SD 25: Lisa Kramer dodges debate, backed by Chambers, unions, dark money PAC

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Early voting for Tuesday's runoff continues through 6 pm today at the Tulsa County Election Board headquarters and at the Hardesty Regional Library and will be available again on Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm.

State Senate District 25 candidate Lisa Kramer has declined to participate in a head-to-head debate with conservative Joe Newhouse on KFAQ's Pat Campbell show in advance of the Tuesday, August 23, 2016, Republican runoff election. From KFAQ's website:

Lisa Kramer is running for Oklahoma Senate and is facing a runoff Tuesday August 23rd with the Jim Bridenstine endorsed Joe Newhouse in District 25.

Kramer was offered a chance to come on The Pat Campbell Show and participate in an on-air debate with Newhouse, but refused saying her schedule was "booked solid."

We have invited Mr. Newhouse to come into the studio anyway and tell District voters why they should choose him on Tuesday, and he has agreed to do so.

Campbell has hosted numerous debates over more than eight years as host of KFAQ's morning drive and has a reputation for even-handedness and giving each candidate a fair chance to convey his or her platform to the listening audience.

Newhouse posted the following comment in response to Kramer's decision:

I believe that Government Transparency begins with candidates being candid and forthright about their positions. This includes maintaining websites that contain plans & positions and not just platitudes. It also means making yourself available to the public, not just hiding behind mailers. I was disappointed to receive an accusational mailer from my opponent, who refused participation in the KFAQ debate despite advanced invitation. I realize that campaigns can be stressful, but overreaction and name-calling only serve to turn people off from the political process and destroy unity. As an officer & a gentleman, I am proud of the clean campaign that I have run, which includes not publishing embarrassing episodes from the other debate. As my opponent offers little content on her website (e.g. how she actually intends to pay for things), I am left only with her public statements and survey results with which to draw my distinctions.

The two SD25 candidates debated at the Tulsa Republican Club meeting last month. You can watch the debate online. The "embarrassing episodes" may refer to Kramer's inability to name any positive achievements of the legislature in response to a debate question; Newhouse mentioned a criminal justice reform bill and eliminating End of Instruction tests among a few other items; Kramer concurred with Newhouse but had nothing to add on her own.

Here is the podcast of the SD 25 KFAQ debate that Joe Newhouse attended and Lisa Kramer declined to attend.

According to official election records, Kramer was a registered Democrat until changing her registration to Republican less than three years ago, on September 5th, 2013. Given the recent dominance of the GOP in Oklahoma politics, there would be an incentive to switch parties to have more of an influence over the ultimate result of the election, or even to have a chance at winning election to office in heavily Republican districts like SD 25.

On the Oklahomans for Life survey, Kramer answered "no" and Newhouse answered "yes" to the question, "Upon reversal of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, will you vote for a law that would protect the lives of unborn children and prohibit abortion except to prevent the death of the mother?" (Kramer and Newhouse both said they would support a law that includes exceptions for legally-reported rape and incest.)

Kramer signed the petition to put the Boren sales tax increase on the November ballot and has defended that decision publicly, although she says she will vote against the tax. Newhouse opposes the tax and opposed putting the tax on the ballot.

Kramer has been enthusiastically endorsed by left-wing bloggers and organizations that support the proposed state sales tax increase for schools and oppose measures that expand parental choice in education. Kramer has received funding from PACs affiliated with the Tulsa Regional Chamber and Oklahoma State Chamber and left-wing public-employee labor unions like the Oklahoma Educational Association and Oklahoma Public Employees Association. (Click the link if you need a refresher on why a Chamber endorsement should scare off conservative voters.)

A shadowy group called Oklahomans for a Prosperous Future has spent $15,838.40 on direct mail in support of Kramer, paying that money to Majority Designs Invoicing. Oddly, a mailer received by SD 25 voters yesterday says it was paid for by "Oklahomans for a Responsible Government" -- a group that doesn't show up in the Oklahoma Ethics Commission database for the current or previous campaign cycles. Is this a typo on the part of the direct mail firm, or a deliberate attempt at confusing voters with a name that sounds like that of a now-defunct conservative watchdog group? A group called Oklahomans for Responsible Government (without the indefinite article) was active from 2008-2010, leading the opposition to the ill-conceived, teachers-union-backed SQ 744, which would have constitutionally tied Oklahoma's spending on education to that of other states.

The disclosure report for Oklahomans for a Prosperous Future, Inc., was filed by Clayton Woodrum, 321 S. Boston Ave, Ste 200, Tulsa OK 74103. The organization's IRS Form 990 for 2014 (the only one available on misspells its own name ("Oklahoman's for a Prosperous Future, Inc.") and states its mission as "TO PROMOTE SOCIAL WELFARE CONCERNING PUBLIC POLICY RELATED TO HEALTH, EDUCATION, FISCAL AND BUDGET ISSUES." It received $470,000 in contributions and grants in 2014. In that year it spent $361,085 to "ADVOCATE FOR PUBLIC POLICY", another $43,824 on "VOTER REGISTRATION EXPENSES," and $43,693 on "SUPPORT OR OPPOSE CANDIDATES' CAMPAIGN." Devin L. Hughes is listed as President, Karl Semtner as Secretary, and Clayton Woodrum as Treasurer. In 2014, OPF spent $250,000 with Hulsen Media Services LLC on TV ads. Hughes is co-author of the anti-gun-rights blog ArmedWithReason. Semtner contributed to the 2012 and 2014 campaigns of Democrat District 92 State Rep. Richard Morrissette, Woodrum contributed to Heather Nash, Democrat candidate for SD 11. The group's TV ad attacking tax incentives for horizontal drilling drew the ire of State Sen. Cliff Branan, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, who said the group was "incorporated by an individual who has given tens of thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Barack Obama." It seems fair to say that the activities of Oklahomans for a Prosperous Future and its identified supporters points in a strongly leftward direction, which makes its intervention on behalf of Lisa Kramer in a Republican primary revealing, particularly if Kramer chooses not to denounce their involvement on her behalf.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 19, 2016 12:42 PM.

SD 39: NRA backs Amanda Teegarden; State Chamber backs Dave Rader was the previous entry in this blog.

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