By Patrick B. McGuigan
The decision of state Rep. Tad Jones to step aside from the race for the Republican nomination for Labor Commissioner sets the stage for a competitive primary between two political newcomers. Republicans hope their eventual nominee can unseat Commissioner of Labor Lloyd Fields, the Democratic incumbent.
Jones, a Claremore Republican and majority floor leader of the Oklahoma House, announced Friday he was pulling out of the race for the party nod. Rep. Jones attributed his withdrawal to “a new opportunity” that will “allow me to spend more time with my wife and young children.”
Jason A. Reese, an Oklahoma City attorney who was the first to announce his intention to oppose Fields’ reelection, told CapitolBeatOK, “Tad Jones has worked hard for the people of Oklahoma in the legislature for the last 12 years, and we owe him a debt of gratitude. On the issues, our campaigns were very similar. Now that the race has come down to two contenders, I believe Republican primary voters are faced with a clear choice. I wish Tad all the best in his new endeavors."
Oklahoma City businessman Mark Costello, who began his campaign for the GOP nomination in early April, told CapitolBeatOK, “I have great admiration for Rep. Jones’ 12 years of service in the Legislature. I was surprised by this decision, yet I understand the offer he referenced must have been attractive for him and his family. I am looking forward to a robust primary, vying with my Republican opponent, and to a general election campaign in which all those selected in our party will amount to the strongest and most successful Republican nominees in history.”
In his withdrawal announcement, sent to CapitolBeatOK, Jones said, “I am confident this is the right decision. I have two sons, ages 3 and 5, and Sammi and I are blessed to have a third child on the way. We have been either campaigning or I have been in Oklahoma City for 12 and a half of our 13 years of marriage. It's time for a new direction for our family."
Jones added, "I appreciate and respect all my colleagues in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and all those that sacrifice their time to serve our state."