Joel Kintsel made headlines in the local media several months ago by not only calling out corruption within the Stitt administration, but by daring to challenge the sitting Republican governor in the primary. While Stitt’s other challenger has focused primarily on grassroots talking points, Kintsel’s boldness in pointing the finger at apparent corruption within the Governor’s office got our attention.
So we sat down with the decorated combat veteran and current head of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs to discuss his statements, and his reasoning for taking on the daunting task of challenging a strong incumbent Governor. What he showed us was eye-opening.
Stitt’s OMES Power Grab
Kintsel gave two primary reasons for why he felt God called him to challenge Stitt later this month. The first, and strongest, was the political corruption he witnessed first-hand as the Director of the ODVA.
Oklahoma City-based news site Non Doc posted an article in March detailing Kintsel’s concern over an apparent hackinto the ODVA computers by an outside source. According to the article, last December the “ODVA human resources director, Jennifer Shockley, ‘experienced what appears to have been a breach of her state-issued laptop by an outside entity.'” Kintsel reported this to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) on December 13th.
Kintsel believes that this hack was directly related to his criticism of Governor Stitt and his impending (at the time) run for governor.
As it turns out, the OMES may very well have been the source of the hack. According to Kintsel, they have a direct connection to every state-issued laptop. That, however, appears to be the least of his concerns as OMES is, according to Kintsel, at the very center of an enormous power grab by Governor Stitt that flies in the face of the checks and balances necessary in a constitutional republic.
Early in Stitt’s administration he successfully lobbied the legislature to move five state agencies under the Executive Branch, giving the Governor direct hiring and firing authority. Those five agencies were some of the biggest in the state: the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs, and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.
The move was unprecedented in the history of the state, and left many legislators with a bad taste in their mouth. As a result, further attempts by Stitt to consolidate power under his control were rebuffed by the legislature.
That, unfortunately, did not stop Stitt from expanding his power.
Kintsel also mentioned that Stitt began to drastically increase his involvement with OMES after the legislature pushed back against his power grab. The significance of this is that OMES runs the human resources for every single state agency. While OMES has always reported to the Governor, no Governor in recent memory has had an active role in working with the agency. That has all changed with Stitt, who has used his authority over OMES to control every state agency, not just the ones that report directly to him.
In a word, Stitt sees himself as the CEO of the State of Oklahoma. As with a CEO in the business world, Stitt wants to have complete control over every state employee and agency. The problem, Kintsel says, is that Stitt is not the CEO of a business…he is the Chief Executive of a constitutional republic that has in it checks and balances to limit the ability of any elected official to abuse their power. Stitt’s use of OMES seems to be a deliberate attempt to circumvent those checks and balances be demanding strict loyalty to his agenda from every state employee.
This consolidation of power is the same pattern that we have seen with Stitt’s “transportation czar,” Tim Gatz, who is the director of ODOT, the director of the OTA, as well as Stitt’s Secretary of Transportation. As the folks in Norman have found out recently, too much power in one man’s hands is ALWAYS a dangerous thing.
Stitt’s War with the Tribes
The second reason that prompted Kintsel to run was the disrespectful manner of Stitt’s dealing with the Native American tribes. From the well-publicized war over gaming contracts, to the fallout of the McGirt Decision, to his veto of the Department of Public Safety Act that would have increased cooperation between law enforcement agencies both on and off tribal lands, the one constant in Stitt’s administration has been conflict with the tribes.
For Kintsel, it just crosses him as wrong. “According to my Bible, we should be treating everyone with respect, especially in business dealings. I don’t feel like Stitt has done that with the tribes, and it just does not sit well with me. The tribes have done so much for the State of Oklahoma, not just in heritage and legacy, but also in economic success. Without them, we simply wouldn’t be who we are. Regardless of whether you’re a member of a tribe or not, we are ALL Oklahomans. We all succeed or fail together. The tribes deserves our utmost respect, not just in lip service but in how we join hands to make a stronger Oklahoma. If I am blessed enough to be elected Governor, I will join hand-in-hand with the tribes to make a stronger Oklahoma.”
He Knows Where the Bodies are Buried
Perhaps the strongest argument Kintsel could make for being Governor is he has had a first-hand account of Stitt’s corruption and power grab, and knows exactly how to stop it. He feels like his service in the legislature as a parliamentarian gives him a solid understanding of how government is supposed to run in order to best serve the people of Oklahoma.
Most importantly, he knows how to stop the abusive power of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. Though he wouldn’t reveal exactly how he plans on doing that for fear of tipping his hand, his deep knowledge of the inner workings of governmental bureaucracy combined with his principled beliefs of limiting the intrusion of that government on the lives of citizens makes him the most qualified challenger to Stitt…not just to win, but to actually govern in a manner that will be in keeping with Oklahoma values.
Time will tell whether or not Oklahomans will hear his message and give him that chance.
To learn more about Kintsel’s platform, go to https://www.joelkintsel.com