Governor candidate says he may not be qualified

Tuesday, April 9th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Former state Health and Human Services Secretary Jerry Regier said Tuesday he has discovered he may not be qualified to run for governor and is ``placing aspects of my campaign on hold.''

Regier, 56, said he learned late last week of a provision in the Oklahoma Constitution that requires gubernatorial candidates to have been qualified electors for 10 years in Oklahoma

``I'm still a little stunned, to be honest with you,'' the would-be candidate said at a Capitol news conference before heading for Tulsa to speak to a Republican women's group.

``As a person who is not a career politician, the discovery of this 10-year requirement came as a great shock. In almost every speech that I have given over the six months, I have talked about my return to my home state of Oklahoma seven years ago'' to join the administration of Republican Gov. Frank Keating.

``Though I am a fourth generation Oklahoman growing up in Clinton, we only returned to the state in May 1995 _ seven years ago.''

Regier, who had been living in Virginia before returning to Oklahoma, said he will be talking to the attorney general's office and others to get ``a clear interpretation of the qualifications'' before deciding what his next step will be.

In the meantime, he said he would continue to honor commitments to speak to various groups, but would curtail other activities, including fund-raising.

Regier said he carefully read state ethics rules before declaring his candidacy and only found out about the constitutional provision from material he picked up at Republican Party offices.

``Apparently, one can sign and file candidacy papers and wait to see if someone were to challenge their qualifications,'' he said. ``I have no reason to believe that anyone would challenge me upon filing, given the fact that I grew up in Oklahoma and my family has lived here virtually all of their life.

``However, once I discovered this requirement, I immediately knew that unless there is some other interpretation, I could not sign the affidavit stating that I was fully qualified.''

Regier is one of three declared candidates for the Republican nomination. The others are former U.S. Rep. Steve Largent of Tulsa and Jim Denny of Oklahoma City, a political newcomer.

Those seeking the Democratic nomination include businessman Vince Orza of Oklahoma City, state Sens. Kelly Haney of Seminole and Brad Henry of Shawnee and state Rep. Jim Dunegan of Calera. Independent Gary Richardson also is waging an aggressive campaign.

Regier announced for governor last October, pointing to his ``ghost-busting'' reputation in state government. He was appointed health commissioner after a scandal at the Department of Health that led to a dozen indictments for so-called ``ghost employees,'' who were accused of collecting state paychecks for little or no work.

Regier, former head of the state juvenile agency, worked in Washington, D.C., during the administrations of President Reagan and President George Bush, mainly in the areas of juvenile justice and human services.