CapitolBeatOK Staff Report
Republican Labor Commissioner candidate Jason Reese continues to enjoy growing momentum in the final days of the primary campaign.
"On the heels of endorsements by three-time conservative Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau, the Tulsa World and the Tulsa Beacon, my campaign is pleased to announce endorsements by the Norman Transcript and the OKC Friday newspapers," Reese said this morning, in a press release sent to CapitolBeatOK.
With recent polls showing 65-70% of voters still undecided in many of the top-tier statewide races, endorsements play a key role in voter decision-making.
Reese continued, "When the final fundraising numbers come in, we'll have been outspent nearly ten to one. But endorsements like these cannot be bought, and they lend further credibility to our message that expertise is important in the race for Labor Commissioner."
In the primary for Commissioner of Labor, Reese faces businessman Mark Costello, who has contributed much of his campaign funds from his own resources. The office oversees and enforces labor and employment regulations in Oklahoma.
Costello had a full-page advertisement in Sunday’s editions of The Oklahoman, but numerous sources say that in candidate forums the political newcomer has found it difficult to match Reese’s understanding of issues relating to the state labor job.
Reese is an Oklahoma City labor and employment attorney with experience in employment discrimination law.
The two Republicans are running for public office for the first time, hoping to unseat incumbent Democrat Lloyd Fields.
Fields gained statewide notoriety for theft of a guitar and a subsequent stay in the Oklahoma City detox unit. More recently, after learning the Oklahoma Public Employees Association (OPEA) had contributed to Reese’s primary campaign, Fields went to the group’s headquarters, retrieved his campaign questionnaire from the director’s office, and destroyed it.
Fields told reporters he had permission to enter the OPEA offices, but the group disputes his version of events. The association historically has leaned in favor of Democratic campaigns, but remained neutral in the 2006 race when Reneau, an OPEA member, lost narrowly to Fields.
This year, OPEA is more bipartisan in its contribution patterns, supporting Reese and other Republicans, as well as Democrats. As is the case with other association political action committees, campaign contributions in primaries do not imply endorsements for the general election, OPEA sources have said.
Note: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.