Cabinet secretary joins governor's race

Tuesday, October 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Jerry Regier, the Oklahoma secretary for Health and Human Services, said Tuesday he has formed a committee to explore a race for the Republican nomination for governor.

Regier, 56, has filed papers with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission that will allow him to begin fund-raising activities.

U.S. Rep. Steve Largent of Tulsa, a former NFL wide receiver, filed similar papers several months ago and plans to resign in November to actively campaign for the GOP nomination.

Regier was appointed by Gov. Frank Keating to serve as health commissioner after a scandal rocked the Oklahoma Department of Health.

The scandal led to several indictments of so-called ``ghost'' employees and a federal bribery conviction of Brent VanMeter, deputy health commissioner, and the indictment of Jerry Nida, former health commissioner. The ``ghost'' employees were accused of being paid for work they did not perform.

In the weeks ahead, Regier said, ``I want to take some polls and do some fund-raising and see where I'm at.

``I think we have some great opportunities to work on meaningful reform. I'm a worker; I'm not a talker. I'm someone who rolls up his sleeves and gets the job done.''

He said Largent has a headstart, but added: ``I think the people of Oklahoma are still planning to have an election, not a coronation.''

Keating is winding up his second four-year term and can't seek a third term under the Constitution.

Jack Mildren, former lieutenant governor, is the only Democrat to form an exploratory committee.

Regier has never run for public office, although he has served several state and federal positions. He was head of the state Office of Juvenile Affairs before taking over the reins at the health agency.

He worked in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush in the areas of juvenile justice and health and human services.

Like Largent, he describes himself as a social conservative.