Change of Heart: from “No Way” to “Yes Sir!” A Conversation with Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, a Republican, is one of the leaders of a growing movement to open up the state’s primaries, called Oklahoma United For Progress.

But a decade earlier, he campaigned against open, nonpartisan primaries! Bynum, then a member of the city council, opposed the citizen-led ballot question that made Tulsa’s municipal elections nonpartisan. He felt it interfered with the proper role of the parties and feared voter interest would wane in a nonpartisan process.

What inspired Bynum’s change of heart? 

In a groundbreaking expose by Lee Enterprises Public Service Journalism Team, their analysis of publicly available voter data for the 2022 midterm primary illustrates how OK’s partially closed system — and others like it — stifles voter participation: “-In districts with contested U.S. House races, about 49% of registered voters — or 889,880 eligible Oklahomans — were shut out from casting a ballot in them. -About 45% of registered voters — or 350,669 eligible Oklahomans — in contested State House races and about 40% — or 252,197 — in contested State Senate races were blocked from voting in them. -31 of those 52 contested state and federal seats — about 60% — were decided outright by the primary and not the general election, meaning hundreds of thousands of registered voters who were disallowed a primary voice had no vote at all for who would represent them in public office.”

Mayor Bynum says he hears from many other elected officials who feel the same way about open primaries but won’t be vocal about it. He’s taking a public stand because he believes nonpartisan primaries work better for the people.

On Wed 2/28 at 2pm ET, Open Primaries President John Opdycke welcomed G.T. Bynum on our Virtual Discussions Series to hear about the campaign to open up OK’s primaries, discuss his journey from open primary opponent to open primary supporter & explore what can be done to change the hearts & minds of other political leaders

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