This election season, 34 candidates are vying for nine seats on city council. Candidates will duke it out in the primaries on Sept. 13, when the districts with only Republican or Democratic candidates will be decided.
Those who win the primaries will face off on Election Day, Nov. 8.
So what's in each district? What are their unique strengths and weaknesses? Who'll be battling it out in the primaries, and what do they stand for? This is our final installment of our series, Council Connection (sniff, sniff). Districts 8 and 9 finish out our coverage of the city council campaigns.
Districts 8 and 9
The Lay of the Land
District 8 is small, rectangle of south Tulsa.
District 9 has seen some boundary changes after the last re-districting effort. Parts of District 4 are now in 9.
District 8 Councilor Bill Christiansen is not seeking re-election. Three candidates, two Republicans and one Democrat, will compete for the seat.
Republicans Phil Lakin, 43, and George Gibbs, 57, will go head to head in the primary, while the winner will face off against Democrat Bill Suliburk, 63, for a two-year term.
In District 9, Incumbent Councilor G.T. Bynum, 34, is seeking re-election. He will face two other Republicans in the primary: Robert Pinney, 49, and Kimberlee Whiteman, 33.
The winner will battle it out with Mike Batman, 55, for a three-year term as District 9's councilor.
The Contenders for District 8
Tulsa Community Foundation (TCF) CEO Phil Lakin said the thing he likes most about his district is that it's his home. "I got to District 8 when I was eight or nine," he said.
After graduating from Jenks High School, he attended Baylor University. He could've moved anywhere, but, Lakin said, "South Tulsa is home for me."
He's been married to wife Adriane for 16 years, and the couple has three sons together.
The boys attend public schools in the district.
Lakin is a deacon of Southern Hills Baptist Church. He's also an avid hiker and climber.
Lakin said he moved back to Tulsa in 1999 to accept a position as TCF's first (and so far only) CEO. During that time, the foundation has gone from being the smallest charitable foundation in the nation to the largest.
When he signed on, he was the foundation's first employee. There are now about 25 employees involved with TCF. "We went from having $117,000 in assets to, now about $4 billion," Lakin said.
Lakin calls Tulsa "America's most generous city," because "one of our unique identifiers is our generosity."
As TCF's chief, Lakin said "It's my job every day to serve Tulsa and its citizens."
Lakin was involved with the privatization of Tulsa Zoo, and is a former chairman of its board. He still sits on the board, and said he would step down if elected to city council.
District 8's biggest issue, "since I've been learning to drive," Lakin said, "Is the width of the roads ... These have been two-lane since they were dirt roads. All they did was put some asphalt on top and it just can't accommodate our residents or our commercial business."
Lakin was a driving force behind the beautification efforts along I-44. He personally met with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to figure out how to add "painted walls, landscaping and Art Deco-themed architecture" along otherwise unfinished concrete, Lakin said.
Now, through a public-private partnership, that unfinished concrete is being painted and monument towers are going up along the Interstate. "It's not only a source of pride for Tulsans but a source of interest for those who are just driving through our city," Lakin said.
"I'm going to look for opportunities like that" as city councilor, he said. Go to lakinforcouncil.com.
Long-time attorney George Gibbs has lived in District 8 for the past 22 years. He's married to Rachel Gibbs, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Warren Clinic. Together they have two sons.
Gibbs earned a Jurist Doctorate from Oklahoma City University College of Law in 1986, and is licensed to practice law in Oklahoma and Arkansas, according to his firm's website. He is a founding partner of Gibbs, Armstrong, Borochoff, Mullican and Hart PC.
He said his favorite thing about the district is "the great majority of friendly, positive people in south Tulsa."
Gibbs decided to run for office after he realized Lakin would run in the district un-opposed. "There's no question I think he's a good guy, I just think he's in the wrong position to give a voice to south Tulsa," Gibbs said.
"I think [Lakin] has to ask himself some questions, like 'How is this going to affect my relationship with George Kaiser?' and 'How does this affect my relationship with TCF?' ... He has a lot of conflicts."
Gibbs said he figured Lakin would "have to think about representing [District 8] and how that vote was going to cost him and affect him."
