Oklahoma Politics: July 2004 Archives

Crabby exit


State Rep. Wayne Pettigrew surprised a lot of people when he dropped out of a runoff in his race for re-election. Marian Cooksey, formerly an aide to Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin, finished less than 100 votes behind the incumbent, taking 44% to his 46% with the balance going to a third candidate. Pettigrew had frustrated leaders in his own caucus in recent years, splitting from most other Republicans with his support for the expansion of gambling. He also stirred up controversy with his support for flying the battle flag of a Confederate Cherokee regiment to replace the Confederate flag as one of Oklahoma's 14 flags on display at the State Capitol, with his attempt to regulate tribal membership, and his push to raise fuel taxes.

I'm writing all this just to give me an excuse to quote the following from the Whirled's story, which made me laugh out loud.

In stepping down, Pettigrew cited the demands of his growing business and his family, and the "sinister" campaign waged by his opponent, or at least by his opponent's supporters:

The lawmaker said Cooksey may not have known everything door-knocking backers were telling constituents, but criticized her for aligning with those "violently opposed" to him.

"When you go to bed with those people, you get their crabs," Pettigrew said at a state Capitol news conference.

Most people would have gone for the "lie down with dogs, get up with fleas" metaphor, but evidently Mr. Pettigrew's mind runs in different circles.

Unfair to Humphreys?


UPDATE 8/15/2005: Welcome, Buzzflash readers. This blog is mainly about local politics in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Particularly if you're from this neck of the woods, I invite you to visit the home page for the latest entries. To learn more about the author of this blog, read the profile published last month by our local alternative weekly paper, Urban Tulsa Weekly.

A friend who supported Kirk Humphreys expressed disappointment in a couple of things I wrote in my election night report. He felt I was suggesting that Kirk Humphreys's supporters (including him) were only backing him out of a desire not to miss the bandwagon, and he took great exception to my use of the phrase "purveyor of filth laid low" in my description of the reaction of supporters at Coburn's watch party to the surprisingly low numbers posted by Humphreys. He felt that the comment showed bad judgment and that it was beneath me to write so about a godly man who had a lot of supporters.

Regarding the bandwagon comment: Certainly there were many people who truly believed that Kirk Humphreys was the best man for the job. But there's no question that a bandwagon effect was in force, and although there was a long way to go until the primary, a lot of political folks seemed to feel a lot of pressure to get on board. When Coburn entered the race, I'm sure a lot of Humphreys' backers continued to believe Humphreys was the best man for the job, but others who had committed publicly to Humphreys felt regrets for their early commitment, but stuck with it nevertheless. I'm sure that a lot more Humphreys supporters felt regrets over the last week -- Ron Howell even said as much on KFAQ Monday morning.

As to the "purveyor of filth" comment, the ads from the Humphreys campaign over the last week were filth. They were a distortion of Tom Coburn's record by taking votes out of context -- the sort of dirty pool I expect from Democrats, as when they attack a Republican for voting against a bill falsely labeled with the term "civil rights". It's one thing to say, as Humphreys had been doing throughout the campaign, that Tom Coburn doesn't play the Washington game and doesn't bring home the bacon to Oklahoma. That's a fair criticism, although it didn't appear to resonate with the voters. It's another thing to say, as Humphreys' ads did, that "we can't trust Tom Coburn in time of war." And as we were reminded at the beginning or end of each commercial, Kirk Humphreys approved each one of those ads.

Then there's the push poll that attempted to paint Coburn as a hypocrite on the abortion issue, because he twice performed surgery to save the life of pregnant women, resulting unavoidably in the death of the unborn children. Suggesting that somehow that makes Coburn an abortionist is filth.

There were plenty of comments at the Coburn watch party expressing some pleasure that Humphreys' attacks backfired on him so strongly, although the sentiment was far outweighed by pride at the resounding vote of confidence in their man. And so I wrote what I did.

Through the campaign, I resisted any urge to trash Humphreys (or Anthony or Murphy, even). When I learned about kirkisajerk.com, I considered mentioning it in the blog, with appropriate disclaimers, simply because it was out there and, as a new phenomenon, of interest to people who follow Oklahoma politics, but in the end I decided I didn't want to be associated with the site in any way. I did write about my disagreement with Humphreys on the Bass Pro Shops subsidy, but that was as negative as I got, until last weekend, when I had had my fill of Humphreys' attack ads. Until last week, I felt I could support Humphreys wholeheartedly if he won the nomination, and I said so.

