In Oklahoma Labor Commissioner’s race, conservatives coalesce for Cathy Costello

OKLAHOMA CITY – Cathy Costello, candidate for Oklahoma Commissioner of Labor, is building momentum in her race for the Republican nomination, with a series of endorsements from key conservative leaders.
Last week, former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn weighed in, saying Costello “is the only true conservative leader in this race. Because of Costello’s extensive global business experience, she believes in limited government, low taxes and the unleashing of the free market by removing obstacles to growth. She will not only protect the workforce of today, she will cultivate the workforce of tomorrow. Oklahoma needs visionary business leaders with a proven record of success and that is why I am endorsing Cathy Costello for Labor Commissioner.”
Facing state Rep. Leslie Osburn, R-Mustang, in a June primary, Costello said she was grateful for Dr. Coburn’s support.
In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations, Costello said, “Republicans across the country look to Dr. Coburn as the shining example of Oklahoma’s conservative values. This endorsement is a tremendous honor because Dr. Coburn has long been one of my political heroes. He is steadfast in his values, works respectfully with all people across the political spectrum and makes the right decisions even when it is unpopular in Washington, D.C. I will do my best to live up to the stellar example he has set for leaders in Oklahoma.”

Last month, Costello garnered the backing of Bunny Chambers, former president of the state Eagle Forum. In her endorsement statement, Chambes said, “Cathy Costello is a woman of principles and principles are critically important for a Labor Commissioner. Costello will be a Labor Commissioner who is evenhanded and fair — never vindictive in the application of the law. The wrong person in that position could wield a great deal of power against well-meaning employers who disagree on certain policies. Oklahoma must have a Labor Commissioner who can exercise professional restraint and objective judgement in any situation. Her decades of running successful businesses makes Cathy Costello the ideal conservative to be Oklahoma’s next Labor Commissioner.”

Chambers for decades guided the work of the Eagle Forum, a multi-issue conservative organization established by the late Phyllis Schlafly, one of the best-known conservative women leaders of the last 70 years. Chambers directed the Pro-Family Forum, and was also a national committeewomen for the Republican National Committee.
Welcoming the Chambers endorsement, Costello observed, “Bunny Chambers has a national reputation as a dedicated and principled conservative. … A Labor Commissioner should always execute the duties of the office without bias or personal agenda. I want voters to know my conscious will never be a casualty of political expediency.”

In January, veteran conservative activist and political adviser Stuart Jolly, announced his endorsement of Costello, saying is “is the clear choice in the race. Cathy has the business expertise, the conservative leadership skills and the drive to make much-needed changes to Oklahoma’s workforce. Her platform is a perfect blueprint to streamline our economy for the next decade and beyond.”
Long involved in multiple conservative and Republican campaigns, Jolly was a field director for the Trump campaign in 2016.

Since the death of her husband Mark in 2015, Mrs. Costello has become a leading advocate for family rights in mental health. Mark and Cathy’s eldest son murdered his father after years of deep mental illness, including years in which the family was unable to be involved in his care. Costello has has been focusing some of her campaign energy on changes in the impact of mental health needs in the workplace.

Before his murder, Mark was known as not only a popular public official (easily winning election on two occasions, in 2010 and 2014) but was considered the most consistent and persistent conservative among statewide elected officials. Despite his passionate conservatism, the late commissioner was regarded affectionately by many non-conservatives in state government, in recognition of his accessibility and understanding of complex labor policy issues. 

Mrs. Costello has supported the scrutiny of state Occupational Licensing, and testified before the state Department of Labor’s 2017 hearings on government licensing processes. She backed Governor Mary fallin’s order, last month, directing the state Labor Department to be central coordinating agency for licensing processes. In her testimony last year, Costello said, “Many workers only get one thing out of these licenses – a receipt. We should not require licensing unless we can prove licensing makes workers fundamentally better. The public assumes a license automatically reflects education, public safety and/or consumer protection. That is a false assumption.”

In agreeing with the Fallin administration’s focus on the issue, Costello commented in a statement last month, “Frivolous licensing is a barrier for people who want to work and a barrier for people who want to raise themselves out of poverty. Let’s lift the burden on the employer and the worker with common-sense efficiency. That will be among my top priorities as Labor Commissioner.”

Costello and Osborn will engage in the June 26 primary. The winner will carry the Republican designation into the November 6 general election.