By: Randy Krehbiel | Tulsa World | 7/29/2018
The average Oklahoman probably doesn’t think much about what the lieutenant governor does. Most are no doubt too busy worrying about their own jobs.
But Dana Murphy and Matt Pinnell have contemplated the position a great deal, and they’ve come to differing conclusions.
Pinnell sees the lieutenant governor as primarily a salesman for the state, and maybe — as the largely ceremonial president of the Senate — a mediator in the Legislature.
Murphy seems to envision the job as more of a troubleshooter. Currently a corporation commissioner, she says her 10 years as one of the state’s chief regulators on top of prior experience in energy, agriculture and law would make her a versatile player in any administration.
Republican voters will settle Murphy and Pinnell’s disagreement in the August 28 GOP runoff, with the winner going on to the November general election.
Murphy finished 10 points and almost 44,000 votes ahead of Pinnell in the June primary. She has more money than Pinnell and probably is better known to the casual voter because of regular appearances on the ballot over the past dozen years.
Pinnell, a former two-term state party chairman and high-ranking official in the Republican National Committee, has the support of many party regulars.
“There is a clear contrast between us in why we’re running for lieutenant governor,” said Pinnell, a Tulsa native. He said he is “confident the voters are looking for a fresh face, someone who will be a good ambassador for the state.”
Murphy, on the hand, says there will be plenty of fresh faces at the Capitol after the November elections. What’s needed, she said, is an old hand.
“I’m somebody who’s well-qualified, somebody who’s dealt with most areas of government,” Murphy said.
“I have experience facilitating people in difficult situations. I’ve been involved in some of the most impactful decisions affecting our state.”
Oklahoma lieutenant governors have relatively few defined duties, other than to sit on a number of boards and commissions and to wait for something to happen to the chief executive.
It can be a long wait.
Oklahoma has never had a governor die in office and the Legislature hasn’t removed one in more than 90 years. One, J. Howard Edmondson, resigned a couple of weeks before the end of his term in 1963 so he could be appointed to the U.S. Senate.
Otherwise, lieutenant governors have just filled in for a day or two at a time while governors are out of state.
Early in state history, lieutenant governors actually presided over the state Senate, but that practice ended long ago as lawmakers became less and less inclined to take their cues from the administrative branch.
So the job has evolved into whatever the holder makes of it, and what the governor and the Legislature are willing to allow.
“I believe lieutenant governor is primarily a sales and marketing job, to promote Oklahoma tourism and industry worldwide,” Pinnell said.
You don’t hire a geologist to do a sales job.”
Pinnell meant Murphy, who was a working geologist before going to law school. He says Murphy has exploited her position to raise money from energy and other interests regulated by the Corporation Commission.
Murphy, though, says her varied personal and professional background is why she should be lieutenant governor. She grew up in Woodward and is involved in a family ranching operation there but has lived most of her 58 years as an urban professional.
Murphy’s political career began in 2002, when she lost a runoff for the Corporation Commission. She won a 2008 special election.
Pannell, 38, has never been a candidate, but has been involved in a lot of campaigns. He was is charge of organizing and coordinating state parties for the RNC leading up to the 2016 election, which he says earned him a “Ph.D. in adult day care.”
He and his wife now operate a small business.
Besides promoting the state, Pinnell said he would be more involved in the lawmaking process. How that would work is unclear, but Pinnell thinks his relationships with legislators would allow him to act in a largely unofficial but nevertheless effective capacity.
Murphy seems to perhaps have something similar in mind.
“The role of the lieutenant governor is to work with (others) and be a good teammate to sell the state and improve the product,” she said.