Stitt taps Tulsa man for AG despite ‘not qualified’ rating

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Tulsa attorney whom the American Bar Association rated as “ not qualified ” to serve as a federal judge was tapped Friday by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt to serve as the state’s next attorney general.

After a two-month search that began in May after Republican Mike Hunter stepped down suddenly, Stitt selected John O’Connor, 66, to fill the vacancy, giving the governor an ally in his increasingly contentious relationship with some of the Native American tribes in the state. Stitt and Hunter, both Republicans, occasionally clashed on various matters, including over Stitt’s decision to renegotiate the state’s gaming compacts with Native American tribes.

“It was so important to me to find someone who was highly competent in the law, but more importantly, I was looking for someone with high moral character who will do the right things for the right reasons and never for personal gain,” Stitt said after announcing his pick in Tulsa.

“As the state’s top law enforcer, we needed someone willing to fight and defend what’s best for all 4 million Oklahomans.”

O’Connor was formally sworn into office Friday afternoon by Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice John Kane during a ceremony at the state Capitol.

Stitt said he’s known O’Connor for more than 20 years and considers him a “mentor” who helped advise him when Stitt was CEO of a mortgage company.

O’Connor will have to run for the seat in a statewide election in 2022, and he indicated Tuesday that he “absolutely” plans to do so.

“I want to get in there, get my hands dirty, and I’m sure it will take longer than 16 months,” O’Connor said.