Oklahoma Politics: May 2004 Archives

Congressman Tom Cole is pushing for $8 million in federal funds to build an interchange on I-35 just north of the Red River to provide more direct access to the Chickasaw casino. There is an exit a mile south, and there isn't anything else near the casino requiring an interchange. Seems to me the Chickasaws should have bought land nearer an existing interchange if they wanted better access.

OkieDoke has a few thoughts on the matter, and here's a link to the Daily Oklahoman story (free registration required). Cole sees no problem with asking the government to fund this, and doesn't consider this a question of promoting gambling:

The congressman said he understands many Oklahomans might have qualms about using federal money to benefit a casino. He said he doesn't know of any similar, federally funded project in Oklahoma, but said there are precedents in other states.

"I look at it as not taking a stand on gaming ... and in the past I've not been particularly supporting of gaming, but I look at the economic factor," Cole said. "There's no question that when we legalized horse racing in Oklahoma, we became a Class II (gambling) state."

Now, pay close attention to this line:

Cole said he was comfortable securing the money because "we build roads for industries all the time" and because "it isn't costing the taxpayers of Oklahoma a dime."

Yep, Tom, money just grows on trees in Washington. They harvest it from the slopes of the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

That kind of sentiment is why so many conservatives were rooting for Marc Nuttle to prevail in the 2002 4th District primary, and why many of us were disappointed with J. C. Watts' last minute announcement that he would not be running. The conventional wisdom is that Watts had tipped off Cole to his plans long before he made them publicly known, giving Cole, who ran Watts' campaigns, a huge headstart over any other candidate.

Cole's attitude is all too prevalent in Washington, as Tom Coburn illustrates in his book Breach of Trust. Coburn recounts the budget battles of his years in Congress, fighting against members in his own party who put their own reelection prospects ahead of the best interests of the country. It's why we never had a real budget surplus, and why discretionary spending continues to climb, despite the Republicans' ten years in the majority. Even if you don't care for Coburn's positions on social issues, you should read his book to understand how the budget game is played.

I'm supporting Tom Coburn in the Republican primary for Senate. I trust him to do the right thing, and to help stiffen the spines of his brother Republicans to do the right thing, too. My sense is that Kirk Humphreys is cut from the same cloth as Tom Cole. Without a doubt, Humphreys is a better choice than Brad Carson, and if Humphreys is the Republican nominee he'll have my full support. And I'm much happier to have Tom Cole in Congress than a Democrat alternative. But our nation needs more people like Tom Coburn in Congress.

Wednesday night I stopped by an open house at Tom Coburn's Tulsa campaign headquarters in Eton Square at 61st & Memorial. The candidate himself was there, mingling and chatting with us.

I was impressed by the folks who turned out. It wasn't a huge crowd -- I don't think they gave the event a lot of publicity -- but the people in attendance were the sort of grassroots Republican activists who provided the manpower and commitment for past upset victories over "anointed" candidates. Many of those present worked for John Sullivan in his special election win, and some were involved back in 1980 when a little-known State Senator from Ponca City came from nowhere to become a U. S. Senator.

The crowd even included some staffers who work for Republican elected officials who have endorsed Kirk Humphreys (and now may be wishing they hadn't).

At Saturday's Republican state convention, Don Nickles acknowledged the three main candidates to replace him, and the effect was like an applause-o-meter, with Coburn getting the loudest, most enthusiastic response, followed by Anthony, with Humphreys getting a subdued cheer.

There is no doubt that the grassroots activists are passionate about Tom Coburn. The question will be whether Coburn's campaign can effectively organize and mobilize these people to win over the vast majority of non-activists who will show up in large numbers for the July primary. Humphreys had a lot of young people working for him at the state convention, stationed at nearly every door, handing out stickers, bottled water, and "Candy from Kirk". (I had the sense, though, that a lot of these attractive young folk were involved in the Humphreys campaign because of all the other attractive young folk who are involved. Kind of like a teenage boy joining a church because the girls in the youth group are cuter than the church his folks go to.) Bob Anthony's daughters appeared to be everywhere as well. Coburn's people seemed to be fewer in number and mostly stayed close to their table.

The Coburn campaign is looking for Tulsa volunteers, and they'll be having a volunteer training seminar this Saturday, May 15, from 10 am to noon in the East Atrium of Cityplex Towers, 81st & Lewis. Call Regional Director Derek Sparks at 918-294-8352 for info or visit www.coburnforsenate.com

On to New York!

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This has been in the works for a while, but I hadn't wanted to say anything until it was official. On Saturday, I was elected by the Oklahoma Republican Convention as one of 23 at-large delegates to this year's Republican National Convention. The at-large slate, which was nominated by the state party's Executive Committee, includes Corporation Commissioner Denise Bode, Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune, State Representatives Odilia Dank and Fred Perry, and a few other officials, but most of the delegates are grass-roots volunteers.

In addition to the 23 at-large delegates, each of the five congressional district conventions elected three delegates. The state chairman and Oklahoma's two representatives on the Republican National Committee round out the delegation. Except for those three officials, there's an alternate for each delegate. Councilor Chris Medlock will be serving as an alternate.

Republicans seeking a place on the Executive Committee's slate had to send in an application listing our involvement in the party. A couple of Saturdays ago, the Executive Committee conducted brief interviews of the 49 people who applied to serve as delegates or alternates. There were three more applicants than places, so a few folks were disappointed.

One of those who didn't make the cut sought to be elected by the full convention. Richard Engle, who had served as a delegate and alternate to previous conventions, was nominated "from the floor" for alternate. He circulated a nominating petition and received 100 signatures to qualify, and so his name appeared on the ballot along with the 23 people nominated by the Executive Committee. The state convention delegates could mark up to 23 names on the ballot, and it took a while to count the votes, although most people voted for the Executive Committee's slate. Engle lost and declared it a defeat for the grass-roots, but the reality is that the party leadership -- coming out of the grass-roots and elected by the grass-roots -- and a majority of the 772 state convention delegates didn't vote for him. (In most counties, the only qualification to be a state convention delegate is to be a registered Republican and to sign up and be willing to spend a beautiful May Saturday indoors listening to political speeches. A few small counties sent "closed" delegations, meaning the county convention elected a fixed number of delegates to represent the county at the state convention.

This will be my first time to a national convention. Even though my mind has already been made up for me on the most important vote -- I'm bound to vote for the winner of Oklahoma's presidential preference primary -- we'll also be considering the party's platform and the rules by which the 2008 presidential nominating process will be conducted. I expect to be writing a lot about this as the summer unfolds.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Oklahoma Politics category from May 2004.

Oklahoma Politics: April 2004 is the previous archive.

Oklahoma Politics: June 2004 is the next archive.

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