Matt Pinnell spent time in Muskogee recently drumming up support for his bid for the Republican nomination in the 2018 contest for the open lieutenant governor’s post.
The longtime GOP strategist has spent most of his time in politics behind the scenes, serving as the party’s state chairman before he was tapped in 2013 to serve as state party director for the Republican National Convention. Pinnell said he decided to transition from helping candidates to being one when he saw an opportunity to sell and market the state.
Pinnell said his experience as state party chairman and the RNC’s state party director provided him with an opportunity to create a network of contacts throughout the state and across the country. While coordinating the RNC’s 50-state strategy, Pinnell said he recognized the need for a better marketing strategy for the state based upon the reaction of people who had learned he was from Oklahoma, which “wasn’t real pretty” and “usually a joke.”
“The overarching feedback was they had no idea about it — they knew nothing about Oklahoma,” Pinnell said. “I realized really quick that we didn’t have a great brand as a state, and if we’re not going to have a great brand, then employers are not going to be looking at Oklahoma as a place to relocate their employees.”
Pinnell described the lieutenant governor as “salesman for the state” and said sales and marketing are key components of the job. The GOP candidate said he is “uniquely qualified to serve in that position” because of his connections in all 77 counties and all 50 states.
He also touted as a plus his business experience, which includes the co-ownership of a small Tulsa-based company that boasts international sales of a product his wife invented. The company’s product is a hammock designed to carry infants in shopping carts.
“I would be ready on Day 1 to serve as that small-business advocate on the governor’s cabinet, which is what the lieutenant governor historically serves on,” Pinnell said while laying out his “jobs-first” agenda. “I think voters in the state should want someone that runs a small business every day to … serve as lieutenant governor, and so … running a small business to having relationships in all 50 states, I think I’m uniquely qualified to serve as lieutenant governor and be real effective at it.”
Other issues Pinnell considers important include the collection of taxes for online sales to ensure the competitiveness of “small-town shops” and prevent municipalities that depend on that revenue stream from “dying on the vine.” He also cited the importance of cutting “the bureaucratic red tape” that prohibits growth of businesses.
Pinnell also touted the importance of tourism to the state’s economy, saying that is a sector from which all parts of the state can benefit if promoted properly. Pinnell said that could be accomplished through workshops and and training opportunities that teach effective marketing and advertising strategies.
“Getting people from … a bigger town into the smaller town is a growing business …, and I would say this is why Oklahoma is a gold mine as far as tourism dollars,” Pinnell said, referencing the nation’s baby boomers. “Seventy-five million people control 70 percent of all the income in this country, and 99 percent of them will travel …, and if we don’t get those dollars from baby boomers, I can tell you someone else is.”
Pinnell is one of four candidates — all Republicans — who have registered with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission with the intent of declaring their candidacies in the 2018 lieutenant governor’s race. He reported cash contributions totaling nearly $292,000 on July 31 in his campaign’s second-quarter report.