The Journal Record
June 26, 2018
OKLAHOMA CITY – The race for state labor commissioner eliminated two candidates in Tuesday’s primary, leaving a clear Democratic contender and a runoff for the Republican ticket.
Fred Dorrell had a comfortable lead in the Democratic tally at about 75 percent of the votes over opponent Sam A. Mis-soum’s 25 percent, according to state Election Board preliminary results with about 74 percent of precincts reporting. The Democratic ballot had only two names in the race.
Republicans fielded three candidates. Voting results affirmed earlier polling that predicted a tight race between Cathy Costello and state Rep. Leslie Osborn. The Election Board reported Costello with 43 percent of the votes ahead of Osborn’s 35 percent, according to preliminary results with about 74 percent of precincts reporting. Keith Swinton captured the remainder, about 22 percent.
Independent candidate Brandt Dismukes, 63, of Oklahoma City, did not have a primary opponent, so he automatically will be promoted to the general election ballot in November. Labor Commissioner Melissa McLawhorn Houston chose to not run for the next term.
Houston was appointed to the post by Gov. Mary Fallin after Commissioner Mark Costello’s death at his son’s hand in 2015. He had been elected to office twice. Christian Costello was sent to a state mental hospital this year in connection with his father’s death.
Cathy Costello, 58, of Edmond, is a businesswoman and former educator who said she felt driven to run for her husband’s office because she understands too well the impact of mental health problems in society, both personally and at a larger community and workforce scale. Costello said she did not want anyone’s vote because of the family tragedy, but neither would she avoid addressing it if asked.
“Nearly one in four people suffer from a mental health disorder in Oklahoma,” Costello said. “I realize that this is a central issue among our workers and mental health is a labor issue. Because of stigma, nobody will talk about it. … But work brings unity and identifies who you are. We want to make sure our workforce is healthy in both mind and body.”
Win or lose or draw, Costello said, she will continue to spearhead the issue in policymaking and public health services.
Osborn, 54, of Mustang, is a businesswoman as well as a state representative who made workforce development and wage protections a big part of her platform. Osborn served as chairwoman of the Appropriations and Budget Committee in 2017, during which she pushed for approval of tax and fee increases and was ousted for it July.
“The issue moving forward has always been safety for citizens and the workforce,” Osborn said when asked earlier Tuesday about carrying her campaign forward. “I want an open-door policy for every group that interacts with the Department of Labor to help make a better Oklahoma.”
Swinton, 54, of Norman, is an entrepreneurial inventor who also works at the U.S. Postal Service’s National Center for Employee Development. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
On the Democratic side of the race, Mis-soum, 30, of Tulsa, is an engineer and businessman. Dorrell, 63, of Broken Arrow, is a human resources labor specialist and business and human resources teacher at Tulsa Community College. Neither candidate could be reached for comment.
The goal of the Labor Department outlined in state statutes is to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, improve working conditions and advance opportunities for profitable employment.