Friday, February 09, 2024

Muskogee Votes: Mayor and City Council races on Tuesday

Tuesday, February 13th, is the municipal election in Muskogee, featuring races for mayor and five of eight city council seats. While it's been a little difficult to access, I've compiled a little bit of information on the candidates, which you will find in this post, along with a city ward map.

I'll be honest, I'm not familiar with most of the candidates. The Muskogee Phoenix newspaper isn't much help, as it appears that their entire website is now behind a paywall. Muskogee has a lingering "good ol' boy network" that has a lot of impact on what goes on here, and props up candidates for local office (a local activist goes into some discussion about that here). A new dark money group, 1907 PAC, is supposedly spending money on behalf of some candidates, though I'm not sure which (Jenni White at ROPE wrote last month about the tangled web of dark money and corrupt Oklahoma political consultants that includes 1907 PAC).

Anyway, here goes. Mayor Marlon Coleman is not seeking a third term, and three of the five council seats up this election are open (one due to a resignation). One way or another, Muskogee will have a lot of new faces in city government. I really like Mayor Coleman, and feel like he was the best mayor we've had in my lifetime. There's been quite a bit of progress and development in Muskogee over the past several years, and I think Coleman deserves some credit for that.

Muskogee's municipal offices are officially non-partisan; however, voter registration can give you an idea of how a candidate leans. Given that these races tend to attract little attention, I am including party affiliation of each of the candidates, in addition to website or social media page links where available.

MAYOR (city-wide vote)

Cale, 62, who owns or has owned business in a variety of sectors (from retail to manufacturing), served on the city council from 2016 to 2019, and was appointed in 2023 to complete the term for a Ward 1 councilwoman who resigned; Cale is endorsed by the last five Muskogee mayors (Marlon Coleman, Janie Cagle-Boydston, Bob Coburn, John Tyler Hammons, and Hershel McBride). Divelbiss, 52, works in sales, ran for mayor in 2018 (against his ex-father-in-law, to boot) and 2020, but does not seem to be waging much of a campaign this time.

You can read a Muskogee Phoenix questionnaire with the two candidates here. Cale is advocating for a bond issue to fund Muskogee's infrastructure needs and other projects (evidently, the last one passed was in 1973). 

Here is the official city council ward map (I will say, as someone with colorblindness, the colors they used are horrible...):

Click to view full-size

Councilmember - City Council Ward 1 (open seat)

  • C.B. Abel, Republican (Facebook)
  • Mike Brawley, Republican (Facebook)
  • Ashley Davis, Republican
  • Ricky Epperson, Republican has withdrawn, but remains on the ballot
Abel, 51, is a longtime (now retired) Muskogee Police officer -- I encountered him as a fellow beekeeper about 15-20 years ago. Brawley, 63, works in "management". Davis, 45, owns a small business, ran for council back in 2020. You can read a Muskogee Phoenix Ward 1 questionnaire here.

Councilmember - City Council Ward 2 (open seat)

Hall, 57, served two terms as councilor from 2012 to 2020, and is a campus police officer at Muskogee Public Schools. Lowe, 48, owns 24k Pawn. You can read the Muskogee Phoenix Ward 2 questionnaire here.

Councilmember - City Council Ward 3

  • Travis Bearden, Republican
  • Derrick Reed [incumbent], Democrat (Facebook)
Reed, 51, has has been on the council since 2011, currently serves is the deputy mayor, and has the endorsement of Mayor Coleman. Bearden, 48, is a home builder. You can read the Muskogee Phoenix Ward 3 questionnaire here.

Councilmember - City Council Ward 3 (Unexpired Term)

Cranford, 50, a Muskogee teacher, nearly won this seat in 2022 (losing to former councilman Ivory Vann by a 52.6% to 47.4% vote). Crutcher, 66, is retired. McQuay, who lists her profession as "consultant", is endorsed this round by Mayor Coleman. You can read the Muskogee Phoenix Ward 3 questionnaire here.

Councilmember - City Council Ward 4

Martindale, a Marine Corps veteran and local nonprofit leader, has the support of Mayor Coleman (R) and former mayor Bob Coburn (R). McGee has been on the council since 2020, and owns an independent insurance agency.

McGee and Coleman both switched to Republican about the same time a few years ago, becoming (as best as can be told) the first Black Republicans on the city council (or mayor, in Coleman's case). You can read the Muskogee Phoenix Ward 4 questionnaire here.

Not knowing as much as I'd like about all of these candidates or races (or the current city issues, to be honest), I hesitate to be too dogmatic about picking candidates. Generally, as a conservative Republican, I default to Republican candidates unless there is a compelling reason against doing so. I've heard good things from friends about Cale in the mayor's race, Abel and Davis in Ward 1, Hall in Ward 2. Other than that, I don't have much to go off of. 

Hopefully the information and links in this post can help you make your decision, if you are a Muskogee voter.


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