McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State news

June 19, 2014

Incumbent Barresi leads money race

OKLAHOMA CITY — The top two Republicans vying to be the next state school superintendent have spent nearly $2 million between them in their bid to win their party’s nomination come Tuesday.

“This is a fierce fight for the school children of Oklahoma,” Joy Hofmeister said Tuesday of her campaign against incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi.

Barresi, a former dentist, is for the most part self-funding her re-election campaign against Hofmeister, a Tulsa businesswoman, and Edmond educator Brian Kelly, according to campaign finance reports released Tuesday.

Barresi has outspent Hofmeister nearly 3 to 1. Barresi has spent $1.4 million — more than $1.2 million of that her own money — compared with Hofmeister’s $460,000. Kelly had not yet filed his mandated report to the state Ethics Commission, officials with that agency said Tuesday.

Barresi and Hofmeister are widely considered the frontrunners.

“It is flattering (that

she’d spend that much),” Hofmeister said of Barresi. “I think that really it speaks volumes about the lack of support that she has statewide that is requiring her to use her own personal money.”

Hofmeister has spent nearly $29,000 of her own money to finance her run. She said she knew “it was not going to be an easy battle.”

“When you’re up against someone who can self-finance millions of dollars, it’s a hard race to win,” she said.

Hofmeister has out-raised Barresi by more than a 2 to 1 margin. Hofmeister reports collecting close to $461,000 in donations, while Barresi says she received about $226,000.

While much of Barresi’s support comes from the business community — including a $1,000 donation from the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s political action committee and $5,000 from Devon Energy Corp.’s PAC — Hofmeister’s support comes from educators including the superintendents of Claremore, Woodward, Norman, Stillwater and Miami. She also received $5,000 each from the Chickasaw Nation and its governor.

Barresi’s campaign spokeswoman Robyn Matthews said in an email that by self-funding “a significant portion” of her campaign, Barresi “is free from any encumbrances which may come from donations.”

Matthews in particular pointed to an ongoing fraud probe into Epic Charter Schools, which runs an online school in the state, and is under investigation for allegedly using falsified records to obtain state money. Hofmeister’s campaign filing notes that she has accepted more than $3,500 in campaign donations from two employees of Epic, including the school’s chief financial officer.

“She has had to provide this funding because of the hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent by education bureaucrats, leaders of pro-Obama unions and even those under investigation for fraud who are trying to protect a status quo that has put the wants of education establishment adults above that of our state’s children,” Matthews said.

Janelle Stecklein is the Oklahoma reporter and chief for the CNHI Capitol bureau. Contact Stecklein at jstecklein@cnhi.com.

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