OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Wednesday night’s gubernatorial debate made national headlines with topics about crime rates and relations with the sovereign tribes.

Joy Hofmeister, Democratic candidate for governor and State Superintendent, said “rates of violent crime are higher in Oklahoma under your watch than in New York or California.” She was speaking directly to Governor Kevin Stitt.

The Governor laughed and said her statement was not true.

“Hang on, Oklahomans, do you believe we have higher crime than New York or California,” said Stitt, appearing to mock his opponent.  

The FBI reported that crime was higher in Oklahoma compared to New York and California in 2020.

In 2019, Oklahoma had higher crime than New York, but not California.

The rates are based on violent crimes committed per 100,000 people; it is not a total number.

“Clearly, the governor was uncomfortable with the facts. And these are serious issues,” said Hofmeister, Thursday afternoon.

The State Superintendent pushed back today about the Governor’s slogan of Oklahoma becoming a “Top Ten State.”

In the debate the Governor said being top ten is aspirational, but adding it’s something Oklahoma is “never going to hit.”

“He didn’t mean that he wanted to literally move Oklahoma out of the bottom of states in many different areas,” said Hofmeister. “I want to move Oklahoma out of the low performing indexes that we are seeing today.”

The governor’s communication team said that he was unable to speak on camera today “because he was working in his office.”

But we were outside of his office this morning at 10am.

Wednesday night, the governor made an off-handed invitation to tribal leaders for Thursday morning at the Capitol. It was his response to a question about when he planned on meeting with the sovereign nations.

“Tomorrow at 10 o’clock. They’re all on tv watching right now, let’s do it tomorrow at 10 o’clock,” said Governor Stitt.

Almost immediately, Chuck Hoskin Jr., Chief of the Cherokee Nation, tweeted his displeasure with the Governor’s invitation.

“There has been no invitation to meet with Gov Stitt and there is no meeting scheduled. That Gov Stitt thinks he can command tribal leaders to his office by simply declaring it on live television speaks volumes of why has had been a failure at state/tribal relations.”

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Chief Gary Batton of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma echoed the same thing.

“Even the idea that he can command us to be there at 10:00 in the morning. I mean, if I truly respect anybody, I’m going to call and say, ‘would you be available? I’d love to visit with you and see if we can work this out,’” said Batton.

Brian Bingman, the Secretary of State and Secretary of Native American Affairs, was the only one walking the halls when we arrived at the Capitol.

“The governor’s in his office today and nobody showed up. But our point is that we’re always willing to meet with the tribes,” said Bingman.

The secretary said that the invitation was not unreasonable, it was simply an answer to a question.

“We would welcome the opportunity to sit down and discuss, you know, ongoing relationships as we move forward,” said Bingman.

Hofmeister disagreed with the Governor’s spur-of-the moment invite, saying relationships are built over time and respect.

“You cannot be quick with collaboration because it only advances with the speed of trust,” said Hofmeister.