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iVote- Three candidate challenges decided in morning meeting of State Election Board

04/23/2012 by Justin Martino
(iVote) The Oklahoma State Election Board decided three challenges in the morning session of its hearing for contests for candidacy, two of which were decisions made after the challenged candidate defaulted by not appearing at the hearing. All three of the morning cases were decided in favor of the challenger.

Although seven challenges were filed with the State Election Board, two of those cases were rendered moot when the challenged candidate chose to withdraw from the race. The two cases that were moot and therefore not heard were Rep. Ann Coody's challenge against Republican Ryan Jernigan in House District 64 and Rep. Randy McDaniel's challenge against Maurice Aldridge in House District 83.

A challenge filed by Republican Kyle Loveless against Republican Mark Schwieso in Senate District 45 was determined in Loveless' favor after Schwieso appeared at the hearing but declined to pay a deposit in the form of a $250 cashier's check to present his case to the election board.

The board also voted to strike Democrat Mark Faulk as a candidate after he did not appear or pay his deposit in a challenge filed by Democrat Mike Dover in House District 88.

The decision by the board to strike Schwieso leaves Loveless without any opponents for the Senate District 45 seat, earning him the office by default. He will replace Sen. Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City, who is not seeking re-election.

Striking Faulk from the ballot leaves four Democratic candidates and two Republican candidates in the House District 88 race to replace Sen. Al McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City, who left the House when he was elected to the Senate District 46 seat.

The board also ruled to strike Republican Daniel Arnett as a candidate based on a challenge filed by Rep. Jerry Shoemake, D-Morris. Shoemake alleged in the challenge that Arnett was not a resident of Henryetta as stated on his candidate filing documents for House District 16.

Arnett did not appear at the hearing, but he filed a response to the challenge with the election board along with his deposit required for the hearing. In his response, Arnett said he had never intended to move his permanent residency from Henryetta and maintained a residence with a local married couple that allowed him to stay with them when he was in town.

According to House Democratic Leader Scott Inman, of Del City, who represented Shoemake in the hearing, all of Arnett's actions tied back to Jenks, which is where Arnett's father lives. Arnett has listed his father's residence as a mailing address on several documents, including documents creating a limited liability company and documents filed with the Oklahoma Bar Association.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Neal Leader told the election board the decision on whether to strike Arnett from the ballot would be based on his residency, which would be a question of fact decided by the board.

Board member Jim Roth, noting that Arnett said he still carried a key to the Henryetta address so he could stay there while in Henryetta and could check on the residence when the couple was out of town, said he was not sure "carrying around a key" would meet the residency requirements for candidates, where the intent is for a legislator to represent his or her neighbors.

The motion to strike Arnett from the ballot carried with a vote of 2 to 1, with Roth and Vice Chairman Steve Curry voting to strike Arnett from the ballot and board member Jerry Buchanan voting against the motion.

The board's decision to strike Arnett leaves Shoemake facing Republican James Delso in the general election in November

The election board reconvened in the afternoon to hear two additional cases. [Editor's note: See related story on the board's afternoon hearing.]

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