Two women enter race for Republican nomination as Oklahoma Commissioner of Labor

OKLAHOMA CITY – Cathy Costello, widow of Mark Costello – who served as Oklahoma Commissioner of Labor from 2011-2015 – has entered the race to fill the position in the 2018 election. Having entered the race on August 2, Costello will face state Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, who formally announced her widely anticipated bid for the office on August 9. 
In a press release about her campaign liftoff, Mrs. Costello touted her record as a business owner. Since her husband’s death, she has become a nationally-known mental health advocate.
“Mark and I had a consistent formula that allowed us to succeed in business –Hard work, solid values and diligent planning,” Costello said in her campaign release. “That is exactly what I will bring to the job as Oklahoma’s next Labor Commissioner. I do not want anyone’s vote because of the tragedy of my past. I am asking for everyone’s vote because of my vision for the future.”
Costello said she will focus on improved workplace safety, promotion of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, and efforts to “reduce the loss of wealth and productivity due to untreated mental illness.”
Costello pointed out, “Mental illness is the leading cause of lost workplace productivity and accounts for 30 percent of disability costs. One in four Oklahomans suffers from mental illness which takes a tremendous toll on Oklahomans both personally and financially. The Labor Commissioner has a statutory obligation to promote the health and welfare of every worker in Oklahoma. Under my administration, mental health will be taken as seriously as physical health. It’s a win-win for employers and employees alike.”
Heide Brandes of Red Dirt Report covered Costello’s kickoff press conference ( In that report, Brandes took note of Costello’s reflections, including her comments that she will “advocate for jobs, job opportunities and job security and for reducing the over-reaching governmental regulations that destroy jobs. But the Labor Commissioner should not just be concerned with the workforce of today; the Labor Commissioner should be cultivating the workforce of tomorrow.”
As Brandes reported after the press conference, “Mark Costello was stabbed to death by his son Christian in August 2015. The family said that Christian had suffered from mental illness for much of his life. Labor Commissioner Melissa Houston was appointed Labor Commissioner after Mark Costello’s death but has indicated she will not run in the 2018 election.”
Since Mark’s death, Cathy has spoken frequently across the state advocating for mental health awareness and reform. She told reporters, “I was instrumental in passing the Labor Commissioner Mark Costello AOT Bill and the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act in Washington, D.C. I will have the honor and privilege of speaking to the New Jersey Legislature in October.”
Costello said, “I’m not a politician. I’m not interested in name recognition. I have been given two gifts. I have been given life and I have been given time. With my knowledge of the labor department and my five-year prep course I had under Mark Costello, I have the opportunity to improve the lives of people in Oklahoma.”
Cathy Costello lives in Edmond, and is the co-founder of several businesses. Information on her campaign is available at her website: 
Rep. Osborn, announcing her candidacy this month, said, “We have serious challenges in Oklahoma. I am convinced we can meet them. As Labor Commissioner, I will work with businesses and workers in all 77 counties to create safe workplaces and strong companies.”
The McCarville Report reported, “While it was no secret Rep. Leslie Osborn was seriously considering a run for statewide office, she made the announcement official … that she wanted to be Oklahoma’s next Labor Commissioner. Osborn served as the House Appropriations and Budget Chair during this year’s legislative session. She said that she is answering the call from Oklahomans for a responsive, results-oriented leadership.”
As the online news organization reported, “Before being elected to the House in 2008, Osborn was a small business owner for more than two decades. Now she is turning her attention to asking voters for her to take on the mantle of Labor Commissioner.
“I understand the important role the Labor Commission can play in building a better and stronger Oklahoma by championing people, jobs and businesses. In addition to making sure Oklahoma workers have safe places to work, we need a Labor Commissioner who is willing to visit and work with business owners across the state to find ways we can help them expand and succeed.”
Osborn was elected to the state Legislature in 2008, and would not face the six-term limit until the 2020 election. In that victory nine years ago, she replaced Susan Winchester. 
A four-term veteran of legislative politics, Rep. Osborn has been frequent guest on analyst Scott Mitchell’s “Hot Seat” program on News9, often jousting with former state Rep. Richard Morrissette, a Democrat. She has worked on flood control issues and other policy matters during her tenure. 
Osborn ran the House Judiciary Committee under former House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton.   
Speaker of the House Charles McCall, R-Atoka, named Osborn to run the appropriations and budget panel during the winter of 2016-17. She advanced efforts to close a state budget gap through revenue enhancement measures characterized as fee increases, not tax hikes. Proposals she supported gained narrow majority support, and the signature of Gov. Mary Fallin during the recent session. 
Last month Speaker McCall removed her from the job in in the lower chamber. At that time, she commented in a press release sent to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations, “Speaker [Charles] McCall’s decision to relieve me of my duties as Chair of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee is his to make. I am disheartened by his decision, but I am not deterred in my desire to work for the betterment of our wonderful State.” 
( McCall has said he would support Osborn’s candidacy for the Labor post. 
Rep. Osborn has garnered several dozen endorsements from prominent Republicans who were featured in an advertisement published in The Oklahoman, the state’s largest newspaper. 
Osborn’s campaign Facebook page is at . 
The Republican primary for the position will be held June 26, 2018, with the general election on November 6, 2018. Thus far, no Democrats have announced an intention to seek the job.