By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
The field of contenders looking to succeed Stephanie Bice in the State Senate has been narrowed after the names of two candidates were stricken from a special election ballot.
The Oklahoma State Election Board at a special meeting Dec. 16 determined that Rob Johnson, 46, and Darrick Matthews, 39, are not eligible to run for the District 22 seat being vacated by Bice.
Johnson and Matthews, both Republicans, filed contests of candidacy Dec. 11 with each claiming the other lives outside Senate District 22.
“There were two candidates and two hearings,” State Election Board public information officer Misha Mohr said. “They did contest each other, and in both cases, the candidates were stricken from the ballot.
“There are now four candidates left.”
Johnson, who was the District 22 senator before Bice, listed an address on Villagio Drive in Edmond when he declared his candidacy during the Dec. 7-9 filing period. Matthews listed his address on Highlander Ridge Drive in Edmond when he filed for District 22 special election.
The petition contesting Johnson’s candidacy shows the former state legislator “maintains a homestead in Senate District 47” and “claimed the homestead exemption” for tax year 2020 outside District 22. It also shows he filed as a lobbyist and represented to the Oklahoma Bar Association that he lives at that District 47 address.
“Mr. Johnson’s declaration of candidacy lists a residence that differs from where he claimed domicile in 2020 and different than his voter registration,” the petition reads. “The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that Mr. Johnson does not live in SD-22, but rather SD-47.”
The petition contesting Matthews’ candidacy notes candidates for Senate “must have been a registered voter in the district for the six months” before filing for office:
“Mr. Matthews was not a registered voter in Senate District 22 for the six-month period immediately preceding the first day of the filing period, which was December 7,” the document reads. “For the period November 4 to November 14, 2020, Mr. Matthews was not a registered voter in Senate District 22.”
The contest of candidacy refers to State Election Board certified records showing Matthews was registered to vote at the Highlander Ridge Drive address (in District 22) from Aug. 31, 2018 until Nov. 4, 2020 when he changed his registration to an address on Autumn Creek Drive in Edmond (in District 41). Ten days later, on Nov. 14, Matthews changed his voter registration back to the Highlander Ridge Drive address.
District 22 covers northern Oklahoma County and eastern Canadian County, including parts of Yukon, Piedmont, Edmond, and Deer Creek.
The State Election Board’s Dec. 16th ruling leaves four eligible candidates, two Democrats and two Republicans, remaining for the Feb. 9 special primary election:
* Democrat: Molly Ooten, 31, of NW 189th Terrace in Edmond; and Dylan Billings, 31, of Foxfire Road in Edmond.
* Republican: Keri Shipley, 48, of Water Oak Circle in Edmond; and Jake A. Merrick, 39, of NW 100th Street in Yukon.
The top vote-getter from each political party in the primary will face off in the Tuesday, April 6 special general election.
The winner of the District 22 special election will serve the final two years of an unexpired term in the 48-member Oklahoma State Senate. Full Senate terms are four years.
Bice, 46, resigned from the State Senate effective Dec. 31 after being elected to a two-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives for Oklahoma’s 5th District. Bice, who has served Senate District 22 since 2014, defeated incumbent Democrat Congresswoman Kendra Horn in the Nov. 3rd election.