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Endorsement: For Tanya Wilson for Tulsa County District Judge and retaining all appellate judges

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Oklahoma State Capitol (copy)

Oklahoma voters will decide whether to retain the state’s top appellate judge on Nov. 8, and those in Tulsa and Pawnee counties will choose a district judge..

Ginnie Graham and Bob Doucette talk about the Oklahoma gubernatorial debate between Gov. Kevin Stitt and State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, from asking if they ever smoked marijuana (one said yes, one said no) to the closing statement that brought one candidate out from behind the podium.

Among the most challenging decisions Oklahoma voters face is choosing among judicial races.

All voters on Nov. 8 must decide whether to retain the state’s top appellate judges. Closer to home, voters in Tulsa and Pawnee counties will decide between Special Judge Tanya Wilson and prosecutor Kevin Gray for the District 14, Office 12 district judge seat.

Both district judge candidates are well-qualified for the position with similar backgrounds. They have deep family roots in the Tulsa area, graduated from Booker T. Washington High School and the University of Tulsa College of Law and have extensive experience as prosecutors. The winner will replace the retiring District Judge Martha Rupp Carter.

Wilson was appointed a special judge two years ago after working in the Tulsa District Attorney’s Office for 11 years, handling at least 50 jury trials and serving as lead prosecutor in the juvenile division. Many cases she worked were crimes against children. She left the DA’s office to work in private practice specializing in criminal and family law, which was for about eight months until her move to the judiciary. As a special judge, she oversees preliminary hearings.

Gray has worked 11 years in Tulsa County DA’s Office and currently leads the homicide unit, prosecuting some of the county’s highest profile cases among his 94 jury trials. Those cases include the prosecutions of former Tulsa County Sheriff’s Reserve Deputy Robert Bates and former Tulsa Police Officers Betty Shelby and Shannon Kepler. He recently convicted David Ware in the shooting death and attempted death of two TPD officers. Before his role as a prosecutor, he worked on several political campaigns.

We give our recommendation to Wilson for her more diverse experience as a judge and brief time outside the prosecutor’s office practicing law.

The retention ballot is a yes-or-no question for each judge at the Oklahoma Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals and Court of Civil Appeals.

What is often misunderstood is how the judges were placed onto those courts. Unlike other states and the federal system, Oklahoma has a Judicial Nominating Commission to vet, interview and recommend a slate of nominees to the governor, who must choose from that list.

The process came after a 1960s bribery scandal involving campaign contributions for political appointments. The commission is composed of 15 volunteers: six appointed by the Oklahoma Bar Commission, six non-attorneys from the governor, one from the House Speaker, one from the Senate Pro Tem and one from the other commission members.

This same scandal led to the law barring judicial candidates from telling constituents their political party.

It’s been a time-proven prevention against scandal and political influence, creating a truly independent appellate court system.

For this reason, we support retaining all the judges on the retention ballot: Supreme Court Justices Dustin P. Rowe, James R. Winchester, Dana Kuehn and Douglas L. Combs; Court of Civil Appeals Judges Stacie L. Hixon, Gregory C. Blackwell, John F. Fischer, Barbara Swinton and Thomas E. Prince.


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