OKC Incumbents retain seats as dark money flows into Ward 6 election

Oklahoma City’s Wards 2, 6, and 8 each reelected its incumbent Oklahoma City Council members while Ward 5 will participate in the April 4 general election. 

Ward 2’s James Cooper won with ease, securing 76.9% of the vote in his bid for re-election. During his re-election campaign, Cooper promised to make Ward 2 more walkable, connect neighborhoods with reliable public transportation, and link city services to the people. 

Mark Stonecipher will serve his third term as Ward 8’s councilman after winning 53.1% of votes. Stonecipher promised to finish the MAPS 4 projects, increase neighborhood patrols by police, maintain the city’s AAA bond rating, and bolster infrastructure.

Republican Maressa Treat and Democrat Derrick Scobey will face off in the general election for Oklahoma County Clerk after winning their respective primaries. Treat received endorsements from U.S. Senators James Lankford and Markwayne Mullin in January and served in both Lankford’s most recent re-election campaign and in his personal office. 

JoBeth Hamon of Ward 6 won re-election against challenger Marek Cornett, tallying 54.4% of the votes. Hamon drew attention in the runup to election day during a Feb. 8 debate against opponent Marek Cornett when she referred to the Fraternal Order of the Police as “one of the most extreme groups in our country.”

“They have some of the most power to wield in this country, and the things they do with it are to protect bad actors that abuse their power and hurt people in our community,” she said during the debate hosted by NonDoc. “It’s hard for me to imagine finding common ground with folks that say something like, ‘Public safety equals policing,’ because I don’t think a lot of people believe that.” 

On her Facebook, Hamon said she was grateful to the hard work of volunteers and the generous contributions of donors. Hamon said her campaign received $11,500 total in donations. 

“We put so much work into this campaign and the negative ads and text messages added an additional layer of exhaustion (especially emotionally),” she said about the campaign process on her Facebook. “Particularly as someone who is pretty shy and introverted, it’s been hard to process my image and words plastered on screens across the city, with my words taken out of context and used to spread fear and frustration instead of to spark hope and conversation.”

Hamon was the target of a series of digital advertisements labeling her politics as “anti-military” and “anti-jobs”. The ads were produced by Catalyst Oklahoma, a nonprofit in the state about which very little is known. Because of its nonprofit status, under the Citizens United ruling, Catalyst Oklahoma does not reveal its donors. Catalyst and organizations like it are becoming an increasingly common fixture of the Oklahoman political landscape, more frequently using their capital, referred to as “dark money,” on attack ads, canvassing, and political marketing. 

A Dec 6 article from the Frontier revealed that $33.6 million was pumped into the Oklahoma election cycle during 2022 from outside groups. It was determined from data from the Oklahoma Ethics Commission that political nonprofit groups with hidden donors (dark money groups), spent more than triple the amount that was spent in 2018. Voters may recall Governor Kevin Stitt claiming dark money entities spent $50 million in ad buys. The Frontier’s analysis of data from the Oklahoma Ethics commission would suggest the figure is an exaggeration.

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