By Tim Farley
Kevin Stitt has never been elected to public office, which he’s using as a main selling point in his quest to become Oklahoma’s next governor.
Instead, Stitt is a Tulsa businessman who used $1,000 and a computer to start and develop Gateway Mortgage, which is one of the largest mortgage service companies in the United States. The company currently employs 1,200 people with 161 offices in 41 states.
During a recent visit to Yukon, Stitt talked most about his desire to operate state government more like a business than using political agendas for private purposes.
“I started thinking about the governor’s race about a year ago and as I traveled to our different offices I was witnessing all of the positive growth in Texas, Tennessee and all these other states,” he said.
Upon his return to Oklahoma each time, Stitt was seeing nothing other than budget problems at the state Capitol.
“It’s the same ol’, same ‘ol,” the Republican gubernatorial candidate said. “Nothing will change if we keep electing the same people. The governor’s job is to have the vision. I want us to be in the top 10 in growth, education and infrastructure.”
With the election set for June 26, Stitt is not afraid to talk about himself or his Republican primary opponents.
“None of my opponents have had to hire someone or meet a payroll,” he said. “I’m a businessman and they’re not. This state needs to be run like a business.”
Stitt wants to reduce and streamline Oklahoma’s 400 agencies, boards and commissions. He also wants to audit all state agencies, budget all state funds and require a line-item veto. About 30 percent of all state funds can be budgeted by the legislature because of previous financial commitments that must be kept every year.
Stitt wants education reform by raising teacher pay to match the salaries of teachers in a six-state region. However, Stitt said he would not have raised taxes to fund teacher pay hikes as the legislature did earlier this year without reforms.
“We’ve had band-aids for education such as the lottery, para-mutual betting, liquor by the drink. This is not a Republican problem and it’s not a Democrat problem. It’s an Oklahoma problem,” he said of the state’s public education system.
Stitt also advocates line-item budgeting for the state education department, expanding the use of video technology to deliver Advanced Placement courses across the state and reviewing ways to empower local communities to best fund the needs of their local schools.
The candidate’s platform also includes advancing pro-life priorities, protecting 2nd Amendment rights, improving the state’s infrastructure and fostering a healthier Oklahoma with Medicaid reform. The health reforms include selling health insurance across state lines to stimulate competition and reduce premiums, auditing Medicaid and bringing more telemedicine to rural Oklahoma.
As a political outsider, Stitt said he wouldn’t hesitate to conduct meetings with all GOP caucuses and Democrats to develop a non-partisan way of solving the state’s problems.
“I’ve reached out to all House and Senate members about the problems we have in Oklahoma,” he said. “I would go off-site with our management team just like I do with my company, develop a plan and execute it during the year. As career politicians, the people out there now don’t want to make the tough decisions. I talked to Steve Largent recently and he said we have the same issues that were there 15 years ago.”