Like you I had the impression that Kirk Humphreys is a godly man, and I was impressed with his personal involvement in missions and his support of the Billy Graham crusade. I don't know the man's heart; I can only gauge his character by his actions. None of us will achieve perfection in this life, and we progress in sanctification at different rates and in different phases. Whatever part of his character told him it was OK to launch last week's attacks in order to prevent an outright Coburn win is a part that obviously needs further refining. An apology for those ads would be a good start (and it might blunt any effort by Carson to use the same attacks). I can't accept the notion that he is not ultimately responsible for the ads. If he caved in to pressure from his advisers to run the ads, it doesn't speak well for the strength of his backbone.

Two years ago, I watched the same team of consultants, in support of former Humphreys aide Jeff Cloud's candidacy for Corporation Commissioner, trash the reputation of Dana Murphy, in order to stop her from winning the primary outright, and then to defeat her in the runoff. Dana is one of the most Christ-like people I have ever encountered in politics, not to mention the most qualified candidate for the job, and they savaged her for the sake of winning, for the sake of ensuring that every statewide elected Republican official was one of "their people". Humphreys was close enough to that race -- he endorsed Cloud -- and engaged enough in Oklahoma politics that he should have anticipated pressure to slam Coburn unfairly and should have been ready to resist it.

Politics does indeed happen, and it can get nasty. As a card-carrying Calvinist I believe in the reality and persistence of the sin nature. Politics were bound to get nasty in the Republican party, notwithstanding the strong Christian element present, because we're all human and subject to pride, envy, sloth, lechery, gluttony, and the other two deadly sins I can't remember right now. Still, I had hoped we wouldn't have the depth of nastiness we saw from the Humphreys campaign these last two weeks, from Wortman's campaign, and two years ago in many of the statewide primaries. It is a shame, a blight on the party.

To all the disappointed Humphreys supporters: You have my sympathy. I know how bad it hurts to lose, and it's bound to hurt worse with your candidate finishing the way he did. I appreciate Kirk Humphreys making an endorsement first thing this morning, and I hope you will follow his lead and help Tom Coburn defeat Brad "Son of Synar" Carson in November.



Wow! No one predicted such a big win, but there it is -- 61% for Tom Coburn and clear sailing into the general election. I'll look forward to seeing the county-by-county breakdown. The heavily Republican midtown precincts I checked tonight -- including four within walking distance of Humphreys' Tulsa HQ -- gave Coburn three times as many votes as Humphreys.

I stopped by the Coburn watch party, just missing the candidate as he headed off to Muskogee to finish the evening. The mood among Coburn supporters was one of pride in such a big win, but with an undercurrent of satisfaction to see the purveyor of filth brought low.

There was a lot of amused comment when Humphreys praised Coburn in his concession speech -- tonight he says Tom Coburn is a good man, 24 hours ago he said we can't trust Tom Coburn. Humphreys is through, politically, not because of how badly he lost, but because of his decision to distort Tom Coburn's record in order to win. As I said Monday morning on KFAQ, Humphreys not only shot himself in the foot, he blew his foot clean off.

There's a lesson here about not jumping on the bandwagon. The reason so many Republican politicians endorsed Kirk Humphreys so early in the campaign was fear of being the last to join the Humphreys team. If he's going to be the Senator, you want to be able to remind him that you were with him from the beginning. But inevitability isn't what it's cracked up to be, and the people who held off on endorsements until the full field of candidates was in place are looking foresighted right now. It would be nice if the lesson would take hold and persist through the 2006 governor's race and the 2008 presidential primaries.

It was interesting to see in the SurveyUSA poll that Coburn did nearly as well among voters who describe themselves as "pro-choice" as voters who take the label of pro-life. Coburn is known for his principled stance on social issues, but clearly his principled stance on fiscal policy has won him admirers who disagree with him on other points.

I was amazed at Mike Mazzei's strong win in Senate 25. I really had the impression that Loudermilk, Gorman, and Hastings had all run strong races as well -- they were impressive in the candidate forums I attended. Mazzei began knocking on doors in his district about a year ago, with the aim of reaching every Republican household twice before the primary. Those who spent time in the south Tulsa neighborhoods in that district were not surprised -- you saw Mazzei signs in yards, everyone else's signs on the right of way.

Dan Sullivan had a very strong showing in House 71, although a 100 votes shy of an outright win. There's some talk that Misti Rice, who finished a distant second, may follow Cathy Keating's classy example and step aside to prevent a runoff, giving Dan a running start at Democratic incumbent Roy McClain.

