Oklahoma Politics: November 2004 Archives

Just got word that the House District 78 hand recount is complete, and Democrat Jeannie McDaniel remains the winner, by 24 votes. That represents a narrowing of the original margin of 34 votes. The changes resulted from ballots where too light a mark was missed by the scanners (particularly a problem with absentee ballots, which are marked with pencil rather than black ink), or where a stray mark was registered as an overvote. Condolences to Republican nominee David Schaffer, who ran a great race against a tough opponent -- I hope he'll give it another shot. To win reelection in two years McDaniel will have to demonstrate to this swing district that she can be effective despite being in the minority party. In this campaign she was able to soft-pedal her views on the issues, but in two years she'll have a voting record, and District 78 voters will be able to decide if her views reflect their own.

HD 78 recount today

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Republican nominee David Schaffer has requested a hand recount in the Oklahoma House District 78 race. Initial returns show him losing by 34 votes to Democrat nominee Jeannie McDaniel -- only a couple of votes per precinct. There were ballot scanner problems in precinct 157 -- the ballots in that precinct were rerun through the machine on election night and produced an increase in votes for Schaffer.

The recount happens today in the Tulsa County Courthouse in Judge Tom Gillert's courtroom at 9:30 am.

The fact that we can have this recount and cope with a voting machine problem is an indication of the superiority of Oklahoma's approach to counting votes. We fall short in voter authentication, but there is a tangible, persistent record of those votes which are cast, unlike the touchscreen systems and the old-fashioned mechanical tallying systems which leave no records, at least none which can be verified by the voter and which are human-readable.

A friend in the New York City metro area writes to congratulate me on Oklahoma's 66% support for President Bush. My correspondent expresses interest in relocating to such a solidly conservative state.

Well, look before you leap. You'll still find some angry, cranky folks in that remaining 34%. Sure, most Kerry-Okies will calmly resign themselves to this reminder of their minority status in a place where most folks are misguided but are nevertheless friendly. Oklahoma and its people may be weird, but Oklahoma is home.

But you have a minority of that minority who are stuck here against their will. NPR on the FM dial, home delivery of the New York Times, Borders, Utica Square, the museums, the opera, the ballet, and the coffee bars (local indies and national chains alike) all help to insulate these folks from the indignity of living in Oklahoma. And just like the most abrasive of the liberal majority in Manhattan, these beleagured Tulsa lefties assume that anyone who is intelligent, anyone who is hip, anyone who shares their love of high culture, good writing, and an expensive cup of coffee must be a liberal, too, like this woman my friend Richard Spears encountered in Starbucks the day after the election. Richard writes:

I met Charlie, our 15 year old, at the bus stop and wisked him to Starbucks for a spontaneous and way-too-infrequent hour of just talking: School, girls, the campaign, faith. Just as I launched into a quick description of a provisional ballot, the gal sitting 5 feet away from us leaned over a asked, "What are you, some sort of politician?" She was a 30 year old wife in a pullover sweatshirt who had been intensely studying her biology notes during the 40 minutes we chatted. I said no, my son and I just try to be informed voters with an open mind.

(As you know, Mike, I would define the right side of the political spectrum were it not for my very real interest in NPR, which drags me half a notch left.)

Then, with hardly a pause to breathe, this stranger, assuming we were fellow left-leaning Democrats (she heard the word "informed" and assumed we were Liberals, no doubt), launched into a diatribe that touched upon:

Warning: Heavy number-crunching follows.

Republicans won 9 (possibly 10, pending a recount) out of the 23 open Oklahoma House seats previously held by Democrats, plus they replaced incumbent Democrat Roy McClain with Dan Sullivan in House 71 (a 13 point margin). Republicans lost one incumbent -- Stuart Ericson (HD 13) was swamped by a Brad Carson turnout push in the Carson's 2nd Congressional District and lost to Jerry McPeek by 347 votes (3%). A net pickup of 8 gives Republicans 57 seats to 44 for the Democrats. If David Schaffer (HD 78) prevails in a recount, the score would go to 58-43, just nine votes short of a two-thirds majority.

SoonerPoll.com made their State House picks last week and even polled 17 key races -- 13 open Democrat seats, two incumbent Democrat seats, and two open Republican seats. Let's compare their picks to the results in open Democrat seats (SoonerPoll rating in parentheses after the seat number, and poll result where available, MOE +/- 4.4%).

SoonerPoll.com came very near the result (within MOE) in Districts 10, 12, 55, 59, 64, 78, and 92. They didn't poll a couple of races that turned out to be upsets -- Districts 5 and 42, which were rated likely D but went Republican, and District 13, a likely R seat held by an incumbent that went D. In some cases, they got the winner right but were way off on the margin -- like HD 30, and HD 33, supposedly a 1.5% leaner, which ended up a 28 point landslide.

