Democratic gubernatorial candidate and state schools superintendent Joy Hofmeister rolled into Norman on Friday and emphasized the importance of protecting public education and residents from the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.
The state’s top education official also encouraged voters to show up to the polls for Tuesday’s general election. She rallied voters as part of a bus tour making 50 stops in 27 days.
Hofmeister, who is challenging Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt for his seat, met with people inside Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q on Chautauqua Avenue near Highway 9.
“As we close out this campaign, we’re finishing it the way we started, which is hometown after hometown, listening to Oklahomans,” she said. “Now, it’s about getting out to vote and reconnecting with all of those that we have sat together (with) in living rooms and diners, listening to their priorities.”
Hofmeister said those priorities and common themes revolve around “world-class schools, having safe and healthy communities, and the infrastructure for great jobs.”
Norman residents the candidate has spoken to on the campaign trail share these priorities, she said.
Hofmeister later told The Transcript she plans to audit the turnpike authority and force the agency to comply with the state’s Open Meeting Act.
Alleged open meeting act violations are at the center of a lawsuit brought by nearly 300 residents who claim the agency did not sufficiently inform the public on its January and February meeting agendas about a plan to build two turnpikes.
Hofmeister said residents learning about the Turnpike Authority’s proposed $5 billion, 15-year expansion plan — which Stitt has supported — was “not right.”
If elected, she said she plans to conduct an audit of OTA, either through the state or a third party.
“We believe that it should be subject to the Open Meeting Act, and that that should apply, which it doesn’t today. We can’t have government operating in secret the way the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority can,” she said. While OTA is subject to this law, it is currently being sued over alleged violations in connection with the expansion announcement.
Hofmeister also said dollars should be directed toward two-lane highways in rural Oklahoma, as opposed to mostly in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro areas.
Hofmeister has come under fire from Stitt about how she has managed public education in Oklahoma. Hofmeister’s time as superintendent has been punctuated by her response to the teacher walkout in 2018 and her opposition of Stitt over school COVID-19 restrictions in 2020.
Both have been at odds over school choice, which would send public dollars to students whose parents wish to send them to private schools.
A bill narrowly defeated in the state Legislature this year would have moved dollars from public schools to support school choice unless more money was appropriated.
“It is essential that the state will double down on our commitment to public education,” Hofmeister said.