Very happy to see John Wright returned to office and Sue Tibbs with a big primary victory. They're both solid and articulate conservatives and we need them as leaders as the House transitions to Republican leadership.

I was pleased to see David Schaffer's solid win in House 78. I've gotten to know David over the last few months, and he will make a great legislator. He's a solid social and fiscal conservative, with some ideas for making Oklahoma a better place to do business. He'll be up against Jeannie McDaniel, a close associate of former Mayor Susan Savage, and still on the City of Tulsa payroll in the Public Works department. Jeannie served up Jeff Platter on a platter. Platter had a clever slogan ("let a Platter serve you"), but it was impossible to read on his eyewatering yard signs. This district is evenly split in terms of voter registration, so this will be a closely-watched race.

Belated note to Tim Gilpin -- consultants say a mustache loses you about 6% of the vote. (A beard only costs you 4%.) That's about the margin of victory for Tom Adelson. My gut tells me that Gilpin did better in the blue collar part of the district, while Adelson prevailed in the blue-blood precincts. It will be interesting to see if the results validate the gut feeling. The result is probably a disappointment for Dewey Bartlett, who probably would have picked up a lot of Adelson's support had he lost. Still, Dewey won big and he's got a great shot at winning in November. Nancy Rothman seems to have spent a lot of money on yardsigns at the last minute. I wonder how many candidates get into the race thinking all they need to do is show up at candidate forums and put out yard signs.

I could write more, but I'm tired.

Last poll before the real one


SurveyUSA released its final tracking poll for the GOP Senate race, and it's pretty surprising. Dr. Stones has commentary.

After the dust settles, I want to look deeper at all this talk about the "GOP establishment". But here's a taste: The GOP "establishment" isn't in control of the official GOP machinery. The state chairman and vice chairman are independent of this establishment, and the same is true of the Tulsa County elected party leadership. So that should send us on a hunt for some center of power beyond the visible and obvious.

The only poll that matters is happening now. Go vote.

Gerald Dyer for State Senate


On our visit to Miami (My-am-uhhh, that is) back in June to see HMS Pinafore at the Coleman Theatre Beautiful, it was fun to see campaign signs out for Gerald Dyer, a candidate for the Republican nomination for State Senate District 1. Mr. Dyer was pastor of our church when my family moved to the Tulsa area in 1969, and it was he who baptized me in 1972. He went on to serve as a pastor in Baxter Springs, Kansas, and Miami, and then as the head of the area's association of Southern Baptist churches.

As you will see on his website, he is a solid conservative who knows, and is known by his district. He'll be a great state senator, and if you live up in the northeast corner of our state, I hope you'll give him your vote on Tuesday.

One of Kirk Humphreys' many underhanded attacks on Tom Coburn is that Coburn is a hypocrite on campaign finance reform because he took money from the Club for Growth, which also ran ads in support of Coburn. Either Humphreys doesn't have the intellectual powers to draw careful distinctions or else he's deliberately distorting the truth in hopes of stopping Coburn from winning an outright majority on Tuesday.

Club for Growth is not a PAC that was started to promote the interests of a certain industry or labor union or foreign country. Club for Growth has this to say about itself:

Our members help elect candidates who support the Reagan vision of economic growth through limited government and lower taxes.

Here's how the Club works for you to make your political contributions count:

1. Join now -- it's free!

2. Get our MEMBERS ONLY recommendations on the best candidates in the most important House and Senate races in the country.

3. Contribute to the candidates you like best through the Club for Growth -- and 100% of the money goes to the candidate's campaign. You can contribute to several candidates online or off without having to go to the mailbox, find addresses for candidates, or write multiple checks.

4. Your contribution is combined with thousands of other Club members for maximum impact!

In other words, they find principled candidates committed to sound fiscal policy, endorse them, then encourage their members to donate to their campaigns. Club for Growth has encouraged challengers to Republican office-holders who truly are RINOs (Republicans in name only) when it comes to federal spending and tax policy. Tom Coburn should be proud to have the support and recognition of Club for Growth.

And Kirk Humphreys should be ashamed of trying to paint such a distorted picture of Tom Coburn. He knows better. Someone suggested he was a good man receiving some bad advice, which suggests that he's easily manipulated by the unscrupulous and too weak to control his own campaign. I don't have a problem with negative campaigning that paints an honest picture. I object to campaign ads which take the facts out of context.

I guess it was easy to promise a positive campaign when he felt sure he was going to win. If Kirk Humphreys had been willing to lose gracefully, he would have had a future in Oklahoma politics, maybe as a candidate for governor, maybe as a congressman or even a senator. Not now. He's dead politically. What a shame.

