Via AP Business

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Gov. Kevin Stitt’s appointment of an Oklahoma businessman to fill a vacant seat on the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents has raised concerns among some members of the state Senate.

Stitt has nominated Oklahoma businessman Gary Pierson to fill the seat, which requires Senate approval. Pierson is president and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company, which oversaw The Oklahoman newspaper until it was sold to GateHouse Media in 2018.

Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat said he is skeptical of the appointment due to Pierson’s involvement with Step Up Oklahoma, a coalition of businesses that last year supported unsuccessful tax increases and government reform measures.

“I did tell the governor’s office that it wouldn’t be a cakewalk, but that’s just a gut reaction,” Treat told The Oklahoman .

Multiple lawmakers who spoke with The Oklahoman but did not want to speak on the record said there was lingering resentment about the Step Up coalition, with some characterizing the group as trying to strong-arm lawmakers on budget decisions. The Legislature did not approve the coalition’s proposal.

Pierson said he was not aware of any concerns over his appointment. Pierson said he hoped his confirmation would be “based on merit and not politics.”

The governor’s office has said Stitt planned to continue forward with Pierson’s nomination.

Stitt’s relationship with the Legislature has been largely cooperative as he has been successful with other nominees and achieved major policy priorities. Earlier this month, the Senate approved Stitt’s nomination of Eric Stevenson to the OU Board of Regents, the first African American to serve on the board in 20 years.

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Information from: The Oklahoman,