Oklahoma agency chief Joel Kintsel heads into GOP primary for governor

Gov. Kevin Stitt picked another Republican challenger for governor on Thursday.

Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Director Joel Kintsel, 46, has announced his intention to run for governor as a Republican.

The announcement sets the stage for a semi-crowded GOP gubernatorial primary on June 28. As a starter, Stitt is the overwhelming favorite to win.

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An Oklahoma Air National Guard Lt. Col. Kintsel, of Oklahoma City, has led the state Department of Veterans Affairs since 2019. Prior to that, he served as a Congressman at Oklahoma House for 14 years.

This appears to be his first campaign for public office.

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In a press release announcing his campaign, Kintsel called himself a “Ronald Reagan conservative” and criticized Stitt.

Without citing specifics, Kintsel alleged that the Stitt administration was plagued by corruption, mismanagement and cronyism.

Then-Deputy Director Joel Kintsel listens to Legal Counsel Sarah Lane during the Oklahoma Veterans Commission meeting at the Vezey Veteran's Complex in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, September 11, 2018. Photo by Doug Hoke, The oklahoman

“Throughout my career, I have served the people of Oklahoma and I am honored today to announce my candidacy for governor,” Kintsel said in the press release. standards and doing things by the rules. »

Stitt’s campaign declined to comment.

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Kintsel is a staff judge advocate for the Oklahoma Air National Guard’s 137th Special Operations Wing. He enlisted in the guard in 2001.

If elected, he says his first priority will be to “clean up” the mismanagement left behind by the Stitt administration.

He did not detail any political priorities in his announcement, and none are listed on his campaign website. Kintsel did not immediately respond to a voicemail message left Thursday.

“We cannot allow Stitt and his cronies to continue to enrich themselves at the expense of the taxpayer,” Kintsel said. “Let’s stand together and set the record straight for Oklahoma. Let’s create a future where all Oklahomas have the opportunity to succeed and prosper.”

Broken Arrow’s Mark Sherwood is also seeking the Republican nomination in the gubernatorial race. Sherwood is challenging Stitt from the right, and a recent poll showed him garnering the support of 15% of the 455 likely GOP primary voters polled.

Stay-at-home mom Moira McCabe has also signed up as a Republican candidate for governor.

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Kintsel, Sherwood and McCabe all face an uphill battle in the race for governor as Stitt, who just won the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, has a significant cash advantage.

Stitt also recently received assistance from the Republican Governors Association. A black money group affiliated with the national GOP organization has announced that it will spend $577,000 on television ads in support of the governor.

Stitt could recruit more challengers next week, as the political field in the gubernatorial race will not be defined until nominations close next Friday.

State Schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and former State Senator Connie Johnson are seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.

Former state senator Ervin Yen is running as an independent. Natalie Bruno presents herself as a libertarian.

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