2017 Oklahoma Republican State Convention: Morning session

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A report from Saturday's 2017 Oklahoma Republican Party state convention at Firstmoore Baptist Church in Moore in two parts:

Registration went very smoothly. I couldn't arrive until 8:30, a half hour before the end of registration and the call to order, but within 5 minutes I had my badge and was on my way into the convention hall. Kudos to David Byte, who developed and set up the credentialing computer system, and the credentials committee members that got checked everyone in so efficiently. It speaks very highly of Byte's system that there was no change between the preliminary and final credentials reports. (In contrast, at the Tulsa County convention, where paper sign-in sheets were used, many precinct chairmen and delegates had to work with the credentials committee to correct erroneous delegate counts.) 823 delegates signed in before the 9 a.m. deadline.

Another five appeared after the deadline and were given the opportunity to make their case to the convention. One latecomer was annoyed at the requirement to make his excuses to the whole convention and opted to leave. The convention voted to seat the other four, including lobbyist Seth Rott, who, I am told, lives very near the venue, but still managed to arrive 15 minutes late, wearing t-shirt and jeans. I suspect that many delegates came to regret granting Rott an indulgence, as he frequently delayed the proceedings with debate under the guise of questions and points of order, and ultimately ended the convention by making a quorum call at around 5 p.m. which prevented the platform from being approved.

First order of business was a proposed state party rule change, deferred from 2016 convention because time ran out, requiring county executive committee members to be invited to county executive committee meetings, originally proposed in 2016. The rule change was approved by voice vote.

State Chairman Pam Pollard of Oklahoma City was re-elected to a full term over Tulsa challenger Robert Aery by a vote of 908.6 to 631.4, or 59% to 41%. (County votes are weighted based on the ratio of delegates casting a vote and the authorized vote, up to a maximum weight of 2 votes per delegate.) The split was geographical: Aery, formerly with Americans for Prosperity Oklahoma, did best in Tulsa (94-36) and a couple of nearby counties, while Pollard, who has been active in the party for well over a decade, won Oklahoma County (98-52) and Cleveland County (29-25) and unanimous or near-unanimous support from many rural counties. Other than Tulsa, Aery won Alfalfa (2-0), Canadian (13-7), Comanche (8-7), Grady (10-5), Harper (1-0), Kay (6-3), Kingfisher (2-1), Muskogee (9-7), Rogers (11-9), Stephens (16-2), and Washington (13-9). In Tulsa County, Aery had support from members of both the politics-is-a-living and the politics-is-about-principle factions here.

The campaign to replace Pollard focused on a decline in individual donations to the party over the last year, the loss of Senate 34 to a Democrat who was a popular high school coach in the special election to replace Rick Brinkley, the failure to recapture House 85, which had been lost to the Democrats in a September 2015 special election, and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's cancellation of his planned speech to the convention's gala dinner, over accusations that speaking would violate the Federal Hatch Act.

On the latter point, Pollard was blamed for a party email that somehow changed the nature of the event to a party fundraiser, making it inappropriate for Pruitt to attend. But the convention gala has always been a party fundraiser, so it was no more or less appropriate for Pruitt to attend before the email went out than after, although Pruitt stated that prior to the email, EPA ethics office had approved the appearance.

The day before the convention, an email attacking Pollard went out to convention delegates from pam at pampollard.com from a group calling itself "Lifelong Republicans Interested in REAL Leadership." The email linked to the pampollard.com website (which went dark sometime after the convention vote), which repeated the attacks. The email claimed as the organization's address as 4020 N Lincoln Blvd #100, OKC, OK 73105, which is the former address of Majority Designs and AH Strategies, the defunct firms founded by indicted political consultant Fount Holland. The thought crossed my mind that while the email and website were probably a straightforward attack intended to hurt Pollard, this plausibly could have been an attempt to hurt Aery by connecting his campaign to unseat Pollard to an anonymous attack and to a disgraced political consultant.

(UPDATE 2017/05/09: Ethics filings by Zack Taylor, the Republican winner in the House 28 special election, indicate that the firm Advocacy Insight LLC used that address at least through March 2, 2017. After that time, the address given is PO Box 54653, OKC 73154 until April 21, 2017, and in the last entry in the report, the address was listed as 401 NE 46th St, OKC, 73105.)

After the chairman vote, Vice Chairman DeWayne McAnally was reelected without opposition.

During the course of the morning session, while waiting for credentials reports or votes being cast, delegates heard from National Committeeman Steve Curry and National Committeewoman Carolyn McLarty. Tribute was paid to the late State Representative David Brumbaugh and Labor Commissioner Mark Costello.


State Auditor Gary Jones announces campaign for governor at the 2017 Oklahoma Republican Convention.

State Auditor Gary Jones and Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb both announced that they are running for governor. Attorney General Mike Hunter, recently appointed to fill Scott Pruitt's unexpired term, will be running for a full term. Several other candidates for 2018 also spoke: Gary Richardson (running for governor), former Republican State Chairman Matt Pinnell (running for lieutenant governor), and Deputy State Auditor Cindy Byrd (running for state auditor).


Lieutenant Governor candidate Matt Pinnell and family at the 2017 Oklahoma Republican Convention.

The afternoon session dealt with proposed state party rule changes, a resolution calling for an abortion ban, and the successful attempt to kill the proposed party platform, but I'll cover that in a later entry.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 7, 2017 11:00 PM.

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