Political fallout possible from Hofmeister charges

The criminal case against State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister could have political repercussions in vote to increase education funding. (Phil Cross/KOKH)

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister's day began early Friday. The office of Special Judge Russell Hall says Hofmeister appeared in chambers before the judge by herself at 9:00 Friday morning. She entered a plea of not guilty to all charges.

Typically, defendants report to the jail and then appear in court.

The Oklahoma County Jail says Hofmeister walked in at 9:13 in the morning and walked out at 9:42 and denied claims Hofmeister received special treatment. Hofmeister’s time in the jail was a few minutes less than other elected officials who have had to go through the criminal justice system in the past.

RELATED: State Superintendent of Public Instruction charged with conspiracy

At the heart of the case emails and text messages between Hofmeister and key players in her campaign. The state alleges the 2014 campaign conspired with a dark money group to exceed legally allowed campaign contributions.

“The law says there can be no coordination,” said Bobby Stem who started the first ever independent expenditure campaign in Oklahoma. Stem currently runs the largest super PAC in the state.

“In order to eliminate any perception, I probably shouldn't even have a conversation with you,” Stem said of his caution in running independent expenditure campaigns, “You and I could legally go have a hamburger and the judge would have to prove that you and i spoke about the campaign, but why don't you do this and not have any communication with anybody in that camp?”

Stem said he has cut off contact with personal friends in the past when he operated groups supporting them in order to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

In Hofmeister's case, her campaign consultants and the person initially running the dark money group operated out of the same building.

While Hofmeister says she is certain her actions were in line with the law the case could still have political repercussions on Tuesday.

Hofmeister is supporting state question 779, the penny sales tax for education.

“If you have some undecideds or truly disengaged voters they could relate that back to Joy or the department,” Stem said.

Stem says support for SQ 779 was very high initially but the gap has narrowed as opposition groups have begun targeted campaigns against passage. Stem said both sides will have to work to get their message out in the final days and with the news of the criminal case that is even more important for the “yes” campaign.

“If the yes vote is still polling in the high 50s or right at 60/40 then I don't think this has an effect,” Stem said, “If it is a very close race, a 50/50 then possibly it could.”

FOX 25 has learned that a high-profile public relations firm has been retained to assist Hofmeister during the criminal case. The firm told FOX 25 they do not have any events or statements planned, but referred us to her attorney for comment on Friday’s events. Her attorney did not return our calls.

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