Oklahoma primary 2016: Why Dewey Bartlett Jr lost

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Dewey Bartlett JuniorYou can make enemies in politics, but the actions that make enemies had better also win the loyalty of new friends. Dewey Bartlett Jr managed to alienate every city councilor that ever worked with him and plenty of other people besides. It appears that Tulsans decided that, if you have a choice between two guys who like raising taxes, destroying parkland for development, and infringing on individual liberties, you may as well pick the nicer of the two.

Someone asked if Bartlett Jr's endorsement of Trump was part of the problem. This happened way before Trump.

Bartlett Jr alienated one city council where a majority were initially his supporters. He used local media to trash the council as "bickering" and used his influence over redistricting (his campaign consultant) to separate the councilors from the voters who knew them and in one case to draw a councilor completely out of his district. He got his shiny new council and proceeded to alienate every one of them. Plenty of people have been telling him why they won't support him, but listening isn't his strong suit.

As I wrote last fall, there were no significant policy differences between Bartlett Jr and Bynum IV. Despite efforts by conservative Republicans to reach out to him -- many backed him in the 2013 race -- he gave them nothing in return. Had he the ability to listen, had he some core of conservative principle, Bartlett Jr could have made some space between himself and potential rivals. He could have picked a fight over Vision Tulsa, insisting on leaving the dams off the ballot, or insisting that the dams stand alone, under threat of a veto. He could have rejected any Vision election scheduled for other than the fall election. He could have vetoed the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity to the city housing non-discrimination ordinance.

Bartlett Jr has never given conservatives a reason to get excited about his re-election, so the best he could do was scare conservatives about the alternative.

In 2009, Bartlett Jr won by tying Barack Obama around Democrat nominee Tom Adelson's neck and by smearing independent candidate Mark Perkins as anti-gun. In 2013, Bartlett Jr won the first non-partisan mayoral race by making it partisan, something easy to do against Kathy Taylor, a strongly partisan Democrat.

In 2016, the worst Bartlett Jr could do to Bynum IV was one step removed. Bynum IV won his seat on the City Council as a Republican. He worked for two Republican U. S. Senators. He served on Bartlett Jr's 2009 transition team. So Bartlett Jr attempted to tie Kathy Taylor around Bynum IV's neck. While there was reason to worry that Adelson or Taylor, as Democrat donors, would use the position of mayor as a platform to advance Democrat candidates, the same argument couldn't credibly be made against Bynum IV.

Nevertheless, the Tulsa County Republican Party Executive Committee took the unprecedented step of endorsing Bartlett Jr in a non-partisan race with three registered Republican voters as candidates. Looking back, it's apparent now that party officials must have had access to some private polling showing Bartlett Jr well behind. Now that they've come out to warn Republican voters about RINOs who have support from Democrats, will the Tulsa County GOP Executive Committee get involved in runoffs where recent converts to the GOP are running for the legislature with the backing of Democrats and labor unions?

On Facebook, county GOP Chairman Mike Ford was warning that the election could well be settled in the primary. The same Mr. Ford chided me for choosing to vote for someone other than his preferred leftist in the race, because it might let the other well-heeled leftist win. But if you'll do the math, had everyone who voted for the three minor candidates voted for Bartlett Jr, the 18-point-trampling would have been a mere 12-point shellacking. Tulsans were tired of Dewey.

The complaints about having what amounted to a general election on the primary date, when people aren't expecting to make a final choice, are worth considering, as is the effect on the prolonged I don't have time at the moment to check the law, but I am fairly certain that judicial races, which are also non-partisan and have a primary, will always have a general election with the top two candidates if more than two candidates file for a seat, even if one candidate secures a majority of the vote in the primary. It would be a simple matter to put the same language into the city charter. While we're at it, let's move city elections back to the fall of odd-numbered years, along with county and school elections, so we can give due attention to local issues, without the distraction of federal and state races.

(As long as Dewey Bartlett's lame-duck period will be, it doesn't hold a candle to that suffered by incoming Rogers County Treasurer Jason Carini's wait. After defeating incumbent Cathy Pinkerton Baker in the June 2014 primary, he didn't take office until the beginning of the following fiscal year, July 1, 2015.)

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 3, 2016 9:04 PM.

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