By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer
Two incumbents, a second-time candidate and a political newcomer declared candidacies Tuesday, but no contests took shape on the first day of filing for Muskogee’s 2014 elections.
Mayor Bob Coburn declared his candidacy Tuesday morning, making official his October announcement that he intended to seek a second term. Coburn, who was elected in 2010 to his first mayoral term, said he wants to help spur the continued “momentum” and “excitement” seen in Muskogee during his first term.
Ward III Councilor Randy Howard also declared his intention to compete for a second term. Howard, who was elected in 2008, said he has “too many things going on right now that I want to finish” to bow out without a fight. Howard said if can serve another four years he “would be a happy man.”
Michelle Green, a homemaker and community volunteer who is making her second bid for public office, filed for the post being vacated by Ward II Councilor James Gulley. Green competed in 2010 against former Councilor Shawn Raper and the eventual winner, Councilor Dan Hall.
“The climate has changed a lot,” Green said about Muskogee and the 2014 municipal elections. “We have made a lot of progress in those two years, and I would like to see that keep going.”
Green said while she declared her candidacy Tuesday, there is a chance she could withdraw. Green, a chamber volunteer and member of the Action in Muskogee steering committee, said if a candidate she could support decides to file, she may withdraw from the race on Monday.
The Rev. Marlon Coleman of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church filed his declaration to compete for the seat held now by Ward IV Councilor Kenny Payne. Coleman, a New Orleans native, moved to Muskogee in 2010 and has become active with the AIM initiative and mentoring at-risk youth.
Coleman said his campaign will be one of HOPE: Helping Ordinary People Everyday. The retired federal worker said economic development, job creation and labor rights are issues he believes are important to “make sure Muskogee is a business friendly city.”
“Residents need to know their best years are ahead of them, but they need someone in council chambers who will speak out for them,” Coleman said. “Muskogee has a lot of residents who are hard workers, but they need a leg up. People cannot have hope if they are not economically solvent — they need to be able to find good-paying jobs ...”
This election cycle will be the first where ward representatives will be elected by voters who live within the candidates’ respective wards. The mayoral race will remain at-large, meaning voters citywide will have an opportunity to weigh in on that contest.
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.
Ward I: No declarations.
Ward II: Michelle Green.
Ward III: Randy Howard.
Ward IV: Marlon Coleman.