Oklahoma Politics: July 2006 Archives

Logrolling is a time-honored technique for funding projects that couldn't stand up to focused scrutiny. You lump a project of questionable importance in with essential appropriations, so that no one dare vote against it. That setup makes it very hard for a voter to hold his own legislator accountable for wasteful spending.

Here in Oklahoma, the most notable TV ad of the governor's race was from the Bob Sullivan campaign. It featured Gailard Sartain, and it targeted Ernest Istook for supporting federal money for a California tattoo removal program and for bringing gorillas to Kentucky. The ad was successful in bringing attention to the campaign and in raising a question about Istook's record.

Istook was able to rebut the ad by saying that those two votes were part of massive spending packages which included essential projects. He was also able to say that the rest of the Republicans in the Oklahoma delegation voted for the same bills. Every congressman who voted for those bills can use the same excuse. The only congressman who can be definitively tied to the specific pork project is the guy representing the district that's getting the money.

Arizona Republican Congressman Jeff Flake has found a way to put his colleagues on record in support or opposition to wasteful spending. He proposed 19 amendments to appropriations bills, each one of which would have removed funding for a pork project. None of his amendments passed. In fact, 280 congressmen did not vote in favor of a single amendment.

Club for Growth has helpfully collected in one place a summary of how every House member voted on the 19 appropriations amendments Flake offered in late May and June.

Only one Oklahoma congressman gets a passing grade. John Sullivan, representing the 1st District, supported Flake on 16 of 19 votes -- 84% -- which puts him in the top 10 percent of the House.

Ernest Istook voted to cut only six of the 19 pork projects -- 32%, but still better than 82% of his colleagues. Istook's record is just a bit better than the Republican average of 5.1 anti-pork yes votes. (Democrats averaged 0.55 yes votes out of 19.)

The remaining three -- Dan Boren (D-2nd District), Frank Lucas (R-3rd District), Tom Cole (R-4th District) -- voted against all 19 pork-slicing amendments.

The projects that Flake targeted include a half-million-dollar swimming pool in Banning, California, a theater in Plattsburgh, New York, and a science museum in Virginia. They all sound like worthwhile projects, but not matters of national importance. Any funding for these projects should come from local government or the private sector.

First (and probably briefest) in a series:

Tulsa County DA Tim Harris prevailed over a tough challenge, but a few other incumbent District Attorneys didn't make it.

Tim Kuykendall, 12-year DA in Cleveland, McClain, and Garvin counties, lost to challenger Greg Mashburn, 63% to 37%. While Tim Harris was criticized for having too high a conviction rate (supposedly an indication that he was cherry-picking cases and wasn't filing charges he should have), Kuykendall was criticized by Mashburn for "winning only 34% of jury trials." Like Brett Swab in Tulsa County, Mashburn made an issue of FOP endorsements.

Richard Gray, one-term incumbent DA for Wagoner, Sequoyah, Cherokee, and Adair Counties, finished first in his Democratic primary, but barely. Gray was hurt by the legal problems of one of his aides Vyrl Keeter (who had also been an aide to former Congressman Brad Carson). Keeter pled guilty to perjury and has some other charges pending. 170 votes separate Gray from second-place finisher Jerry Moore, and the runoff's winner will face Republican Brian Kuester.

John David Luton has been Muskogee County DA since 1992, but this was the first time he ever had to run for office. He was appointed by Governor David Walters and never faced an opponent until this year. He lost by a two-to-one margin to Larry Moore, a former assistant DA from Fort Gibson.

Tim Harris's re-election win is all the more impressive in light of successful challenges in these other DA districts.

Ordinarily, a public official would be happy to be re-elected without opposition, but it can be a bad thing. A campaign is a time to reconnect with the voters, to explain to them what you're doing, and to hear their concerns. Without the need to campaign, an official can be so focused on just getting the job done that he fails to explain to his bosses -- the people who elected him -- what he's been accomplishing on their behalf.

Starting in late August, former Mayor Bill LaFortune and former Tulsa County Democratic Chairman Elaine Dodd will be doing a weekly show on OETA called "He Said, She Said." J. Hayes posted the following on the okdemocrat.com message board:

After former Tulsa Mayor Bill Lafortune and former Tulsa County Democratic Chairman Elaine Dodd gave respective analysis of both the repub and the Democrat primary results tonight on OETAís campaign coverage, an idea for a new show was spawned. The new show will cover the local Tulsa political scene and is sure to be a big hit with activists of both parties. The weekly show will be called 'He Said She Said' and is set to premier in August just after the state runoff elections. More details to follow as they become available.

