Oklahoma Politics: June 2004 Archives

A tale of two message boards


I received an e-mail about one of the two new Republican bulletin boards that has sprung up in recent days. I don't have much use for forums where people post under pseudonyms, particularly when politics is the topic. There's an old Internet proverb: "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." Is that message really from a Smith campaign insider? Is that Smith himself posting this nonsense, or is it an opponent's supporter posting under his name? These message boards provide an opportunity to spread disinformation, to trash reputations, to try to squelch the morale of your opponents' supporters. And by opponents I mean primary opponents. These boards tend to be circular firing squads. At best, there is some entertainment value in all the trash talk, but mostly I find it a depressing glimpse at the nastier aspects of politics. Having peeked in on a couple of the Oklahoma Democrat message boards, I was not pleased to learn of plans to set up similar boards for Republicans. I appreciated the good intentions of those who set them up, but I saw nothing good coming of it, and while the Republican boards don't seem to be as vicious yet as the Democrat boards, I see some disturbing trends, and the primary is still a month away.

But the first message linked in this e-mail I received was to a well-written and thought-provoking essay by Paul Hollrah contrasting President Reagan's funeral with that of another political figure a couple of years ago. Here's how it starts:

Michael Reagan, the late president’s oldest son, stepped to the podium, retrieved a folded page from his breast pocket, and after a few obligatory remarks in which he described the deep love and affection he felt for his departed father, he launched into a vicious attack on those in the Democratic Party and the liberal media who’d made his father’s life a living hell during his days in the Oval Office.

Not the way you remember the event? To say much more would give the plot away -- just go read it.

Paul Hollrah has been a Republican Party official in Mayes County (may still be) and has run for the legislature. Interesting that the best thing on a message board dominated by pseudonymity is something written under a real person's real name.

"Parachuting" is a political manuever in which a candidate moves into a district just in time to be eligible file for office in that district. This technique involves removing a potential candidate from a district where he doesn't stand a chance into a district where his party lacks a viable candidate. There seems to be an emerging pattern involving parachuting and the children of wealthy Democrat trial lawyers.

Mitchell Garrett (actually David Mitchell Garrett Jr), son of wealthy Democrat trial lawyer David Garrett has been parachuted into House District 23 to run against State Rep. Sue Tibbs. Tibbs came within 120 votes beating incumbent and beloved TV personality Betty Boyd in 1998, beat Boyd in 2000, and then drew no opponent two years ago.

Junior Garrett registered to vote in Muskogee County on December 6, 1996 (age 25), and was still registered to vote at his dad's address in Muskogee (2601 W Broadway St) as recently as March 2004, even though he had also registered to vote in Tulsa County on October 24, 2003. He has not, to date, attempted to vote in both counties.

David M Garrett Sr's attorney in his felony sexual battery case is Clark Brewster, whose daughter Cassie Mae Brewster was parachuted into House District 77 in 2000 for an unsuccessful attempt to unseat Mark Liotta, a Republican who has built a strong personal rapport with voters in his majority-Democrat northeast Tulsa seat. In September 1999, she was registered to vote at 1316 S Jamestown Ave in House District 78. Sometime between then and April 2000, she registered at an apartment in the district at 8024 E 4th Pl, and then later that year at 449 S Allegheny. I'm told she moved out of the district shortly after losing the election, although she didn't move her registration for a couple of years.

Another recent example of parachuting is Brad Carson. He registered to vote in Rogers County, in the 2nd District, on January 7, 1999, and began his run to replace Tom Coburn later that same year. Prior to that he was registered to vote at 3042 S. Detroit Ave, Tulsa, in Tulsa County, where he registered on August 12, 1994. In May of 1998, there were in addition to Carson two Republican men registered to vote at the same address, possibly housemates, possibly previous renters who never bothered to change their registration after moving. I am not aware of any evidence that Carson lived in the 2nd District prior to 1999, and I don't believe he ever claimed to live there. He was born in Arizona and is a graduate of Jenks High School. His ads, if I recall correctly, referred to his family's deep roots in the 2nd District, but never to his personal roots.

And yes, Republicans do this too, although it doesn't seem to be as frequent among Republicans.

Everything I've described here is legal (except perhaps for being simultaneously registered to vote in two counties). With respect to Congress, there is only the requirement to reside in the state, although people don't usually like to vote for someone who lives elsewhere. In the UK, this sort of thing is unremarkable -- traditionally most of the politicians lived in the London area and might have no connection to the districts they represented, although this has begun to change.

Oklahoma first day of filing


Speaking of ballot access, the first day of filing for the 2004 Oklahoma general election is over. With so many open seats, thanks to term limits, filing has been heavy.

There are two more days for filing, so I wouldn't read too much into the absence of a name on the list, particularly if the candidate has filed ethics paperwork and has a formal campaign organization. It may just be more convenient to coordinate filing with some other appointment in Oklahoma City. Over the next two days, we'll see the rest of the previously announced candidates sign up. The party organizations know where they're covered and where they're not, so you will see some arm-twisting and cajoling to limit the number of races where a candidate goes unopposed. There will also be a few self-starters who decide "what the heck" at the last minute.

A few interesting notes:

Virginia Blue Jeans Jenner has filed for the Democrat primary in House District 12.

So far, Tulsa County incumbents are mostly without opposition. The exceptions are Nancy Riley (SD 37), Sue Tibbs (HD 23), John Smaligo (HD 74), and Roy McClain (HD 71). Roy is known at the Capitol as "Dead Man Walking" since his win in 2002 over former State Rep. Chad Stites in an ordinarily Republican district. It's assumed that the GOP will retake the district with a solid, scandal-free candidate like Dan Sullivan, who filed today.

Wanda Cruson of Kingston is at 75 the oldest candidate for State House so far. She and her husband were honored at the 2003 Oklahoma Republican Convention for their many years of service in various areas, including candidate recruitment. And now she's a candidate herself, the sole Republican in a Democrat-held open seat in south central Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Libertarian Party reports that their request for an injunction in their ballot access case will come before a district court judge this Friday. Even though I'm a Republican, I've always thought there was something unfair about giving two parties official status and requiring other parties to recertify themselves after each election. While Libertarians are able to file for office, in Oklahoma they may only file as Independents, and that is how they will appear on the ballot. A third party has to file a petition to attain official status, which allows people to register under that banner and allows the party name to appear on state ballots.

The fairest thing would be to have a separation of party and state. Leave it to each party to decide how to select its nominees. If a party wishes to hold a primary, it can pay the state to cover the cost of the election and to manage its membership list. Instead, a party could choose to certify its own members and conduct its nominating process by mail, online, through in-person voting that it staffs and manages itself, or through a system of caucuses and conventions.

For the general election, the ballot could completely omit party information, making it each party's responsibility to publicize the candidates it endorses. Alternatively, the state could set some minimal standards for party certification, and the ballot could list each endorsement each candidate receives from a registered party. As in New York State, a candidate might be endorsed by multiple parties.

But my pragmatic side doesn't want to see the door opened to general elections with large numbers of candidates as long as we have a system of voting that malfunctions when more than two candidates are on the ballot. A system like Instant Runoff Voting is the only way to allow voters a wide range of choices while ensuring that the majority rules in the outcome of the election. Instant Runoff Voting is "spoiler-proof," eliminating one of the traditional arguments against easy ballot access, and freeing voters from any worries about wasting votes.

About this Archive

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

Oklahoma Politics: May 2004 is the previous archive.

Oklahoma Politics: July 2004 is the next archive.

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