inmate who’s long maintained his innocence after being convicted of a 1997 murder-for-hire, who’s been the recipient of three stays of execution to date, who’s case against him has been said to be flimsy even by appeals court judges and who’s cause has been taken up by, among others, Virgin CEO Sir Richard Branson and actors Susan Sarandon and Mark Ruffalo.
Drummond’s choice to review the case is Rex Duncan, previously district attorney for Osage and Pawnee counties.
The review is to be exhaustive, beginning with Glossip’s arrest by Oklahoma City police, through two different trials, sentencing and all appeals.
“Circumstances surrounding this case necessitate a thorough review," said Drummond. "While I am confident in our judicial system, that does not allow me to ignore evidence. This review helps ensure that justice is served, both to the (victim's) family and the accused.”
In an age everybody still watched local news, read a newspaper (or two) with an actual statehouse bureau rather than a single reporter for whom it might be one of several beats, these would be thunderclaps.
All three investigations taken back from Oklahoma County have the potential to embarrass the governor, and perhaps make him or others within and previously within his administration face criminal charges.
Does Drummond have further political ambitions? Good chance, but the whole construct’s supposed to be to further them by doing the people’s work well and a month into moving into his new post he’s clearly doing that.
The Glossip case doesn’t carry the potential to embarrass or single out any one so much as the whole system that put him where he is, and the simple fact a Republican AG in a ruby red state is not only ordering a complete review but publicly mentioning the existence of exonerating evidence is a thunderbolt, too, only modern day.
For once, an Oklahoma Republican is not in service of covering the ass of a system that may have perpetrated a mortal injustice, instead taking on the cause of those so accustomed to pulling their hair out in frustration to so many previous righteous causes never taken up.
Maybe it had to happen.
In a state ruled by one party, that party’s bound to become too big to remain a monolith. Eventually, sides must be taken within it and all signs point toward Drummond being on the right side, an apparent fact for which all should be thankful.
Oh, by the way — BREAKING — the news got even better on Tuesday when Drummond announced the state would dismiss its lawsuit against ClassWallet, the entity Ryan Walters, previously Stitt’s secretary of education, brought in to administrate the dispersement of federal funds designed to retroactively defray education costs during the pandemic.
“After a thorough review of this matter, I have concluded that the lawsuit filed by the previous Attorney General is almost wholly without merit,” Drummond said. “It is clear that a number of state actors and other individuals are ultimately responsible for millions in misspent federal relief dollars.”
Wait, there’s more.
“While the lawsuit has been dismissed, this matter is far from concluded. My office will continue engaging with various state and federal agencies to investigate this egregious misuse of tax dollars.”
Who on earth could he be talking about?
Yet another thunderclap.
Indeed, though he’s surely too vapid to notice, it hasn’t been a terrific first month for Walters as state superintendent.
A couple days ago The Oklahoman posted a story explaining him to be no less loony, spiteful or embarrassing than he was on the campaign trail and it’s not just Democrats who have a problem with it.
“During a House budget hearing this past week, Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin, told Walters she had recently met with a group of district superintendents who have ‘a tremendous amount of worry about what the next four years are going to bring based on (your) campaign rhetoric,’” reported Ben Felder.
Democrats must do so much to get back in the game and it can’t just be every two years on the campaign trail. Until they do, and even after they do should they ever do it, all should champion Republicans willing to put the state’s interest over personal or partisan political interest.
At least one is doing it.
Here's to Gentner Drummond and others who may follow in his wake.