By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer
Mayor Bob Coburn won a second mayoral term by acclamation Thursday after drawing no opponents during the three-day declaration period that ended with a flurry of filings.
Coburn, said he “could not be more excited” about his re-election and the progress Muskogee has made and will make during the next few years. There are “so many positive things going on right now,” Coburn said, and he is “looking forward to being a part of that.”
“It’s certainly not anything I am doing, it is the citizens of Muskogee who are making this happen,” Coburn said. “I am sure what we are doing is not agreeable with everybody, but it is in the best interest of Muskogee — it’s a new day.”
Coburn’s victory was the first time a sitting Muskogee mayor has run unopposed since 2002. City Clerk Pam Bates said Hershel McBride, a longtime city councilor and three-term mayor who ran unsuccessfully in 2008 for a fourth term, drew no opponents in 2002.
This year’s three-day filing period began with the first of five possible contests turning into a race by the end of the second day. By the end of the day Thursday, races took shape in all four wards, with three incumbents defending their seats and a fourth one left open.
In Ward 1, two-time candidate John Lowrimore will challenge Deputy Mayor David Jones, who is competing for his third term. Lowrimore competed in 2003 in a field of three after Coburn vacated that post to compete for the post vacated by former Mayor John Tyler Hammons.
Jones said he enjoys serving as a city councilor and plans to stay “as long as I am doing some good and the voters want me.” Lowrimore said he “wants to give it another shot” to see how well he fares with the new ward-voting format.
One of the surprises Tuesday was Ward 2 Councilor James Gulley’s decision to compete for a third term. Gulley said in October he would not file this year unless there was a “major change” in circumstances.
“We went to the unveiling for AIM (Action in Muskogee), and after I went home I was telling my wife how exciting this is,” Gulley said, noting his intent to get involved with the initiative after completing his second term. “My wife said, ‘Honey, the best way you can help make that a reality is to see if you can get re-elected to the council,’ so here I am.”
Gulley will be competing against two-time candidate Michelle Green, a homemaker and community volunteer who campaigned in 2010 for the Ward 2 post. Green said earlier this week she might withdraw if a candidate she could support decided to file, but on Thursday she said she would take the weekend to make that decision.
Ward III Councilor Randy Howard, who is competing for his second term, drew two challengers Wednesday. Third-time candidate D. Boots and two-time candidate and community organizer Ivory Vann declared their candidacies just minutes before the filing deadline.
Boots said he plans to campaign on an issue he addressed during his first two bids for office. Boots maintains the city’s building codes increase the cost of doing business in Muskogee and prohibit small business owners from locating here.
“I just look at all these other towns around here that are just exploding in growth,” Boots said, citing the city’s stagnant sales tax revenue to support his argument. “We are getting some new business here, but we just don’t seem to be keeping pace with the surrounding area.”
Vann, a frequent visitor and speaker at City Council meetings, said he wants to see a council that is more receptive to people who are involved in the community. Vann, who serves as president of the Robison Park Community Association, said his ideas have been shot down too many times by councilors who seem to be put off by his involvement.
“That is one of the things that needs to be changed: We need a government that wants to see people involved in their community,” Vann said. “There are candidates who run for office and lose, then you never hear from them again until four years later when they are ready to run again.”
The Ward IV race attracted the most crowded field of candidates, with three people filing on the final day to compete against the Rev. Marlon Coleman, a political newcomer. Coleman declared his candidacy on Tuesday.
Former City Councilor Troy Stoutermire, a city planning commissioner, said he was inspired to file for office after visiting with his pastor, friends and other residents who “helped me make that decision.” Stoutermire served two years on the City Council after he was appointed in 2006 to fill James Roy Johnson’s unexpired term, but he lost his first bid in 2008 for a full, four-year term.
“I have continued to grow stronger and wiser in my efforts to make Muskogee the best place to live, work and play,” Stoutermire said. “Working within the community, trying to help others meet their needs — especially veterans, the homeless and low-income families — I would like to see a lot of those needs be addressed.”
Dean Swan said he decided to toss his hat in the ring at the last minute in an effort to bring some common-sense solutions to address the crime rate in northwest Muskogee. Swan said many Ward IV neighborhoods lack adequate street lighting, which is conducive to crime and adverse to policing.
“In my heart of hearts, my concern is for the citizens in Ward 4 and then the city at large — but first in your own neighborhood, then the city, the state and the nation,” Swan said. “It is just sort of a ripple effect: If you get people involved within the neighborhoods and wards, then you will have a stronger community.”
Claressa Vealy-Dyer also filed for the Ward 4 post, which is being vacated by Councilor Kenny Payne. Efforts to contact Vealy-Dyer were unsuccessful.
Coleman, pastor of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, said the fact that that four people are competing for the Ward 4 post “shows there are still people interested in the city of Muskogee.”
Muskogee County Election Board Secretary Kelly Beach said voters should be aware of some changes this year. The primary issue includes a state law that changes when voters may cast in-person absentee ballots, which will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the Thursday and Friday preceding Election Day.
In previous years, early voting was authorized on the preceding Friday and Monday for municipal elections. The law, Beach said, “was changed to allow election board staff to better prepare” for precinct voting on Election Day.
Beach also said residents who plan to vote in the Jan. 14 election must register by Dec. 20 if they are not registered already. Voter registration forms may be obtained at the election board office, 400 W. Broadway, or online at www.ok.gov/election. Qualified residents also may register at the local tag agency.
Residents who plan to cast an absentee ballot by mail must apply by Jan. 8. Absentee ballot applications also may be obtained at the election board or on the Oklahoma State Election Board’s website.
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or email@example.com.
Nov. 12-14: Candidate filing period.
Nov. 18: Deadline for candidacy withdrawal or contests.
Dec. 20: Voter registration deadline.
Jan. 8: Absentee ballot application deadline.
Jan. 9-10: In-person absentee voting.
Jan. 14: General election.
March 4: Runoff election if required.
City Council candidates
Mayor: John Robert “Bob” Coburn (i).
Ward I: David Paul Jones (i); John Mark Lowrimore.
Ward II: Michelle Jean Green; James Robert Gulley (i)*.
Ward III: Randall Howard (i); Dale LeRoy “D.” Boots Jr.*; Ivory Lewis Vann*.
Ward IV: Marlon Joseph Coleman; Troy Earl Stoutermire*; Claressa Dionne Vealy-Dyer*; Arnold “Dean” Swan*.
* Declarations filed Thursday.
Source: Muskogee City