Conner smears Medlock, betrays Reform Alliance

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The Tulsa City Council District 5 special election is for all the marbles. With Sam Roop's departure, the Council is split 4-4 between the forces of reform and the forces of reaction, between the Faithful Four and the Bought and Paid Four.

This election poses a special challenge. Under Tulsa's City Charter, a special election has no primary and no runoff. There is one election, and whoever is first past the post wins the seat. With eight candidates in the race, someone could win with only 13% of the votes. While it's a situation that instant runoff voting would handle flawlessly, the rules are what they are.

Under these conditions, it is essential for reform-minded residents of District 5 to rally around a single candidate. Unfortunately, one candidate, whom I believed to be a reformer, doesn't have the maturity to appreciate the political realities. This candidate has run off whining to the Tulsa Whirled, giving them ammunition, in the form of baseless charges, to use against the good guys.

Of the eight candidates, there are three that I would have identified as friends of reform -- Charlotte Harer, a conservative and a long-time Republican activist; Al Nichols, a neighborhood leader; and Joe Conner, a frequent caller to KFAQ (where he's known as "God Bless You Joe") who ran against Sam Roop in 2004 because he felt Roop wasn't dependable enough as a reformer. The Cockroach Caucus has one candidate in the race: Bill Martinson is backed by John Benjamin, the former Tulsa councilor who is on the executive committee of the pro-recall Coalition for Responsible Government 2004. The views of the other candidates on city reform issues are unknown. Although some pro-reform folks know and like Andy Phillips very much, his public statements in his 2004 race against Sam Roop indicated that he either didn't pay much attention to city politics or was trying to be all things to all people -- either way, not the kind of man we need as the deciding vote at City Hall.

As the candidate of the Cockroaches, Bill Martinson will be loaded with campaign cash from special interest groups, which will go toward a blitz of mail and phone calls, and without a doubt he will be endorsed by the Tulsa Whirled. Given that the Whirled is still a primary source of information for older Tulsans, who are the most likely to vote in a special election, the Whirled's endorsement and the ad blitz are conservatively worth 30% of the vote. Andy Phillips will pull a decent share of the Democrats, plus some Republicans who remember him as the public face of the Tulsa Police Department -- give him 30%.

That leaves 40% to be split among the other six candidates. If reform-minded voters split their votes among those six to any degree at all, the Reform Alliance will lose, and for the rest of the term, we'll be stuck with a Council aligned with the Cockroach Caucus, even if the recall efforts are successfully defeated.

In an effort to convey the realities of the situation, Councilor Jim Mautino hosted a three-hour-long meeting that included Councilor Chris Medlock, KFAQ talk-show host Michael DelGiorno, and several candidates, including one Democrat, according to DelGiorno. Here is audio of DelGiorno's account of the meeting, from his Wednesday morning broadcast. Here's part of what DelGiorno said:

So they're going over the current Council makeup, the current issues that are at stake, some of the key issues as we move forward. Most importantly they talked about the amazing amount of pressure you will experience if you become a city council[or] -- personally, your family, the effect it could have on your job and your livelihood. It's a nasty business. There's a good ol' boy network that's real, behind the scenes, and they're about destroying lives of people that stand up against them.

And yes, there was some discussion about the strategy of the campaign. It is unique. It'll be winner-take-all. That's a part of politics. ...

But I sat there for hours and I heard Councilor Medlock say over and over again, "I would never tell anybody in this room to run or not to run." He must have said it ten times.

That isn't the story that Joe Conner peddled to the Tulsa Whirled. According to the Whirled, he claimed that Medlock "bullied" him to leave the race and give Charlotte Harer a cleaner shot at winning. Michael DelGiorno says that never happened -- no one at that meeting was pressured to drop out.

In his statements to the Whirled, Conner demonstrates a failure to understand what is at stake. It has nothing to do with keeping Chris Medlock in control. It has everything to do with keeping the people of Tulsa in control. It has everything to do with having a Council that serves the interests of all Tulsans, not just a favored few. That will require pro-reform voters to rally around a single candidate who can win election and who will cooperate with the other reformers on the Council. By running to the Whirled and smearing Chris Medlock, Joe Conner has demonstrated conclusively that he is not that candidate. Many Republicans had already come to that conclusion in 2004, when Conner, having lost the Republican primary to incumbent Sam Roop, endorsed Democrat nominee Andy Phillips in the general election.

Charlotte Harer has the endorsement of Congressman John Sullivan, Senator Jim Inhofe, State Senator Brian Crain, and State Rep. Sue Tibbs -- Tibbs and Crain are District 5 residents -- along with many other elected officials who know her as a hard worker and a woman of principle and determination. She has the best shot at keeping the seat for the Republican Party and the Reform Alliance, but only if reform-minded voters get behind her.

In the same Whirled story, Roop illustrates why we're better off without him on the Council. He crassly tells Medlock to "butt out" of the District 5 race. Roop has said that he hates power politics, by which he meant thinking and acting strategically. Sam, politics ain't beanbag, and the powers that tried to drive you from office because of your reform efforts were playing for keeps. Making good things happen on the Council requires a majority, and achieving that requires strategy. Thank goodness the Faithful Four understand that.

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The "winner-take-all" election to get a new City Councilor for Council District 5 is set for May 10, 2005. The stakes could hardly be higher to Tulsans who favor a balanced government which is not controlled by the Tulsa Whirld's... Read More

The "winner-take-all" election to get a new City Councilor for Council District 5 is set for May 10, 2005. The stakes could hardly be higher to Tulsans who favor a balanced government which is not controlled by the Tulsa Whirld's... Read More

3 Comments

W. said:

So ... maybe Conner was pressured *before* or *after* the meeting and DelGiorno missed it. Maybe Medlock didn't "tell" Conner not to run, but "suggested" it.

The latter scenario I've mentioned could allow Medlock so say he never pressured Conner and still be telling the truth ... kinda sorta. Or Conner is lying, or misunderstood something terribly.

The truth is out there ... somewhere.

Either way, it's not looking too good for the reformers right now.

While no one was pressured or asked or told not to run, the point of the meeting appears to have been to get each reform-minded candidate to consider the reality that his staying in the race will improve the odds for the anti-reform standard bearer, with the hopes that one or more would decide that the keeping a reform majority is more important than his own personal political ambitions. I suppose that could be taken as pressure, but it certainly isn't threatening or bullying. From what I've seen of Joe Conner, his personality and demeanor, he won't get much support, and he could only be a spoiler, but I'm sure he doesn't see himself that way. His response demonstrates that he isn't able to work with others to reach a common goal. In a normal election, with a primary, there'd be no harm in him running and losing, but in this special election, even a small percentage of the vote may affect the outcome.

Concerned Citizens from all around Tulsa said:

Michael:
Can you please post the candidates for District 5 Special Election, for everyone's benefit?
Are there bios available on each of them?
This might help some of us realize who all eight are and what names we should be lifting up to the Lord, for a successful outcome!
We stand on God's word, that "If people will humble themselves and pray, He will heal our land".
Thanks so much!

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 6, 2005 10:51 PM.

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