So, Gibbs took action and threw his hat into the ring. He said he also hears constituents talk about the need for street widening. "The improvement of our roads and our infrastructure are the single biggest needs we have," Gibbs said.
In 2004, he served as general counsel for the Oklahoma Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. In particular, he is skilled in nursing home litigation, and has worked on more than 200 nursing home cases in Oklahoma over the past 10 years.
Gibbs has represented churches, Fortune 500 companies, local businesses and the Southern Baptist Convention of Oklahoma. For 17 years, he's served as the pro bono lead attorney for the South Tulsa Citizens' Coalition bridge fight.
One of the Gibbs' sons is a Marine, and the couple is dedicated to helping out the armed forces by providing Christmas dinner for Marines at Camp Pendleton, Calif., each year.
I started a law firm from scratch, just me and my secretary, grew it up to 15 lawyers, 10-15 staff. We want to help start your business here.Gibbs is also a rancher, and keeps a herd of Angus cattle east of Tulsa.
Democrat Bill Suliburk is a retired banking executive who's spent almost his entire life in south Tulsa. He's married to wife Susan, and they have two grown sons and two grandchildren.
He graduated from Cascia Hall, and then earned an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University. After picking up master's degrees from both University of California-Los Angeles and the Harvard Graduate School of Business, Suliburk decided to come back to Tulsa.
"My wife and I could've chosen anywhere," he said, and Tulsa had it all. Businesses, social and cultural institutions (like the Tulsa Ballet and Tulsa Symphony Orchestra) and the beauty of Green Country all without the expense of living in a major metropolitan area called the Suliburks back to Tulsa.
Suliburk retired from a long career last year and has now focused his attention on District 8, an area he said offers a lot of variety. Quirks, even. "People don't think of south Tulsa as being quirky," Suliburk laughed.
He loves the little things about his district, like Golf Ball Hill, the round water tower that south Tulsans have embraced as a unique part of their landscape. He also said south T-Town has one of the first smoke shops, painted in wild colors, that opened 20 years ago, and Biscuit Park, Tulsa's first dog park inside Hunter Park.
For the past 10 years, District 8's city councilor has been chosen in the Republican primary, leaving area Democrats out of the voting process entirely. This year, Suliburk said, "You'll have two voices in the election and a greater exchange of ideas."
"Good campaigns get voters involved and more ideas bubble up in the general election than occur in a primary," he said.
"I want to open this up so all citizens have an opportunity to vote in the campaign," he said.
Last year, Suliburk was appointed to the Sales Tax Overview Committee. He said he and the other members take their roles very seriously, and go through expenditures line by line.
He said if he's elected, he'd like to address the issue on everyone's minds: deciding how to best go about fixing the streets. He also said he thought the mayor should pledge "to show up at a certain percentage of city council committee meetings," though he said he wasn't trying to "pick on the current administration."
"You can't sit there having petty quarrels," he said. "You have to figure out how to get things done."
The Contenders for District 9
G.T. Bynum (full name George Theron Bynum IV), has held the District 9 since 2008. He's the grandson of former Tulsa Mayor Robert J. LaFortune.
"I grew up hearing from people why they thought he was a great mayor -- which, if you're interested in public service, it's a valuable exercise for people to spend your whole life telling you what they think is valuable in a public servant," Bynum told UTW last year.
Bynum graduated from Cascia Hall and began his political career as an intern to U.S. Senators Don Nickles and Tom Coburn. Bynum said he felt that interning for senators was like getting a chance to intern for the NBA. "I mean, you're here with people who are at the top of their game in t he nation," he said last year.
Bynum spent six years working in the Senate.
When he moved back to Tulsa to start a family with his wife, Susan, he began working in public affairs for Williams & Williams Worldwide Real Estate Auction, a Tulsa-based firm, then jumped to Red Cross (as their local chapter director), then back to Williams & Williams.
In 2009, Bynum founded G.T. Bynum Consulting, a federal government relations firm. He contracts with local businesses and non-profits that need a lobbyist or mediator in Washington. His clients include George Kaiser Family Foundation, the city of Miami, Okla., Family & Children's Services and his former employer, Williams & Williams.
"I love being on the City Council," he said last year. "And for a guy who loves public policy, being on the City Council in Tulsa is like being a kid in a candy store."
