Bartlett Jr importing out-of-town GOP volunteers

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Just got an email from the Tulsa County Republican Party announcing volunteer door-knocking days on behalf of Dewey Bartlett Jr, running for re-election as Mayor of Tulsa. Although this is officially a non-partisan race, both candidates are closely identified with their respective parties, and both were elected to their first terms on a partisan ballot.

Several things about the email were surprising. Five dates were listed, and of those five, only three were going to be staffed by the Tulsa County Republican Party. One date was for the Rogers County Republican Party and another for the Washington County Republican Party. The City of Tulsa has no territory in Washington County, and only a narrow fenceline in Rogers County. Occasionally you have as many as two Rogers County voters who show up to vote in a city election. The email address for the point of contact for the effort is that of the Oklahoma Republican Party's northeastern field rep.

I can understand why the state GOP would be concerned. Kathy Taylor has the means to self-fund a campaign for higher office, threatening solid GOP control of the State Capitol and Oklahoma's congressional delegation. A defeat in November, one presumes, would put an end to any ambitions for higher office.

On the other hand, consider that Democrat Susan Savage was mayor for 10 years, left office without ever being defeated, and was considered a potential candidate for higher office, but she has never even made the attempt. Her only post-mayoral position has been her appointment as Secretary of State by a fellow Democrat, Gov. Brad Henry. If she ran to be a senator or congressman or governor, Kathy Taylor would have to run for office as a Democrat, and her views on national and ideological issues would come to the fore. Republicans who might be comfortable with her as mayor would block her from election to a legislature where the numbers of Ds and Rs determines overall control.

Taylor herself seems to have had a couple of ripe opportunities to move up into state or national elective politics, but she hasn't. Presumably her pollsters tell her she can't win statewide or even CD1-wide right now.

It's sad that Bartlett Jr can't muster enough enthusiasm among Republicans in the City of Tulsa to get them to knock doors for him. I imagine that many Republican activists were turned off by Bartlett Jr's endorsement of Taylor's re-election, his hostility toward the Republican-majority council that served during the first half of the term, and by what appears to be at best a chilly relationship with the councilors who replaced them (most of them with the support of Bartlett Jr's allies). Not to mention his support for gay-rights legislation and the Vision2 pork-barrel and corporate welfare county tax. (Not that Taylor is any better on those issues.) I still have yet to hear of a current councilor who endorses Bartlett Jr's re-election.

I imagine that the Democratic Party is as anxious to get Taylor elected as the Republicans are to prevent it, and that they too are importing out-of-town Democratic activists to support her campaign.

So our first-ever non-partisan mayoral election has become a proxy battle between the two major national parties. The motivating issue for politicos outside our city limits (and for some inside) is whether the Democrats' best hope for breaking the Republican monopoly in Oklahoma will have or will be deprived of Tulsa City Hall as a platform from which to run for higher office.

But the question on the minds of many Tulsans: What difference will November's result make to the way city government is run? Whether it's Taylor or Bartlett Jr, the same "leading Tulsa citizens" -- the usual suspects -- will be appointed to authorities, boards, and commissions. Whether it's Bartlett Jr or Taylor, the same guy who has been around since the Randle Administration will oversee urban planning and serve as the Mayor's proxy on the Planning Commission.* Whoever wins, we'll still be stuck with the complicated and messy trash system imposed upon us by board members that Kathy appointed and Dewey re-appointed (or didn't bother to replace). Whoever wins will fall all over himself or herself to back the Tulsa Regional Chamber's latest wheeze.

*NOTE: Dwain Midget appears in news reports as early as February 7, 1991, as the Mayor's representative on the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. The description in the linked article is incorrect: the Mayor does have a vote on the TMAPC, a vote which which has been exercised by Mr. Midget on the Mayor's behalf for over 22 years under five different mayors from both major parties. Many neighborhood association leaders have long seen Midget as a consistent vote for the development lobby and hostile to neighborhood concerns. If there really were any significant differences in policy between the last five mayors, wouldn't a new mayor have bothered to replace someone in such a key role with someone closer to the new mayor's perspective?

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1 Comments

Graychin said:

Are they really worried about Kathy Taylor running for some office besides Tulsa mayor? If so, their worries are nothing more than paranoia. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think she has ambitions beyond trying to straighten Tulsa out - according to her vision of it, of course.

Besides, if Taylor ever did run for Congress or Governor, she would be immediate roadkill. That "D" after her name would be impossible for her to overcome. Tulsa doesn't send "Ds" to Washington, and Oklahoma doesn't vote for "Ds" in statewide elections.

Enthusiasm of out-of-towners for Bartlett's candidacy is easy to understand. It's mostly tribal loyalty to a fellow "R", coupled with unfamiliarity with any details of Bartlett's sorry performance in office.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 30, 2013 6:15 PM.

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