Democratic state Rep. Scott Inman announced Thursday he is running for Oklahoma governor next year after serving as the leader of the House Democratic caucus for the past seven years.
Inman said he plans to file paperwork to run for governor in 2018 and begin raising funds for a wide-open campaign that is expected to attract a crowded field. Two-term Republican governor Mary Fallin is term limited and cannot seek re-election.
Inman is a six-term state representative from Del City who cannot seek re-election due to term limits. He has been a frequent critic of income tax cuts and various business tax exemptions supported by Fallin and Republican legislative leaders that Inman says have contributed to chronic budget shortfalls that will total an estimated $868 million next year.
"My job in this next election is to basically shine a light on the failed leadership that Gov. Fallin and her colleagues here in the Legislature have brought to the state and give the voters of Oklahoma a chance to move in a different direction," Inman told The Associated Press.
"Republicans control everything in the state of Oklahoma and they control everything in Washington," he said. "People aren't real happy with President Trump's leadership right now and they're certainly not happy with Gov. Fallin's leadership here in Oklahoma."
Inman, 38, said he is proud of the House's Democratic minority's legacy of opposing GOP-backed income tax and gross production tax cuts and said that if Republican leaders had heeded his warnings, "we wouldn't have these devastating budget cuts to education, health care and public safety."
"I don't believe you can balance the state's budget on the back of working families at the same time you're cutting huge tax cuts for the wealthy and well-connected," he said.
Inman said the theme of his campaign, "Let's Rebuild Oklahoma," will focus on reinvesting in core state services like schools, highways and health care.
"That's the type of leadership I want to bring to the state as the next governor," he said. "The last seven years of Gov. Fallin's leadership have broken the state and I think the state's ready for a new direction, a new generation of leadership that believes in investing in Oklahoma, investing in our kids, investing in our roads and bridges."
Inman said he would be a "centrist Democratic governor" who would be able to work with Republicans who hold large majorities in both the state House and Senate.
"I think the state's in better hands when you've got divided government," Inman said. "Having one party controlling everything — whether that's Democrats or Republican — is not necessarily the ideal situation for its citizens."
Other candidates considering the race are Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Auditor & Inspector Gary Jones and Tulsa attorney Gary Richardson, all Republicans, and former state Sen. Connie Johnson and retired auto mechanic Norman Brown, both Democrats.