TULSA - The race for Tulsa County District Attorney got more complicated Monday when one candidate filed a lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court claiming his foe cannot legally hold the office.
Steve Kunzweiler, currently Chief of the Criminal Division, says State Rep. Fred Jordan is ineligible because the state legislature voted on a bill giving prosecutors a pay raise during the most recent session.
Article V, Section 23 of the Oklahoma Constitution states in part: "No member of the Legislature shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed or elected to any office or commission in the State, which shall have been created, or the emoluments of which shall have been increased, during his term of office."
Jordan argues that the law doesn't apply to him because he would leave office in November, before he would be sworn in as District Attorney should he win the race.
Kunzweiler says Jordan is misreading the law, and circumventing its intent.
Both men say they have consulted multiple attorneys who support their respective positions.
A third candidate who will also appear on voters' ballots in the June 24th Republican primary has already withdrawn from the race over the same issue.
State Sen. Brian Crain said at the time he felt he could fight the issue in court, but didn't want to muddy the waters for voters.
Jordan tells KRMG "it's very frustrating and disappointing that this issue comes up a week before election day."
He went on to say "I'm confident that we will prevail in this legal action."
Kunzweiler stood by his decision to legally challenge Jordan's and Crain's eligibility to hold the office.
"They're election would call into question every single official act of the office of Tulsa County District Attorney," he told KRMG.
"I can't pick and choose which parts of the Constitution I'm going to obey, support and uphold. I have to uphold all of them," he added.
Asked about the timing of the lawsuit, he said it took time for him to consult attorneys and mull over whether to proceed with a suit.
The issue didn't really come to a head, he noted, until Gov. Mary Fallin signed the pay raise into law in mid-May.
Jordan noted that the legislature didn't instigate the raise, but rather approved the raise (after cutting it in half) at the behest of the Judicial Compensation Board.
Kunzweiler said "it's not anything I asked for, but I got put in this position," calling himself "duty-bound" to raise the issue.
"To be honest with you I'd rather be right and lose the election than pretend that this is not the truth," he said.