Oklahoma governor: For Mary Fallin

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Earlier this year, I heard a Republican activist talking excitedly about the possibility that the Democrats might have only an also-ran as nominee for governor or perhaps no nominee at all. If the Democratic nominee failed to reach 20% of the vote, the party would be decertified and lose its automatic place on the ballot. It was never a likely scenario, but it illustrates the overconfidence Republicans had at the beginning of 2014.

During the 2014 legislative session, many conservative Republican voters became disenchanted with Gov. Mary Fallin. As I wrote before the June primary: "While Gov. Mary Fallin eventually did the right thing on Obamacare exchanges and Common Core, her dithering on these clear-cut issues makes me worry about her decision-making in a lame-duck term. Fallin failed to establish a good working relationship with her own party's legislative leadership, culminating in her veto snit-fit, in which she killed several good bills, including some she'd requested, to make some sort of point." Her inability to advance the conservative agenda assertively in an ideal political environment speaks poorly of her leadership abilities.

Back in June, many conservatives voted for Dax Ewbank to express their disappointment with Fallin's leadership.

Now Ewbank himself and many of his supporters have come out in support of the Democratic nominee, State Rep. Joe Dorman. Because Dorman has a pro-life and pro-gun-rights voting record, some of the usual obstacles to conservatives voting for the Democratic nominee aren't there.

Republican Sen. Patrick Anderson from Enid is backing Dorman, but that seems to be grounded in a local issue, Fallin's decision to close the Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid, a state institution for the developmentally disabled. Anderson says Fallin froze him out of discussions over the future of that facility:

"Joe and I don't agree on all issues, but I think he'd make a fine governor and he's definitely someone who has always, and who will always be willing to talk about whatever the issues are that are important to our community in northwest Oklahoma," Anderson said. "Unfortunately, Gov. Fallin hasn't been willing to do that."

But is Dorman as conservative as some of his supporters claim? Oklahoma Constitution editor Steve Byas reports that Dorman's votes in the legislature have earned him only a 39% lifetime rating in the Constitution's conservative index, and only a 31% rating in the most recent session. That may be an impressive rating for a Democrat, but it still means far more bad votes than good votes.

Byas also calls attention to the governor's power to appoint judges and board and commission members and to fill Senate vacancies:

As a Democrat, Governor Joe Dorman will fill state government with a whole lot of Democrats. Expecting these Democrats to be conservatives is laughable. I guess you can find a four-leaf clover every now and then, too. Regardless of what many people argue to the contrary, there are many Republicans who are worth appointing to state offices. No, I do not expect Governor Mary Fallin to appoint multitudes of conservatives, but I can guarantee you that she will appoint a whole lot more than Dorman, simply because she will appoint more Republicans than Dorman will appoint.

Then, we have the state judicial appointments. If Dorman were to pull the big upset, expect liberal Democrats to take the place of retiring state judges at the appellate court level. While these judges face the voters in retention votes every six years, no appellate judges have ever been denied the additional six years by the voters. Dorman's judges, drawn from the ranks of an increasingly left-wing Democrat Party, will issue liberal decisions for years past the time Dorman is back home in Rush Springs, eating watermelon at the annual festival.

Let's say there is an unexpected vacancy in the U.S. Senate. Do you think Governor Dorman will appoint anyone better than Jim Inhofe to fill that vacancy until the election? Get real. And, guess who will be the candidate of the [Democrat] Party for the U.S. Senate should the great Jim Inhofe have to step down from the Senate? I suspect it will be Joe Dorman. If you cause the election of Dorman for governor, you just might be picking Inhofe's replacement as well.

In September, Oklahoma GOP chairman Dave Weston pointed to Dorman's ambiguous answers in an interview in The Gayly -- a paper that describes itself as "keeping the FABULOUS south-central United States informed on current news and events affecting Lesbians, Homosexuals, Bi-sexuals & Transgenders":

Dorman criticized Gov. Mary Fallin for her moral stance on traditional marriage stating, "When you have a standard set in place, especially like that handed down from the federal government, you have to apply that [marriage rights] equally."

