Weekly Opinion Editorial
OKLAHOMA’S NEW AG
by Steve Fair
On Friday, Governor
Kevin Stitt appointed Tulsa attorney John O’Connor, 66, to be the Sooner state’s
Attorney General (AG). O’Connor will
complete the unexpired term of Mike Hunter, who resigned in May. O’Connor and Stitt have a history, having
known each other for over twenty years.
Stitt says he considers O’Connor a ‘mentor.’ The appointment follows the pattern by the governor
of surrounding himself with people who he has a history with.
O’Connor was nominated
two years ago by President Donald Trump to serve as a federal district
judge. The American Bar Association’s (ABA)
15-member judicial review board voted unanimously that O’Connor was “not
qualified,’ to serve as a federal judge.
O’Connor withdrew his name from consideration before the U.S. Senate
took up the nomination. The ABA has a
history of opposing conservative judges, cited O’Connor’s lack of actual
courtroom experience as one of the reasons they opposed his appointment to the
federal bench. Three observations:
First, was O’Connor
the best qualified candidate for the AG position? According to the governor, he interviewed
twelve (12) people for the position. Sources
claim many of those interviewed had more courtroom and law enforcement experience
than O’Connor. It appears the governor’s
pattern of appointing friends and acquaintances to key advisory positions
continues. No one person has a history
with and knows the most qualitied person for every position in government. By appointing someone he has known two
decades, Stitt makes it appears this appointment is a case of ‘not what you
know, but who you know.’ The appointment
is the sovereign decision of the governor, as laid out in the state constitution,
but it is questionable the most qualified candidate got the job.
Second, the ABA assessment
of O’Connor being ‘not qualified’ means nothing. The organization trashes conservatives and
have totally lost their objectivity. They attempted to block dozens of Trump
appointments to the bench, not because they weren’t qualified, but because they
disagreed with the appointee’s ideology.
Their observation of the lack of courtroom experience is of
concern. The AG is Oklahoma’s attorney
and the state’s top law enforcement officer. A corporate lawyer may not have to background to
understand what the state’s District Attorneys and other law enforcers challenges
voters will ultimately determine if Stitt made the right choice. The AG position is up for election in
2022. O’Connor announced at his first
news conference he plans to run for the Republican nomination next year. He has already drawn a primary opponent,
Tulsa attorney Gentner Drummond.
Drummond lost the GOP primary by less than 300 votes to Hunter in
are sure to join the AG race. Voters
should watch closely what O’Connor does in the next sixteen months and vote
The Oklahoma Attorney General manages a staff of 100 lawyers, and a total staff of 174 people, with an annual budget of $25 million dollars. An argument could be made the Oklahoma AG is more powerful than Oklahoma’s weak governorship. It’s a big job. With the McGirt decision and the pending Dobbs pro-life suit before the SCOTUS, which could throw abortion back to the states, Oklahoma’s AG position becomes even more important. Stitt stated in a press release that he appointed O’Connor because he was not just competent in the law but he also has high moral character. Time and the voters will determine if Stitt made the right decision.