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SHANE KEETER/Muskogee Phoenix 

Mayor Marlon Coleman, center, celebrates news of his victory over Wayne Divelbiss in the race for mayor seat Tuesday as he stands between Xavier Houston, left, and Jacob Terrapin, right. 

Ward IV Councilor Marlon Coleman declared victory Tuesday in his bid for Muskogee’s mayoral post in a runoff against three-time contender Wayne Divelbiss.

Coleman credited his win to his positive message, saying residents are tired of divisive politics and negative campaign tactics that became a hallmark of this year’s municipal election. The two-term city councilor played down the historic moment of being elected as the city’s first Black mayor, focusing instead on a new agenda that focuses on people and a new future.

“I am happy to say tonight the people of Muskogee overwhelmingly chose hope over pessimism,” Coleman said during his acceptance speech. “We were lied on, we were mercilessly attacked ..., but attacks cannot destroy hope.”

With more than 34% of Muskogee’s registered voters casting ballots for mayor, unofficial results from the Oklahoma State Election Board show Coleman beat Divelbiss with 59.15% of the votes, 3,974-2,745. The higher turnout was attributed to a hotly contested State Question 802, asking voters to expand Medicaid, and several primary contests on the ballot.

The pastor at Antioch Church of Muskogee, who will leave his Ward IV post mid-term, flipped four of the eight precincts Divelbiss won in February. While both candidates increased their totals from the general election in February, Coleman appeared to seize support from outgoing Mayor Janey Boydston, who endorsed her apparent successor.

“He was my pick for whatever that’s worth,” Boydston said as ballots were being delivered from precincts to the Muskogee County Election Board. “A lot of the people who supported me had asked me who I thought ought to be in there, and I told them — I suppose we’ll see if that did any good in just a little bit.”

Boydston, who was serving as Ward I representative and deputy mayor when she was appointed to succeed former Mayor Bob Coburn when he accepted a state appointment in 2019, said she believes “Muskogee is set for good things.” She expressed “hope that when this is over we can all shake hands and come out fighting for the things that will be best for Muskogee.”

Divelbiss, who said he would “be going around to different watch parties throughout the night” instead of having a watch party, said he plans to compete a fourth time for mayor.

“I appreciate and love all my supporters,” Divelbiss said, acknowledging Coleman’s apparent victory. “I look forward to continue serving Muskogee in the boards I am on, and I love Muskogee.”

Coleman rallied his supporters on the plaza outside Muskogee Civic Center, saying his victory demonstrates residents’ belief that “that we can have better housing, that we are better together than we are divided.” Coleman said he enlisted young people to support his campaign because the election was about “the heart and soul of Muskogee.”

“I was never afraid of losing the election,” Coleman said. “I was afraid of losing Muskogee to an agenda that didn’t care for people ..., but tonight the people spoke and decided that hope is better than destruction.”

Former Mayor John Tyler Hammons said he is “proud of his friend,” and said Coleman “will be an amazing leader for Muskogee.”

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