Hopes to elect a handful of Legislative candidates
OKLAHOMA - A group of Guthrie residents that a number of Republicans, including some elected officials, label a religious cult, is attempting to take control of the Oklahoma GOP by pushing a slate of primary and general election candidates to oust some Republican incumbents in the state Legislature or win open seats.
A month-long investigation by the Southwest Ledger has found that the Ekklesia of Oklahoma, an effort based on the national Ecclesia movement, is running their take-over operation from an upscale four-bedroom, nearly 5,000 square foot home in northeastern Guthrie where as many as 14 adults and at 10 children lived until recently when two of the adults and a number of the children moved out. Members of the group have taken over leadership of the Logan County Republican Party as well as the party’s 3rd Congressional District top seat and are believed by many mainstream GOP leaders to be a destructive political and religious cult determined to seize control at every level of the state’s party.
One of the residents at the group’s home at 1212 N. Mockingbird Lane, Karmin Grider, is a participant in the group’s election efforts. She is challenging incumbent Garry Mize for the House District 31 seat.
Other Ekklesia-supported candidates are, according to sources:
• Republican candidate Warren Hamilton (who is running against incumbent Republican Sen. Larry Boggs of Wilburton in District 7).
• Republican State Sen. Joseph Silk, District 5, (who is running for U.S. House District 2 against Republican incumbent Congressman Markwayne Mullin).
• Republican candidate Eric Ensley, (against Republican candidate Eddie Dempsey for Rep. Johnny Tadlock’s House District 1 seat. Tadlock is not seeking re-election.)
• Republican candidate Kenny Bob Tapp in House District 61, (against incumbent Republican Rep. Kenton Patzkowsky).
• Republican candidate Shannon Rowell, House District 17, (against Republican incumbent Rep. Jim Grego).
• Republican candidate Brenda Angel, House District 18, (against Republican incumbent Rep. David Smith and Republican candidate Brecken Wagner).
• Republican candidate Carisa Roberson (against Senate District 13 incumbent GOP Sen. Greg McCortney).
• Republican candidate Christian Ford, Senate District 28 (against Republican candidate Michael David Haines and Republican Rep. Zach Taylor HD28 for the open Senate seat vacated by Jason Smiley).
• Republican candidate Angie Brinlee for House District 15 (against Republican incumbent Randy Randleman).
• Republican candidate Robert McMaster for House District 83 (against Republican candidate Eric Roberts).
• Republican candidate Kaity Keith for Senate District 43 (against incumbent Republican Sen. Paul Scott).
• Oklahoma County Sheriff Republican candidate Mike McCully (against Republican candidate Tommie Johnson III and Republican incumbent Sheriff P.D. Taylor).
Tapp, a Panhandle legislative candidate, defeated an election challenge to make his way onto the ballot.
Tapp lives outside of Boise City, Okla., and works in Cimarron County, but he spends his nights in Colorado at a house rented by his father.
For nearly two years, state Republican Party leaders have been quietly opposing the Guthrie group’s political machinations.
GOP operatives have developed a detailed dossier on the fervent anti-abortionist group’s members and activities. Their intent is to inform rank-and-file GOP members about the cult to help rein in, or destroy, the group for its efforts to oust sitting GOP legislators and other elected Republican officials.
The 1212 N. Mockingbird Lane group and its activities are expected to garner attention and debate at the upcoming GOP state convention, privately and publicly, and a possible attempt to abort the cult’s efforts may be made, the Ledger has learned.
GOP Chairman David McClain has attempted to soothe the growing discord between the rank-and-file mainstream Republicans and the Ekklesia group, but, the Ledger has learned, the discord and animosity between the Mockingbird clan and other Republicans is having a growing impact on party unity.
In fact, some members of the GOP are wary of McClain’s leadership and efforts because he has had dealings with the group in the past on abortion legislation in Senate Bill 13.
McClain declined the Ledger’s request for an interview citing scheduling conflicts.
The leader of the Mockingbird clan is Daniel Navejas who styles himself as a preacher. The group he leads is the second “church” he has set up. He previously established a similar church group in Oklahoma City.
Navejas has created more than one 501(c)(3) tax-exempt ministry and has sought donations for his church, which is registered to the N. Mockingbird Lane address.
Navejas has taken to social media, particularly Facebook and YouTube, to post videos and comments in which he and his associate minister, Kyle Brown, decry the Ledger’s investigation and stories. Navejas and Brown have used the Ledger’s probe of the cult to plead for funding to support their ministry.
In a previous interview with the Ledger, Navejas said his group is associated with a network of 300 churches statewide who share their views on what needs to be done to eliminate abortion by making the medical procedure illegal.
The group opposes all abortions, even if it is to protect the life of the mother in cases such as an ectopic pregnancy. They have said that a mother who aborts a pregnancy to save her own life is guilty of murder.
Among the pastors and churches Navejas said are in the religious network are the Fairview Baptist Church in Edmond whose pastor is former Oklahoma State University and NFL stand- out Paul Blair. Several years ago, Blair ran unsuccessfully for a state representative seat in the Oklahoma Legislature.
Blair told the Ledger he has met Navejas on several occasions, had talked with him, and found him to be an exceptional individual who has strong religious faith.
He said he supports any effort to ban abortions in Oklahoma and that many church pastors and congregations across the state also are opposed to the procedure.
However, Blair said there is no formal network of churches involved in anti-abortion efforts or any of the Navejas group’s political efforts.
Another GOP political operative who has had dealings with the Ekklesia is longtime GOP operative Charlie Meadows.
Meadows, who is the founder and once served on the board of directors of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee, told the Ledger he has never attended a Navejas-led church service at the house, but he has been to the home to discuss politics with the group and other interested Republicans.
Meadows said he, like Navejas, opposes abortion.
“There’s some of the old-guard Republicans in Guthrie and around that are upset with us,” Meadows acknowledged. “But there has always been a conservative wing and moderate wing of the party.
“I do think the party leadership is concerned (about Navejas and his efforts),” Meadows said.
That very concern was confirmed by Linda Huggard, Oklahoma County state committeewoman and vice-chair of the OK-GOP 5th Congressional District.
“We should be an inclusive rather than exclusive party. And I question those who want to have rigid litmus tests as to who is or is not a real true Republican or the so-called ‘Rhinos’. You know, we’re all real Republicans,” she said.
“My real concern is that if we can have litmus tests, Republicans will become a minority party.”