Other "leaning D" seats went heavily for the Republican: In HD 27, they polled it as leaning D by 2.7 but it was won by the Republican by 12 points. The two open Republican seats they had as leaners, but the Republicans won by double-digits.

I give a lot of credit to SoonerPoll.com for making the effort to poll these races and making the result public. There are some improvements to be made, either in their likely voter screen or their random selection method. The Republican GOTV effort probably accounts for the bigger-than-expected margins.

Race-by-race info after the jump.

State Question 707 takes several creative financial manuevers that local governments are already permitted to do, and allows them to commit to doing them over several years.

Already, a local government can set up a Tax Increment Finance district to capture increased tax revenue in a redeveloping area and use that incremental revenue to make improvements within the district. The district around Home Depot in downtown Tulsa generated the revenue to pay for the streets and utilities for the Village at Central Park.

Already, a local government can pledge its own revenues to other governmental bodies. Oklahoma City did this with "MAPS for Kids", raising the sales tax and directing the proceeds to the many, many school districts that overlap with OKC's municipal boundaries.

But these arrangements have to be renewed on a year-to-year basis. This means that governments can't issue revenue bonds borrow against anticipated future receipts from these sources, as they can do with sales taxes, use taxes, and property taxes.

As I understand it, 707 would allow these sorts of revenues to be committed for multiple years, and rather than be limited by pay-as-you-go, local governments could issue revenue bonds against those anticipated revenues. This would make it possible to undertake larger projects that would take too long to complete if it had to be done pay-as-you-go.

On the one hand, nearly every other revenue source available to local government can be pledged against revenue bonds. This puts these special sources of revenue on par with garden variety property tax and sales tax.

On the other hand, these sources of income aren't necessarily as reliable as more traditional sources, and it's possible that a city could get in over its head.

I'm also concerned about giving local governments the ability to fund bigger projects before the Supreme Court rules on the propriety of using eminent domain to transfer land from the current private owner to another private owner. If the Court affirms that such a practice is unconstitutional, I'd be less concerned about eminent domain abuse being facilitated by the ability to issue long-term debt for such purposes.

At the moment I'm leaning in favor.

The trend among Democrat campaigns this year is to blur distinctions, to pose the Democrat as a conservative, and to pretend that the Republican is not really a good conservative. We've seen this in the presidential race, and in the U. S. Senate race in Oklahoma, where Democrats have tried to find some pretext for laying claim to the pro-life mantle, while trying to paint their Republican opponents as insufficiently pro-life.

In one sense, this is an encouraging trend, inasmuch as it demonstrates that conservatives are on many issues setting the terms of the debate. The question is whether the voters will understand how Democrat candidates are trying to trick them into believing that up is down and left is right.

That technique has been filtering down into state legislative races. A friend who lives in House District 23 received a hit piece by Democrat David Mitchell Garrett, Jr., attacking Republican incumbent Sue Tibbs. I haven't seen the ad, but it shook up my friend, a good conservative, enough to make him wonder whether he should vote for Sue Tibbs. A flyer saying "she's too conservative" would not have fazed my friend, so I'm guessing the ad said she wasn't conservative enough. I assured him that Sue Tibbs is the conservative candidate in the race and is a great state legislator.

In Senate District 33, a seat made open by term limits, Republican former Tulsa City Councilor Dewey Bartlett Jr. is making a strong run in a long-time Democrat seat against Democrat Tom Adelson. Adelson is responding to the challenge by distorting Dewey Bartlett's record.

Last night I received photocopies of four mail pieces sent out by the Adelson campaign. One has a picture of a senior with his head in his hands and the caption "Taxes too high?" On the reverse, you see a kind of split screen -- Bartlett on the left against a dark background, photoshopped to look like he's holding a big bag of money; Adelson on the right against a light background with a kind of smirk on his face. The text on Bartlett's side says that as a city councilor, "Dewey raised city sales taxes by $230 million." On Adelson's side it says, "Tom Adelson says NO to tax hikes without a vote of the people." (The piece doesn't have the word Bartlett anywhere on it, apparently to avoid triggering positive memories of Dewey Bartlett Sr., the popular Republican governor and senator.

The vote in question was to put a renewal of the City of Tulsa's "third penny" sales tax for capital improvements before a vote of the people. As far as I remember, all nine councilors voted in favor of putting the proposition before the people. The vote didn't and couldn't raise the sales tax -- only the citizens could do that -- and it was a renewal of a tax, not a tax increase. Did Tom Adelson oppose the 1991 third penny renewal?

Surely Adelson knows better. His leading supporters, among whom is at least one member of Savage's staff during her time as mayor, know better. It's a shame to see someone who could have run and honest and honorable campaign put out a blatantly dishonest piece. This ought to make even partisan Democrats think twice about voting for Tom Adelson.

