Candidates who pledged support for open government fare well in Tuesday's elections

A Payne County commissioner who pledged to comply with the state’s open government laws if re-elected fell just five votes shy on Tuesday of avoiding a runoff election Aug. 23. While in Norman, the City Council has a new member who signed FOI Oklahoma's Open Government Pledge. Another signer won the right to face Congressman Tom Cole in the Nov. 8 general election.

In northeastern Oklahoma, another open government supporter -- Matt Nowlin -- will be the Democratic candidate for the state House District 5 seat on Nov. 8.

In signing the pledge, each candidate promised "to support at every opportunity the public policy of the State of Oklahoma that the people are vested with the inherent right to know and be fully informed about their government so that they can efficiently and intelligently exercise their inherent political power."

State legislative candidates also promise to "support legislation to strengthen the letter and the spirit of Oklahoma’s Open Meeting and Open Records laws."

Candidates for statewide and local offices also pledge that they and the public bodies they are elected to govern "will comply with not only the letter but also the spirit of Oklahoma’s Open Meeting and Open Records laws."

In Stillwater, Payne County Commissioner Chris Reding received 471 votes, or 49.53 percent, of the 951 cast. He was just five votes shy of the 50 percent plus 1 vote total needed to avoid a runoff election for the District 2 seat.

He will face Brett Stokes, who received 444 votes, or 46.69 percent. A third candidate, Rondal Gamble, received 36 votes, or 3.79 percent.

The Stillwater News Press noted that election results won't be official until Friday.

Having another pledge signer on the Norman City Council was assured because both candidates in Tuesday's Ward 6 runoff election had signed it. Breea Clark defeated incumbent Jerry Lang for the seat, receiving 1,272 votes, or 64.37 percent, compared to 704 votes, or 35.63 percent, according to unofficial results.

Clark, an OU academic administrator, will be sworn in Tuesday, The Oklahoman reported.

Clark will join four other signers -- Greg Heiple, Ward 1; Robert Castleberry, Ward 3; Lynne Miller, Ward 5; and Stephen Tyler Holman, Ward 7 -- on the eight-member City Council.

Norman residents should demand that these elected officials live up to their pledge and, consequently, that city government become more transparent.

In April, FOI Oklahoma deemed Norman city government a Black Hole. In the past two years, Oklahoma broadcasters sued the city over its refusal to make public the video of University of Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon punching an OU coed in the face and two activists sued the city for charging to search for records requested in the public interest and for failing to provide "prompt, reasonable access" to documents.

Also in Norman, former council candidate Christina Owen won the Democratic primary for the 4th Congressional District seat held by Cole. Owen signed the Open Government pledge when she ran unsuccessfully for the council's Ward 4 seat.

Besides Lang, the only pledge signer to lose Tuesday was Don Sherry in the Democratic primary for the state Senate District 47 seat.

FOI Oklahoma invites all candidates for legislative seats as well as for local and statewide offices to sign the pledge. Instructions and lists of signers can be found on FOI Oklahoma’s website.

FOI Oklahoma began the Open Government Pledge in spring 2008 as part of a national effort to spur public commitments to government transparency from candidates for president down to city council contests.

Joey Senat, Ph.D. Associate Professor OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications Mass Communication Law in Oklahoma

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, its board of directors or the commentator’s employer. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.