Elaine Dodd replied on the same thread:

Mayor Bill and I "tape" our first show on August 23 (his birthday) and mine follows five days thereafter so I think I'll bake a cake--he may want to check for any surprises inside!

If you have any suggestions for political topics, please email me. All politics is local afterall.

Elaine
patriotic1970@yahoo.com

It's an interesting choice of hosts. I have the impression that Elaine Dodd is still very plugged in to local Democratic Party politics and would have a lot of insider info to draw upon, but as far as I know LaFortune hasn't been seen at a Republican event since the mayoral election.

So what has the former mayor been doing? A little bit of this and that, it appears. A Whirled story last Wednesday says that he is building a private civil law practice, with zoning and real estate among his specialties, working as an administrative law judge, and consulting for OU-Tulsa and Pinnacle Packaging.

In the battle for the 1st Congressional District Republican nomination, ORU librarian Evelyn Rogers defeated Fran Mo-Ghaddam by 5,824 to 1,894, despite Mo-Ghaddam's automated phone call to Republican voters and her last-minute yardsign blitz. Mo-Ghaddam didn't got 'em mo-mentum.

Incumbent John Sullivan squeaked past both of them with 38,274 votes.

For more results in the statewide, legislative, and judicial races, visit the Oklahoma State Election Board's 2006 primary results page.

KOTV has the best county results. Here is the County Commission District 1 primary. Here is the County Commission District 3 primary. (District Attorney and District Judge races are on the state election board website.)

UPDATE: The Tulsa County Election Board has Tulsa County results for all the races on the ballot. I'm fascinated by the number of undervotes in each race -- the number of voters who didn't mark a name in that race. 7,150 voters didn't vote in the countywide District Judge primary (Office 10). Oddly, 40 voters overvoted -- marked two or more names in that race.

Primary election endorsements

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I'll be on 1170 KFAQ with Michael DelGiorno and Gwen Freeman starting at 6:10 a.m. this morning for a special primary election preview.

For your voting convenience, here are the endorsements I've made in statewide and local Republican races and the non-partisan judicial races, starting with the top of the ballot:

Governor: State Sen. James Williamson is the most experienced and knowledgable candidate in the race, the best qualified to be Governor of Oklahoma -- incumbent Brad Henry included. Williamson has been a leader in the legislature for fiscal restraint, meaningful lawsuit reform, and the protection of the sanctity of human life.

Lt. Governor: Can't really go wrong in this primary -- all three candidates are good people, and it grieves me to see the mud flying back and forth. State Sen. Scott Pruitt has the biggest vision for the office, taking full advantage of the powers of the office to advance a conservative vision for Oklahoma.

State Treasurer: Dan Keating has already demonstrated that he'll be a watchdog for the taxpayers' interests by calling attention to the problems created by the Henry-Meacham tribal tobacco compacts. Howard Barnett's vocal support for the anti-democratic at-large city councilor proposal shows an appreciation for clubby insider politics, an attitude that we don't need in the office that invests our state's financial assets.

State Insurance Commissioner: I'm not bowled over by either candidate, but Tahl Willard seems to have more relevant experience, including a stint as the Insurance Department's Regional Director for Eastern Oklahoma and manager of the Tulsa office, along with an impressive set of insurance certifications. His opponent, Bill Case, is a term-limited State Rep. who was nominated for the Oklahoma Conservative PAC's RINO (Republican in Name Only) award every year for the last five, winning once.

U. S. Representative, District 1: On fiscal and social issues, on border security and national security, Congressman John Sullivan has been as consistent a conservative as you could want on the full range of congressional issues.

State Senate, District 36: There's more to Joe Lester than a catchy jingle. His newspaper articles reveal an intelligent, principled conservatism, and he would bring almost 40 years of law enforcement experience (U. S. Army MP, City of Tulsa, University of Oklahoma) to the Legislature.

State House, District 68: Incumbent Chris Benge is the best choice for another term.