He appeared to apologize to The Gayly staff for his vote in support of a House resolution to reaffirm Oklahoma's support of traditional marriage. When asked how he could "support equality" while also voting to uphold traditional marriage Dorman said:

"Different situations. I serve House District 65 and I try to serve my constituents to the best of my ability... They have, I think, a different point of view when it comes to policies like that."

The Gayly adds: "Dorman said he voted the way he felt his district wanted him to vote."

Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Dave Weston pressed Dorman to tell the people of Oklahoma whether he supports redefining marriage and why.

"It sounds like Joe Dorman meets with voters in Rush Springs and tells them he's a conservative Democrat who opposes reclassifying marriage," said Weston. "Then he tells The Gayly staff in Oklahoma City that's not really what he thinks and proceeds to criticize Governor Fallin for holding the same position that he previously told his constituents he believes."

Weston pointed out other examples where, seemingly under the mere pressure of an interview, Dorman appeared to apologize for and back away from his conservative votes on social issues.

Joe Dorman also has a problem on fiscal issues. Dorman wants to lead Oklahoma into the financial trap known as Medicaid expansion. The state gets a short-term burst of Federal funds, but the price is making more Oklahomans dependent on government-funded healthcare (many of them young and able-bodied), and massive state budget obligations in the out-years, after federal subsidies dry up, obligations that will squeeze out funding for roads and education, among other state priorities. Medicaid expansion increases eligibility, but doesn't improve access, hurting the very people that the program was originally intended to help.

The best a conservative can say about Joe Dorman is that he may be as conservative as Mary Fallin on a couple of issues, but he is well to her left on other important issues, and his party affiliation and ambitions for higher office will pull him further to the left should he be elected. (There is a long list of Democrats who once claimed to be pro-but who abandoned that stance when they began to hanker for the presidency -- Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson to name just a few.)

Byas says he does not "expect Governor Fallin to lead us to the conservative promised land, but she will probably sign good bills, if the Republican-dominated Legislature passes them. Sure, she waited to the last minute to sign the repeal of Common Core, but she did sign it." Byas says Fallin has the highest conservative rating of any of the six governors who have served since his paper's founding in 1979. While that rating is only 63%, that's far better than Dorman's lifetime 39% rating.

Finally, regarding National Popular Vote: On Thursday, I asked Gov. Fallin's spokesman, Alex Weintz, "Would she be willing to say that she would veto any form of a National Popular Vote proposal that reaches her desk?" He stated by return email, "The position we have previously taken is, 'Governor Fallin is opposed to the National Popular Vote.'" (I would have preferred a more strongly worded stance that fully closes the door on the idea.) Still, the Dorman campaign has not stated a position, but I would expect him to support it, given the unanimous support last session's bill had from Senate Democrats. Pressure from the national GOP against NPV (the RNC voted unanimously to condemn the idea) ought to keep Fallin on the right side of that issue, even if it does reach her desk. While the presidency or vice presidency is out of reach, she may reasonably have hopes of a federal appointment under a Republican president as her time as governor ends. Pressure from national Democrats would pull Dorman toward signing the bill.

While Republicans can safely sacrifice one house seat out of 101 to keep the backer of a dangerous scheme out of the House GOP caucus, we cannot safely sacrifice a position with the power of appointment and the ability to sign or veto legislation.

The other two candidates are not even a blip on the pollsters' radar. Either Mary Fallin or Joe Dorman will be elected governor on Tuesday. Mary Fallin is clearly the more conservative of the two, and I hope you'll join me in voting for her re-election.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 2, 2014 9:13 AM.

Oklahoma House District 12: Vote against National Popular Vote was the previous entry in this blog.

Oklahoma election 2014: BatesLine ballot card is the next entry in this blog.

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