This November, Oklahomans are deciding on the second in command for the executive branch of state government.
The Lieutenant Governor presides over the Senate when needed, but for the most part the position is designed to promote the state of Oklahoma.
KOSU’s Michael Cross reports neither candidate for Lieutenant Governor faced a primary opponent, so both are looking ahead to the general election.
The owner of Vito’s Italian Restaurant in northwest Oklahoma City sits in an empty dining room doing paperwork before the evening rush.
Cathy Cummings focuses on answering phones and paying bills, but the race to be the next Lieutenant Governor is never far from her mind.
She also knows exactly where she wants to take the office.
“I want to focus on tourism, getting families and businesses to relocate here and just bring back some of the life that’s gone out of the smaller rural towns.”
Cummings previously owned Boca Boca restaurant, hosted cooking shows on local commercial radio, produced videos for Buy Four Less grocery stores and created a tourism website.
She also documented an experiment where she and her husband tried to live off Oklahoma’s minimum wage.
After finding it nearly impossible, she says she wants to focus on a living wage for all Oklahomans.
“You can’t expect no poverty if you’re paying poverty wages. I mean, you just can’t. You have no right to complain if that’s all you’re willing to pay. So, if we want families to survive and be healthy you’ve got to pay them more money, you just have to.”
Cummings spent more than a year traveling to all 77 counties and hundreds of towns across the state.
She admits to seeing shocked looks from Oklahomans who say they don’t usually get visits from politicians.
“Most of them say ‘who is our Lieutenant Governor?’ And, you know, I don’t care if you’re Democrat or Republican, if you’re second in charge and no one knows your name, I’m sorry you may not be qualified for that position.”
Cummings is facing off against the incumbent Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb who says he’s working to get his name out there in his run for reelection.
“I’ve been to Enid, Waurika, Marietta, Ardmore, Hollis, Altus, Mangum and Minco. The week before that I was in Muskogee, Pawhuska, Nowata, Owasso, Checotah and Okmulgee.”
Lamb also feels strongly about tourism in Oklahoma.
He chairs the Oklahoma Tourism Board, and has hosted ten tourism town hall meetings across Oklahoma in the past two year.
But, he also wants to focus on small businesses which he says make up 97-percent of companies in Oklahoma.
“I want to keep the burdens low so those small businesses can hire more high school graduates, hire more graduates from career tech, hire more college graduates, hire more neighbors, so we can grow our economy, grow our communities, grow rural Oklahoma and have a very vibrant, growing state.”
Before being elected as Lieutenant Governor in 2010, Lamb served for six years in the state Senate including time as Majority Floor Leader.
He also worked in the secret service and served in Governor Keating’s Administration from 1994 to 1998.
Under a new law passed in 2010, the Lieutenant Governor can only serve two terms, so Lamb says he’s ready to have a final four years in office.
“I want to continue to work on those small business issues. We got workers’ comp addressed, meaningful comprehensive reform. There’s more to do. Whether it’s unemployment compensation or other issues I hear about as I travel. I’m excited about the next four years.”
Being the incumbent can certainly help a candidate’s war chest.
According to the Ethics Commission, Lamb has a campaign fund balance of more than a million dollars while Cummings sits at under $24,000.
Early voting for the 2014 election starts on October 30.