Humphreys support soft in OKC?


Dr. Stones the psephologist (aka Keith Gaddie) has reliable word that former OKC Mayor Kirk Humphreys is losing ground in his home turf -- the heavy GOP precincts in northern OKC and Edmond. Surveys of likely voters show Humphreys at 37%, Coburn at 35% and Anthony at 8% with 20% undecided. The same poll by the same group in the same precincts had Humphreys at 53% three weeks ago.

The good doctor concludes:

In the end, the problem for Kirk Humphreys may be that, while he was a great mayor and is considered by the people I speak with to be a great guy, he is not coming across to Oklahoma Republicans as the type of senator they want to have in Washington.

As I wrote before, Republican voters may like Humphreys, but they admire Tom Coburn. And I think there is something of the wheeler-dealer in his visage and voice that may, at a subconscious level, make the land deal issues raised by Anthony seem credible. He can't help the way he looks and sounds, but it's just the way he comes across.

By the way I misspelled Kirk Humphreys' last name in an earlier post. My apologies to both Mr. Humphreys and Mr. Humphries. And the other Mr. Humphries, too.

I really shouldn't point out when the opposition is making big mistakes, but I will anyway. Tom Adelson, Brad Henry's Secretary of Health, and a Democrat candidate for Senate District 33, seems like a thoughtful guy, even if he is to the left of most Oklahomans. He has some lovely glossy campaign brochures. But it's been interesting to watch his well-financed campaign mess up a couple of fundamentals.

The first was the yard signs. The most important thing on a yard sign is the candidate's last name. You want to emblazon it in the visual memory of every voter, so he'll remember it when he goes to vote. Tom Adelson's signs are elegant, green and gold on white (two colors is pricey), with a capital dome dominating the sign. But his last name is tiny, especially on the standard sized yard signs. You could be forgiven for thinking that these signs were advertising yet another roofing company.

The second slip is the campaign's contact list of likely primary voters. We've received two calls from the campaign asking for our support. Not only do we not have any Democrats in our house, we don't even live in Senate District 33. Our phone number has been ours for over 10 years, so it's unlikely they called us thinking they were reaching a Democrat in the district who recently had that number. As people move (often without re-registering at the new address) and change phone numbers, a certain amount of errors are to be expected, but I can't think how this one would have been made unless something was really messed up, which could mean that a lot of Adelson's huge pot of money has been spent getting his message to people who can't vote for him.

The Wilson Research poll commissioned by Congressman Ernest Istook is out, and it confirms what many have thought -- Tom Coburn is the Republican Party's best shot at holding the Senate seat being vacated by Don Nickles. The poll has Coburn in a statistical dead heat with Brad Carson, while in head-to-head matchups Carson beats Bob Anthony and Kirk Humphreys handily. The three Republicans all do about equally as well in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th congressional districts, but it's in the 1st and 2nd districts that Coburn outclasses the other two. OU Professor Keith Gaddie notes in his analysis:

Dr. Coburn runs slightly stronger than the other Republicans. His major impact, though, is in weakening the core support for Rep. Carson. The net effect is a nine-point improvement over the Anthony/Humphreys matchups against the likely Democratic nominee. ...

The Coburn candidacy has the peculiar effect of both emboldening base Republicans while also competing for swing voters. This is intriguing, given the strong preference for Coburn first among conservatives.

All over northeastern Oklahoma there are people who were helped in some way by Tom Coburn or his staff during his six years in Congress. A lot of those people are Democrats. My grandfather, a lifelong Democrat, was appointed by Coburn to a veterans advisory committee, and he became one of Coburn's supporters. Voters that would be a slam dunk for Carson against Humphreys or Anthony will have to at least think about their choice if Coburn is on the ballot.

Add to that the fact that conservative Republicans are excited about the chance to send Coburn back to Washington. They may like Humphreys and Anthony, but they admire Tom Coburn. Many Tulsa area Republicans have followed his career, and the constant criticism he endured from the Tulsa Whirled, but they will get their first chance to vote for him this month.

Congressman Istook promised to make the results public, and he has. You can read the questions, see the summary results, and the crosstabs, which break down the sample and compare answers from different questions -- it's all on soonerpolitics.com. Plenty to pore over. Thanks to Congressman Istook, Wilson Research, and Professor Gaddie for this important contribution to the Republican decision-making process.

About this Archive

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

Oklahoma Politics: June 2004 is the previous archive.

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