I'm sure the Democrats' cognitive dissonance approach to campaigning will work with some voters, but I'm hopeful that most Oklahomans can recognize it when a campaign is distorting reality to this extent.

(You can read an Urban Tulsa interview with Bartlett and Adelson on Dewey Bartlett's campaign website.)

One more thing: Have a look at the questionnaires and voter guides linked above. It's striking in how many cases the Democrat candidate refused even to return a questionnaire, much less respond. For example, in House District 78, Democrat Jeannie McDaniel failed to respond to the questionnaires of the Oklahoma Family Policy Council, Oklahomans for Life, and the Oklahoma Prosperity Project. (Republican David Schaffer replied to all of them.) That can only mean that the candidate is out of accord with the aims of the organization issuing the questionnaire but is unwilling to say so on the record.

Malkin says Brad's slimy


Michelle Malkin has her eye on the Oklahoma Senate race between Tom Coburn, "one of [her] all -time favorite conservatives," and Brad Carson, of whom she says:

Carson is a slimy campaigner. And a punk.

Read it all here. She provides links refuting Carson's attempts to muddy the water over Tom Coburn's pro-life credentials.

I'm intrigued by her reference to "another slimy Rhodes Scholar politician." I guess she's thinking of Bill Clinton, but I wonder if she has others in mind as well. I have heard that the skills required to win a Rhodes Scholarship are useful for engaging in slimy politics.

Tom Coburn's campaign for Senate will roll into Woodward Park in Tulsa, 21st & Peoria, for a rally at 12:30 pm today. Senator Don Nickles, Senator Jim Inhofe, Congressman John Sullivan, and Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin will all be speaking. If you haven't made it to a rally this campaign season, this is your last chance!

Judicial retention


Two Supreme Court justices, a member of the Court of Criminal Appeals, and five members of the Court of Civil Appeals are up for retention -- yes or no for another term.

It is difficult to get information on Oklahoma judges. The Oklahoma Family Policy Council put together a questionnaire focusing on judicial philosophy. They had their attorneys look at the questionnaire to ensure that judges would not violate Oklahoma's Code of Judicial Conduct by answering the questions. In the end, six of the eight judges sent a letter saying they couldn't respond to the questionnaire, the other two didn't respond at all.

Someone knowledgable and trustworthy tells me that Supreme Court Justice James R. Winchester (a Keating appointee and registered Republican) deserves retention, while Charles Chapel on the Court of Criminal Appeals (a Democrat and a Walters appointee) does not.

The only indicator I have as to the philosophy of these judges (short of analyzing individual decisions) is their voter registration and which governor appointed them. In addition to Justice Winchester, E. Bay Mitchell (his slogan should be -- "E. Bay is not for sale to the highest bidder) on the Court of Civil Appeals is the only other Republican and Keating appointee up for retention. I'll vote for Winchester and Mitchell and against the rest of them. If anyone wants to persuade me otherwise, e-mail me at blog -at- batesline.com.

SQ 713: A bad deal for cities


This one sounds like a good deal -- tax the smokers to pay for indigent health care. But there's more to it than that.

Passing 713 would end the sales tax on tobacco products. This means that cities and counties would no longer get any revenue when a tobacco product is purchased. This would be devastating at a time when city budgets are especially tight. It's estimated that Tulsa would lose $13 million a year in sales tax revenues, Oklahoma City would lose $26 million a year. (Numbers cited in this online debate at soonerpolitics.com) While the state would reimburse cities and counties for lost revenue for the first two years, after those two years, cities and counties are on their own to scrounge up the difference in funds. Where is Tulsa going to find an extra $13 million to pay for basic city services?

I'm voting NO on SQ 713.

Some people say that State Question 711 is a ban on same-sex "marriage". It's not. Some say it's an attack on personal freedoms and personal choices. Wrong again.

SQ 711 would prevent the government from forcing citizens to recognize homosexual relationships as if they were real marriages. That's why I'm supporting it.

Under SQ 711, if a minister wants to perform a religious ceremony involving two men; two women; two men, a woman, and a pinata; a man, a goat, a toothbrush and no suitcase; or any other combination and to call the result a marriage, they will still have the freedom to do that. 711 simply ensures that the rest of us -- employers, landlords, small businesses, churches -- won't be forced to treat these various combinations as if they were real marriages.

Some people say a constitutional amendment is unnecessary, but the Oklahoma Constitution has an "equal protection" clause similar to the one in Massachusetts which was used by the State Supreme Court there to force the legislature to pass a bill providing legal recognition for same-sex "marriage". It's only a matter of time until some overweening judge tries the same thing in Oklahoma.

Live and let live, but don't coerce me into giving you my approval and support.

You can read more at the site of Oklahomans for the Protection of Marriage. And MarriageDebate.com takes a broader national and cultural perspective on the debate about what marriage means and how it should be protected.