Bynum has been on the board of directors of the Tulsa Historical Society and Leadership Tulsa, and is a member of the Rotary Club of Tulsa. He's also served on the executive committee of the Tulsa County Republican Party.
Robert Pinney (pronounced like "penny") was born and raised in Tulsa. He is married to wife Barbara and they have a son, Shane. Pinney is a realtor and real estate investor.
He has been involved in neighborhood and municipal issues for almost 20 years. Pinney is a former president of the Brookside Neighborhood Association, and later served as co-chair of the Brookside Infill Task Force. Pinney has also served on the Oklahoma Ethics Commission committee for campaign finance reform.
When Republican Doug Rucker dropped out of the race (citing time conflicts), he endorsed Pinney.
On his campaign website, robert4tulsa.com, Pinney said he believes Tulsa needs more accountability and more effective use of taxpayer money through line item accounting of sales tax projects.
Pinney has also said he thinks there should be greater sales tax compliance, an amendment to city council rules on public comment, changes in building permits and a review of civil construction standards and inspection processes.
Bynum has alleged that Pinney "threatened" him on Jan. 13. Now, when Pinney steps into City Hall, he is followed by a police escort to avoid incident.
"I didn't make any threat against him," Pinney said. He also said he was never contacted by the Tulsa Police regarding the report, and was not charged. He said he hasn't seen the report, which was given confidentially to the Tulsa World two weeks before the election. Pinney said the World article was "certainly a hit piece based on false information."
He believes he's "gotten in the way" of the Fraternal Order of Police's choice for the next mayor of Tulsa, he said. Bynum has been endorsed by the police union.
"They should be focusing on their own corruption instead of trying to corrupt the political process," Pinney said.
"I'm not the guy who caused these problems," he said, "I'm the one who's stepped up to fix this mess. I just didn't realize how big a mess this was.
Tulsa native Kimberlee Whiteman said she's always been interested in local politics but that having a son gave her a new perspective on Tulsa's future. "I want [District 9] to be a safe environment for him, and I want Tulsa to continue to prosper," Whiteman said.
She said she thinks the fighting at City Hall "is negatively affecting development in Tulsa."
Whiteman grew up in Tulsa and graduated from East Central High School. While in the banking industry for 10 years, she began as a bank teller and worked her way up to assistant vice president of a local Chase Bank branch.
She also spent several years working for Commercial Federal Bank, which was bought out by Bank of the West.
"I'm not a career politician, and I think that makes me a really good candidate," Whiteman said.
Whiteman said she believes in transparency in government. "I don't think any of the councilors are bad people," she said, "I think their original intention has escalated to, 'I'm gonna run this city,' or something."
She said she wants to hear what her constituents want, consider all sides, then collectively make a decision. Check out her site, whitemanforcouncil.com.
Mike Batman is an unmasked crusader for Tulsa. You may have seen his "Batmobile" riding around town -- a black truck with "I want to give back" emblazoned across the back window, among other statements and pictures.
Batman moved to Tulsa from Damascus, Syria, more than 20 years ago. He worked seven days a week at Jamil's Steakhouse and five days a week at Church's Fried Chicken until he'd saved enough money to open his first business, Submariner Sandwich Shop.
The shop at 61st and Lewis was successful for eight years, and then Batman decided to sell it and open Batman's Good Food and Convenience Store and Pine and Mingo.
On his website, Batman listed his pillars for a good life, which include No.3, "Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully," No. 9, "Discipline yourself to save money on even the most modest budget," and No. 15, "Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life."
He also operates Batman's Auto Sales.
He's been married to wife Wanda, a nurse, for 26 years. The couple has three sons.
On his campaign site, Batman wrote, "I love Tulsa so much, and I want to help keep it a great place to live for my children and grandchildren. I am not a politician but I'm a straight shooter."
Check out his campaign site, batmanfortulsa.com, for more information on District 9's only Democratic candidate.
Now, Districts 8 and 9 are better known! This concludes our two-month trek through Tulsa's nine city council districts. UTW enjoyed meeting all the candidates. Their stories, ideas and love for Tulsa inspired and moved us. Good luck in the primaries everyone!
Share this article: