- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The race to replace Tulsa County’s top prosecutor has been whittled to two candidates after a state senator said Tuesday that he was withdrawing as a candidate, citing the Legislature’s approval this session of a pay hike for district attorneys.

When lawmakers passed the pay hike resolution last week, Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, took constitutional privilege, which allows a member to abstain from voting on an issue in which he or she may have a personal interest.

But Crain said the plain reading of the Oklahoma Constitution precludes him from running since he is in the middle of his four-year Senate term. Article V, Section 23 of the Oklahoma Constitution states in part: “No member of the Legislature shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed or elected to any office or commission in the State, which shall have been created, or the emoluments of which shall have been increased, during his term of office.”

Crain said he believes he could launch a successful legal challenge that would allow him to run, but he added: “I didn’t feel it was right to be asking the people of Tulsa County to make me their chief law enforcement officer at the same time I was going to court to argue why the law didn’t apply to me.”

State Rep. Fred Jordan, R-Jenks, one of the other two candidates in the race also took constitutional privilege, but said he believes the prohibition does not apply to him since his term ends before his district attorney term would begin.

Crain, Jordan and Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, all Republicans, were vying to replace longtime District Attorney Tim Harris, who is retiring.

But despite Crain’s announcement, his name still will appear on the June 24 primary ballot because the deadline to formally withdraw was the Friday after the three-day April filing period, said Bryan Dean, a spokesman for the Oklahoma State Election Board.

A state board last year recommended a 12 percent pay raise for the judiciary, whose salaries are linked to the pay for district attorneys and for statewide elected officials including the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

The Legislature instead approved a resolution authorizing a 6 percent pay hike, but only for district attorneys and most judges. The resolution rejected pay hikes for judges on Oklahoma’s appellate courts and all statewide elected officials.



House Joint Resolution 1096: https://bit.ly/1pagwJ3

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