Election Board Decides Complaint

Beginning local conflict in the current election cycle, Democrat candidates for the office of Tulsa County Commissioner District 2 faced off at an administrative hearing of the Election Board Tuesday morning in a two-on-one attack.

Maria Barnes, the complainant, asserted that Jim Rea had not lived in the district for the full six months prior to filing as required by law. Sarah Gray, running for the same office also as a Democrat, was beside her helping Barnes make the case.

Rea closed on the purchase of a residence in District 2 September 29 and updated his voter registration October 1, 2023. The new home is a few blocks from his previous residence which was not in the district and Rea declared he purchased the new home specifically to run for the county office.

Complainants Sarah Gray, Maria Barnes vs. Jim Rea, Laurie Phillips

Barnes had laryngitis and was almost impossible to hear. After a lengthy debate, the board allowed Gray to speak during the hearing to provide testimony, but not to address points of law. While this was only an administrative hearing, Gray is not an attorney.

Barnes and Gray asserted Rea didn’t really live at the new address. They provided a photo of a cot inside the home apparently to note the furniture had not been moved prior to filing and that he did not apply for a homestead exemption at the new home until last month.

The board’s legal counsel, Ottawa and Delaware County District Attorney Doug Pewitt said that was irrelevant unless Barnes and Gray could prove that Rea never intended to live at his current address.

Rea said that he moved belongings and his dog to the home, but that most of his belongings were still in his former house on Oct. 2. Rea’s attorney, Laurie Phillips, argued that Rea’s repairs and renovations to the new address over the next several months and the completion of his move meet the requirements of “maintaining” what is his primary residence. Rea was also supported by his campaign manager who did not speak to the board.

Election Board members, Bob Jack (Republican) and Judy Eason-McIntyre (Democrat) voted to deny the complaint and allow Rea to appear on the ballot.

Jim Rea and Laurie Phillips

After the meeting, Jim Rea told Tulsa Today, “I look forward to the campaign, I think it will be great and look forward to connecting with Tulsa County’s District 2 voters.

“I was the Assistant District Attorney as a state employee representing Tulsa County Officials, then Dist. 2 County Commissioner Karen Keith asked me to be her Chief Deputy. I have worked on some of the long projects like the acquisition of a new courthouse and the upgrade of the Levees in Tulsa County. I like County Government because you can get things done,” Rea said.

Media reports note, “Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Gwen Freeman and the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office recused themselves from the hearing because Rea, currently the District 2 Chief Deputy Commissioner in Karen Keith’s office, is a county employee and formerly worked in the District Attorney’s Office.”

Maria Barnes is a former-Tulsa City Councilor, District 4, now running her first Tulsa County race. She ran for the Oklahoma House of Representatives to represent District 72 in 2020 and was defeated in the Democrat primary. 

Of the Democrats, Sara Gray has the most visible online presence with a web site dedicated to the race. 

With Rea apparently the party establishment candidate, this race could get very interesting.

Republicans will also have a three-way contested primary with Tulsa City Councilor (Dist.2) Jeannie Cue, facing Melissa Myers and District 68 State Representative Lonnie Sims none of which are establishment candidates.

Josh Turley is running as an Independent after two County Commissioner races as a Republican.

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