Matt Pinnell’s name hasn’t appeared on a ballot, but he believes his convictions and political experience are the perfect resume to be Oklahoma’s next lieutenant governor.
Pinnell, of Tulsa, served as chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party during the 2010 and 2012 elections, then was the Republican National Committee’s state party director, working as the chief liaison between the national and state parties. Most recently, he led the transition for new national Republican Party Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel.
Over the course of four years, he said, his job was to repair state parties that were “burning to the ground, essentially,” by identifying problems and getting together key people to solve them. As a result, he said, Donald Trump had functioning state parties to support him in the 2016 presidential election.
“In this political environment in Oklahoma today, we need elected officials that are good at developing relationships … and being able to solve problems quickly,” he said at a meeting with The Constitution’s editorial board last week.
He and his wife Lisa also own Binxy Baby, a company that produces baby hammocks for shopping carts, and he believes the lieutenant governor should be the “economic development director for the state” to retain businesses and recruit new industries.
“If you’re not creating jobs it’s very hard to get out of any budget hole we see in this state,” he said.
Attracting industry isn’t made easier by Oklahoma’s well-publicized problems, such as lack of funding for education and infrastructure and its high level of incarceration.
Oklahoma still has advantages, he said, like low taxes and easy commutes, but they have to be marketed and sold to companies looking for locations.
He looks forward to a real debate about budget reform, including reducing the percentage of tax revenues that are automatically dedicated to agencies without legislative consideration and scrutiny of existing tax incentives. Some incentives are creating jobs, he said, “but a lot of them are not.”
Pinnell believes the state’s budget problems must be tackled early in the legislative session, not in the final days or hours. A hopeful sign, he said, is that the Legislature has authorized interim studies that can be drawn upon for quicker action next year.