By Jeff Harrison
The State capitol has become a contentious place.
Lawmakers have butted heads over budget deals and funding for key services during a recent special session. And the forecast calls for more of the same in February with the upcoming legislative session.
State Rep. Scott Inman had been a key voice in those discussions until last month when he announced he is resigning his seat early and dropping out of the governor’s race. In a statement, the Democratic House leader said he will serve through the special session before stepping down early next year. He cited stresses of the campaign and career on his personal life as the reason for his departure.
“The stresses and strains of my career, the time away from my family, and the choice to wrongly prioritize my life’s decisions have brought me to this moment,” Inman said in a statement. “I can no longer ask my wife and children to sacrifice for me. It is time for me to re-prioritize what is important in this world.”
Inman was first elected to the House in 2006 and became Democratic leader in 2009. His District 94 includes Del City and a portion of south Oklahoma City. His term was set to expire in November 2018. He is term-limited and cannot seek reelection in the legislature.
Inman’s decision to resign at the beginning of next year means the state will not have a special election to fill the District 94 seat. The state only holds special elections in odd years. A new representative will be elected in November 2018.
“If a state representative resigns in an odd year then it will be filled with a special election,” said Bryan Dean, State Election Board spokesman. “But if it happens in an even year then it will be filled with the regularly scheduled elections.”
The state can only schedule elections on certain days during the year, and most allow enough time for filing and protest periods as well as primary and general elections. Dean said even recently scheduled special elections will end shortly before the April filing period for statewide general elections in November 2018.
“Some of the seats will not have an election until early next year and then the candidates will have to file again in April,” Dean said.
A special election for a State House seat costs about $10,000 to $14,000, Dean said. The state has seen a record number of special elections this year with nine.
While Inman has been a popular figure in his hometown of Del City, some constituents are upset about his delayed resignation. They say the delay means the district will not have representation during the upcoming legislative session, which likely will include another budget deficit.
Nadine Gallagher is an active member of the Oklahoma Democratic Party and has known Inman since she moved to the state from the East Coast a few years ago. She said she’s been unable to get in touch with Inman since his announcement.
“I consider Scott Inman a friend and I don’t wish him any ill, but the point is he has a responsibility to this district and if he’s not going to meet it, then he needs to step down,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher said they have a strong candidate in Andy Fugate who would be prepared for a special election. Fugate officially launched his campaign this summer.
Fugate also considers Inman a close friend and offered support for him and his family.
“I’ve reached out to Scott and just offered prayers and thoughts for his family,” Fugate said. “I suspect he’s unplugged and stepped back from it.”
Fugate said Inman’s resignation will not impact his own campaign for state office. He is continuing to meet with voters and actively follow happenings at the state legislature.
Carol Parker, a Del City resident, has been a supporter of Inman throughout his legislative career, but has been disappointed by his resignation. She said he had always been accessible and an advocate for adults with disabilities, an issue close to her heart.
“I have always supported him and when he announced his resignation,” Parker said. “I was not upset, but then found out that we would not have any representation in the special election or next session.”
Parker and other families have been at the State capitol frequently to meet with legislators and express concerns about cuts to the In Home Support Waiver for adults with developmental disabilities. Parker’s adult son is disabled and receives services through the program.
“I’ve been there three or four times since the rally on Oct. 24 and haven’t seen him or been able to speak with him,” Parker said. “The reason he gave for a Jan. 1 resignation date was he wanted to work on the special session. But he hasn’t cast a single vote.”
Parker said she has been able to meet with Sen. Jack Fry about budget proposals and support for the In Home Support Waiver. Fry represents State Senate District 42 which includes Del City and Midwest City.
The Midwest City Beacon has made multiple efforts to contact Inman, but did not receive response, as of Wednesday afternoon.