Pat Key’s victory in the recent County Clerk runoff election was upheld by Tulsa County District Judge William Kellough on Friday thus ending a contentious battle within Tulsa County’s Republican Party that threatened to politicize a County office known for nonpartisan service.
Floyd Dean Martin had challenged for the office with the endorsement and active support of Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel and former-State Senator Randy Brogdon who now works for the Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner.
Key is currently the Chief Deputy in the Clerk’s office and will assume the elected post after 13 years with the office and 11 years as Chief Deputy.
The Clerk’s office is responsible for; recording and archiving County property
records, managing the County wide payroll system, administering the
retirement system, processing payment for all County bills and producing
the County’s annual financial report.
Key has a degree in government from East Central University and a member of the Oklahoma County Officers and Deputies Association, the National Association of Clerks and Recorders and other professional associations. A longtime Republican activist, Pat Key has served as both treasurer and president of the Republican Women’s Club of Tulsa County.
Prior to moving to Tulsa County, Key owned and operated a John Deere dealership and a cattle operation in McAlester, Oklahoma.
Martin had asked for a new election or that he be declared the winner because of what attorney John DesBarres called "a totality of defects that bring into question the validity of the absentee voting process in this particular election."
Martin and his team originally challenged not on the ballots themselves, but on the accompanying affidavits and the way the ballots and affidavits were processed. Because the actual ballots weren’t being challenged, Martin needed Kellough only to rule at least 184 affidavits invalid to create mathematical uncertainty about the election’s outcome.
Kellough ruled out a handful of affidavits, but said the problems were insufficient to call a new election.
Kellough threw out seven affidavits for reasons that included signatures that did not match the name of the voter, missing notary information and failure to obtain valid witness signatures on nursing home ballots. He said he allowed other affidavits even though they contained minor defects.
Key’s attorney, Donald Bingham, argued that case law allows considerable latitude for absentee ballot irregularities and that to throw out the Aug. 28 results would not only disenfranchise all of those voters but have a chilling effect on absentee voting in the future.
Martin, represented by DesBarres and Jim Goodwin, indicated that an appeal of Kellough’s decision is unlikely.
Key said she "felt like the case law was on our side, but when you get to court you never know what’s going to happen."
The Tulsa County Election Board is expected to meet Wednesday to certify the election results.
Both Yazel and Brogdon are known as Radical RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) frequently associated with angry disputes with other elected officials. Click here to read the details of debate between Tulsa County Commissioner John Smaligo and Yazel.
Observers suggest Yazel desperately campaigned for Martin with the objective to grow his political and media leverage on the Budget Board. Yazel often makes outrageous claims of Tulsa County malfeasance without proof. As this writer noted in the Smaligo vs. Yazel debate analysis, “Words like bribery, lying, [officials] ought to have their butts kicked, misuse of your dollars, frequently float from Yazel’s mouth like flatulence.” Both Yazel and Key will serve on the Tulsa County Budget Board where Yazel is consistently outvoted 7 to 1.
Tulsa County is one of only five counties in the nation to be rated A+ by the Sunshine Review Project for Openness and Transparency and Pat Key was an important part of achieving that high standard.