Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Uncommon Drama Charges Labor Commissioner Race

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Uncommon Drama Charges Labor Commissioner Race

Article excerpt

Labor commissioner usually doesn't attract as much interest as a race for governor or for the U.S. Senate, but this campaign is far from ordinary.

The incumbent, Democrat Dave Renfro, is named in two complaints before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: One Labor Department employee claims she was fired and another claims he was transferred, both because of Renfro's romantic involvement with another employee.

Renfro says the complaints were politically motivated.

One of Renfro's Democratic primary challengers is Karroll Rhoads, who at this time a year ago was in the state House of Representatives _ as a Republican.

Another Democrat is Hamp Baker, a 12-year veteran of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission whose political career has been idle since losing his bid for the Corporation Commission in 1986.

There's also Virginia Jenner, the dental hygienist from Tulsa who has run for the U.S. Senate, mayor and city council, all unsuccessfully.

Renfro has been under attack from a united Republican front that charges he has been bought by labor and is loyal to labor.

"When I hear opponents, Republicans or Democrats, talking about the need of the labor commissioner to be pro-business, I have two responses: One, the statutes of Oklahoma do not mention anything about being pro-business; it mentions pro-workforce," Renfro says.

"We have the Commerce Department to be an advocate for business people," he said. "Why any candidate for labor commissioner believes he or she has to be a surrogate for the Commerce Department is beyond me."

Four Republicans filed for labor commissioner, but only one _ Brenda Reneau of Edmond _ is a serious contender, and only three of the Republicans made it to the ballot.

Former state Rep. Mike Fair of Oklahoma City was removed from the ballot. The Oklahoma Constitution forbids a legislator in midterm from running for an office in which the salary has been raised during the lawmaker's current term. …

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