State House, District 69: Former City Councilor Chris Medlock would bring a needed perspective to the Legislature. He's a conservative who understands the impact that state government has on Oklahoma's largest cities. As I wrote a couple of months ago: "I think Chris would make an excellent legislator. The Republican caucus needs more members who will keep it committed to conservative and free-market principles. Chris Medlock understands that being pro-business means providing an environment in which all businesses can thrive, not making special deals for special interests."

State House, District 76: John Wright is another incumbent with a strong conservative record who deserves re-election.

District Attorney, District No. 14 (Tulsa County): Despite declining arrests, eight-year incumbent Tim Harris has put away a record number of bad guys, focusing his department's resources on the cases that matter most. Challenger Brett Swab's campaign is grounded in misleading presentation of facts. One attorney asked me, rhetorically, if Swab will twist the facts to win his "case" against Harris, will he twist the facts to win in court?

Tulsa County Commission, District 1: Former City Councilor Anna Falling hasn't lost any of her enthusiasm and drive, but her leadership of a faith-based outreach to Tulsa's needy has smoothed off some of the rough edges. Tulsa County government needs someone willing to move beyond the way things have always been done and someone who will look out for the taxpayers' interests first.

Tulsa County Commission, District 3: State Rep. Fred Perry is the most consistent conservative in this race, and his rapport with grassroots Republicans and legislative leaders will serve Tulsa County well. Any of the other three candidates would likely mean a continuation of good ol' business as usual at the County Courthouse.

District Judge, District 14, Office 4:: Collinsville Municipal Judge Jim Caputo is my pick for this office, which is on the ballot only in northern and eastern Tulsa County.

District Judge, District 14, Office 10:: There are a number of good candidates in this race, but I've known J. Anthony Miller for over a decade as an elder in our church. I am confident that Miller has the experience, temperament, and prudence to be an excellent district judge.

Tulsa County Election Board has posted sample ballots for every precinct.

In addition to the above elections, Berryhill Fire Protection District has a vote on whether to expand its territory, and the Town of Skiatook is voting on a 10-year extension to a one-cent sales tax.

Here are links to my election preview columns from Urban Tulsa Weekly:

The Tulsa County judicial races
The statewide races
The Tulsa County legislative races
The Tulsa County DA and Commission races

Every election season, Oklahomans for Life asks candidates to go on record with their views on the sanctity of human life. Here's a link to a PDF file of the July 2006 Oklahomans for Life newsletter with all the candidate responses. It's interesting to see who responded and who didn't bother.

Even if an elective office won't have direct involvement in issues like abortion and euthanasia, it's useful to know where a candidate stands, because it gives you a clue about his worldview, his philosophical basis for making decisions.

This week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly is about Tulsa-area legislative primaries, particularly about the most hotly contested race, the Republican primary to replace Fred Perry in House District 69, which includes far south Tulsa, Jenks, a bit of Bixby, and the northern part of Glenpool.

One of the emerging issues in that race involves the proposed toll bridge across the Arkansas River that would connect south Tulsa near 121st Street to Jenks and Bixby. Although Fred Jordan got a tremendous headstart in the campaign, helped by $100,000 in contributions, largely from the development industry, Jordan is losing ground as south Tulsa voters learn that he is in favor of the toll bridge as proposed by Infrastructure Ventures Inc.

The South Tulsa Citizens' Coalition asked all five Republican candidates to sign a representation opposing the bridge. The representation states that the candidate will not support a bridge until certain intersections and streets connecting to the bridge have been widened, will oppose any heavy truck traffic on Yale between 121st and the Creek Turnpike, and won't support the north end of the bridge connecting to or near Yale Avenue. Chris Medlock, Lisa DeBolt, and Jeff Applekamp have all signed these letters, and Medlock was a leader while on the City Council in getting city officials on record in opposition to the bridge. (Here is a PDF of Medlock's representation letter.)

Fred Jordan and Darrell Gwartney have refused to sign the representation, which Jordan calls, "a highly restrictive and legalistic 'pledge' committing [his opponents] to oppose the bridge under any reasonable circumstances." (Here is a PDF of Fred Jordan's statement to the STCC.) I'm sure STCC members would object to the characterization of the preconditions, which I summarized above, as unreasonable.

