Oklahoma state Auditor Cindy Byrd soars to reelection despite dark-money political attacks

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State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd felt a sense of vindication as the results of her primary election came in Tuesday evening. After weathering dark money-fueled opposition believed to be funded by the founders of Epic Charter Schools, who she had slammed in an audit two years ago, Byrd won reelection over challenger Steven McQuillen by a wide margin.

State Auditor Cindy Byrd speaks after a July 16, 2021, meeting with the Western Heights School Board.
State Auditor Cindy Byrd speaks after a July 16, 2021, meeting with the Western Heights School Board.

Last week, the founders of Epic were arrested on embezzlement charges.

"It’s been very disheartening that there were some who did not believe the audit report that the state auditor’s office put out," Byrd said. "But last week was more evidence that the state auditor’s office is putting out the information taxpayers need to know to be informed in order to know where their money is going."

More: Oklahoma state Auditor Cindy Byrd: 'I always tell people the numbers don't lie'

At her Oklahoma City watch party, Byrd wasn't the only one who felt last week's arrests and the election results showed Oklahomans trusted the audit.

"All the dark money that was pouring in was for not," said Jessie Morris, a Yukon resident who works in the state auditor's office.

State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd posed for a picture with former state auditor Gary Jones at an election watch party on June 28, 2022.
State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd posed for a picture with former state auditor Gary Jones at an election watch party on June 28, 2022.

Epic founders Ben Harris and David Chaney donated $744,500 to Prosperity Alliance Inc. from January 2020 to March 2021, which supported McQuillen with mailers, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

The opposition mailers created some concern in Byrd's camp, which hit back last week with their own statewide mailers and commercials.

Gov. Kevin Stitt also publicly endorsed Byrd, calling her the best candidate to protect taxpayers.

On Tuesday, Byrd won reelection — there are no candidates on the general election ballot — with 70% support, the highest statewide vote share in the Republican primary.

"I've had such a groundswell of support across the state once everyone realized what was going on with this election," Byrd said.

Byrd said during her next term in office, which will officially begin in January, she wants to find ways to make audits and reports easier to understand for average Oklahomans.

"My vision for the next four years is to become even closer to the taxpayers of this state (through) social media, getting out reports that aren't so long that people lose interest in reading them," Byrd said. "I want the taxpayers to really know what is going on because you will never control government unless you control where the money is going."

Labor commission, treasurer races head to an August runoff

Several other statewide primary races are headed for a runoff, including the commissioner of labor, where incumbent Leslie Osborn received 48% of the vote, just shy of the majority needed to avoid a runoff. State Rep. Sean Roberts, who received 38%, will face Osborn in an Aug. 23 election. The winner will face Democratic Jack Henderson and Libertarian Will Daugherty in November.

The Republican primary for state treasurer also is headed for a runoff to compete for the open seat, where current state Treasurer Randy McDaniel decided not to seek reelection.

State Rep. Todd Russ received 49% of the vote and Oklahoma Tax Commission Chairman Clark Jolley received 34%.

David Hooten, who recently resigned as Oklahoma County clerk amid sexual harassment allegations, received 18%, missing the runoff.

The winner between Russ and Jolley will face Libertarian Gregory Sadler and Democrat Charles de Coune.

The four-candidate Republican primary for an open seat on the corporation commission is also headed for a runoff, as state Sen. Kim David, who received 41% of the vote, will face former state Rep. Todd Thomsen, who received 26%.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: State Auditor Cindy Byrd wins reelection despite dark-money attacks