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State Superintendent Hofmeister will switch political parties, challenge Stitt for governor in 2022

Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister speak at a press conference in March 2020.

In an interview with The Tulsa World published late Wednesday, State Schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister announced she will switch parties and become a Democrat to challenge Gov. Kevin Stitt in the 2022 gubernatorial election.

Hofmeister was a political newcomer when she primaried fellow Republican Janet Barresi to become state superintendent in 2014 and cruised to re-election in 2018.

Changing parties is her only option, she told the newspaper, because the GOP in Oklahoma has become too closely aligned with Stitt. She’s frequently clashed with the governor during the pandemic, especially related to masking in schools.

Hofmeister held nothing back in her interview with The Tulsa World, saying Stitt is "running the state into the ground."

She criticized Stitt's leadership, saying he "ignored reality" in his handling of the pandemic. Stitt hasn't held a press conference on COVID-19 since March 2021, even as the Delta variant raged in the state.

The announcement comes three weeks after Stitt called on the State Auditor to investigate Hofmeister's Department of Education.

Stitt said he has concerns about the agency's accountability systems, but Hofmeister called the unprecedented audit request an attack on her agency and public education more broadly.

Hofmeister will officially switch her party registration on Thursday.

She'll join former state Sen. Connie Johnson in running for Governor as a Democrat. The Democratic primary is set for June 28 and the general election will take place on Nov. 8, 2022.

Robby Korth joined KOSU as its news director in November 2022.
Ryan LaCroix is the Director of Content and Audience Development for KOSU.
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