SQ 708: Rainy day restraint


SQ 708 would reduce the amount of the rainy day fund that the Legislature can spend during revenue shortfalls and emergencies. This is a good thing. The Legislature has declared emergencies at the drop of a hat and spent reserve funds when it was merely "partly sunny" leaving nothing in the bank for the really rainy days of the recent recession. This amendment would impose some needed restraint. I'm voting YES.

State questions 705, 706, 712


A lot of people have been asking me about the state questions. Here are three more -- the gambling questions. I'm voting NO on all three. Gambling won't grow the economy, and won't provide any significant money for education. In fact, gambling will take money out of the local economy and it preys on the mathematically challenged.

SQ 705: OCPA has an extensive analysis here comparing the promises made for Oklahoma's lottery to the experience of other states. Lotteries don't bring in the money promised, and all too often the money is diverted for purposes other than that which was promised. Lottery fatigue sets in after a couple of years, and states have to resort to ever more advertising and new games to keep the money flowing. A lottery diverts discretionary spending from restaurants and movies and other small businesses. Most important, SQ 705 does not create an untouchable lockbox for educational funds. It is a statute, not a constitutional amendment. Passing SQ 705 is the same as if the legislature passed a law -- the legislature can amend it without a vote of the people. In particular, the legislature could change the percentage of lottery proceeds going to education.

SQ 706: This is a constitutional amendment that creates a public trust to hold funds from the lottery, but it does not specify how much (if any) of the lottery money will actually end up in the fund. That's in the statute passed by SQ 705, which is subject to change by the legislature without a vote of the people. This trust is only a lockbox for whatever funds the legislature decides to put into it.

SQ 712: This is also a statutory measure, not a constitutional amendment. If we're going to have casinos in Oklahoma, anyone ought to be able to open one. This bill only allows Indian governments and horse tracks to offer gambling, and then only certain machines are permitted. The evils of gambling aside for a moment, this has all the marks of a stitch up -- a special deal for well-connected people. If you aren't in on this deal, evidently you didn't give enough to Brad Henry's campaign for governor.

The National Gambling Impact Study Commission, which was created by Congress in 1996 and completed its work in 1999, has a website here. its final report online here, and a summary of the report's recommendations here. It appears that, if Oklahoma approves these three measures, we will be going directly against the advice of this commission.

You can find more information on the website for the opposition, Oklahomans for Good Goverment.

Tulsa County races


There are only two Tulsa County races on the ballot tomorrow -- the other officials whose terms are expiring (District Attorney, Sheriff, Court Clerk) were re-elected without opposition.

Republican Earlene Wilson is running for re-election as County Clerk, winning her first term in 2000 upon the retirement of Joan Hastings. Wilson has a solid record of accomplishment, continuing the long-range project of computerizing all county land records. I support Earlene Wilson's re-election. My only knock against her is that she is opposed to making land records available over the Internet, citing cost and security concerns. Many jurisdictions provide wonderful online land record browsing capabilities -- I've written about systems provided by Savannah, Georgia (developed with OU's help) and Wichita, Kansas. So for now, records will only be available at libraries, or if you're willing to pay a hefty subscription fee.

Wilson's Democrat opponent is David Donnell, who seems like a nice guy, but admits to running just as a way to get started in politics. At a candidate forum, he was more interested in talking about global and national issues than what he would do differently as County Clerk.

Residents of County Commission District 2 -- mostly Tulsa County west of the river, plus midtown Tulsa (map here) -- will vote to give a full term on the commission to one of the candidates. Incumbent Republican Randi Miller, currently the commission chairman, was elected in a special election in 2002 (after the resignation of predecessor John Selph). Patty J. Dixon finished just ahead of Miller in the 2002 Republican primary and just behind Miller in the runoff -- she's running again this year, but as an Independent. Max Givens is the Democrat nominee.

I've had my disagreements with Miller, particularly over Vision 2025 and the reappointment of Baker Horner to the TMAPC, but she's taken some important steps to improve openness and accountability at the County Courthouse. For example, the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority (aka the Fair Board) now does all its purchasing through the county's central purchasing office. Miller has played a key role in straightening out the County's budget mess and in trying to find cost savings in the operation of the County Jail. While I like Patty Dixon and appreciate her passion for county government, I do not want to see her split off enough of the Republican vote to bring about a Max Givens victory. Max Givens does not seem knowledgable about county government and would not push for needed reforms. At a candidate forum, he seemed to blame Miller for the fact that the County's budget problems didn't come to light until she became a commissioner. Miller deserves credit for putting the focus on the County's budget process and addressing the problems, rather than pretending that they aren't there. I'm voting for Randi Miller for County Commission District 2.

About this Archive

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

Oklahoma Politics: October 2004 is the previous archive.

Oklahoma Politics: December 2004 is the next archive.

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