Jordan, who has been vague on the issue until now, has started to lose supporters to Chris Medlock. (Although there are two other candidates who oppose the bridge, they are trailing far behind Jordan and Medlock. Neither DeBolt nor Applekamp are likely to make the runoff.) A couple of days ago I spoke to Kari Romoser, who lives near 111th and Yale, an area that would feel the traffic impact if the bridge is connected to Yale. She had Fred Jordan's sign in her yard, but she recently pulled it up and replaced it with a Chris Medlock sign.

Jordan's position on the bridge issue wasn't the only reason for Kari's change, but it was an important reason. Her family has invested a lot to be in this part of Tulsa so that they can send their children to Jenks Southeast Elementary School. Anything that would hurt the value of their home or affect safe access to the school is important to her.

Jordan's company, Caprock Resources, is developing three residential areas along Elm (Peoria) in south Jenks. Two of them, Wakefield Pond and Wakefield Village, are along 121st St., in an area that would benefit from the proposed bridge without bearing a significant traffic impact. (For he folks north of the bridge in south Tulsa along Yale, the traffic impact would far outweigh any convenience benefit.)

So far, the toll bridge has been a local issue, involving Tulsa County and the cities of Jenks and Tulsa, so why does it matter what a state representative thinks about the issue? In his statement, Jordan says that, "to my knowledge, there is no pending or proposed action in the legislature relating to the bridge."

In fact, there was a measure in the Legislature this session which passed the House but was killed in the Senate that would have had an effect on the toll bridge deal. The process has raised all kinds of issues that the Legislature may address at some point: Should counties and cities be able to enter into private toll bridge deals of this sort? Who has ownership and jurisdiction over the Arkansas River bed? Whose approval is needed to build a private toll bridge? Should private toll roads and toll bridges be legal? Should the jurisdiction responsible for connecting infrastructure have a say in whether a toll bridge is built? When a city and the county, or two adjacent cities, are at odds over a bridge, who makes the final decision?

As we learned with the Board of Adjustment legislation (SB 1324, HB 2559) this session, it won't be enough to have the Tulsa City Council on our side, because the Legislature could take away the City's say on this contentious issue. It will be important for south Tulsa residents to have someone in the Legislature who will represent their interests on this matter, someone with the savvy to detect and block any attempt to bypass Tulsa's city government.

Cal Hobson, Democratic Lt. Gov. candidate and former President Pro Tempore of the State Senate, angrily denounced the tax cuts passed by the Oklahoma Legislature in a speech on the Senate floor the final day of the special session:

Youíre eroding your tax base for no good purpose and youíre giving it to people that donít need it, wonít remember it, and Ė I assure you Democrats Ė they will take their money and they will use it to beat you and help them....

You donít want to hear this, and you think itís just a blowhard on the last day.... But unless you just hate schools, and hate good roads, and hate the fact that 600,000 of our people walk around without health insurance, and 700,000 are on Medicaid, unless you like that ... you canít be for this kind of crap. You canít be for the kind of giveaways of last year and again this year, and a total of $615 million.... We are pooping off the largesse given to us, just like last year.

I just happen to feel passionately, having had the joy and pleasure of raising taxes a number of times (to keep the lights on in Oklahoma), I donít take this stuff lightly.... In the long term, maybe not next week, but in the long term you will regret what youíre doing to this tax base.

The Senator doesn't seem to understand the meaning of the term "tax base." The hope, Mr. Hobson, is that by reducing the tax rate, there will be incentives for businesses to start in, stay in, grow in, or move to Oklahoma -- an increase in economic activity that means a larger economic base upon which taxes can be levied to pay for public needs.

It's sort of refreshing to see a politician openly embrace his lust for higher taxes.

The statewide races

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Getting caught up with links to my Urban Tulsa Weekly columns: This most recent issue has my picks on the four contested Republican primaries for statewide races -- Governor (Jim Williamson), Lt. Governor (Scott Pruitt), Treasurer (Daniel Keating), and Insurance Commissioner (Tahl Willard).

Also, in her latest column, Jamie Pierson ponders the plans for new upscale housing downtown and wonders if there will be places to live that are affordable for baristas, small businessfolk, and struggling artists.

This week's column takes a look at the four Republican primaries for statewide offices and the local 1st Congressional District race.

(Added on September 30, 2006, to fill in the gaps in my Urban Tulsa Weekly column archive.)

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Oklahoma Politics category from July 2006.

Oklahoma Politics: June 2006 is the previous archive.

Oklahoma Politics: August 2006 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

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