Oklahoma Politics: August 2006 Archives

Beacon endorses Trebilcock


I'm proud to call John Trebilcock a friend and proud to have been a part of his campaign team in 2002, when he won a come-from-behind runoff victory in House District 98. (His district includes the area where I grew up and where my parents still live.) He is one of the most intelligent and honorable people I know in Oklahoma politics, and I am glad he is seeking a third term.

The Tulsa Beacon is glad, too -- from the July 14, 2006, issue:

Vote for Rep. John Trebilcock

State Rep. John Trebilcock is a young man with excellent experience, a solid Christian faith and a record of service in government.

Trebilcock, an assistant majority floor leader, serves on several key committees, including Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee - Public Safety & Judiciary.

Trebilcock was born and raised in Oklahoma. After graduating from Oklahoma State University with a degree in education, he taught in public schools before earning a law degree from The University of Tulsa.

When he is not doing legislative work, he works in business development for Oklahoma National Bank.

Trebilcock has been right in the middle of the conservative revolution in the House of Representatives for the last two sessions. After an 80-year-lapse, the Republicans took control of the House and the process changed.

Bills that would never get past liberal Democrat committee chairman before are now coming up for a floor vote and passing. Conservative Democrats, frustrated by their own party for years, are finding new allies with the Republicans.

The beneficiaries of this new openness in government are the citizens of Oklahoma.

Trebilcock has a rare blend of experience in education, law and business. Oklahoma needs him and his expertise to continue the conservative momentum and as a balance to the decades-old control of the Oklahoma Senate by liberal Democrat leaders.

With Brad Henry as governor, the Legislature needs all the conservatives it can get. If Republicans can gain control of the Senate in November, it will be the first time in history for the GOP to control the House and the Senate.

Trebilcock is doing a great job and deserves another term.

The Tulsa Beacon endorses John Trebilcock in House District 98.

I agree wholeheartedly. I'll add that John, like most of our Tulsa Republican delegation, is one of the fair dealers, not the wheeler-dealers, in the legislature. We need him back, and we need more like him.

If you're wondering...


...if I'm going to comment on the election results, the answer is yes, but I'm too tired to think right now. Had a short night last night, and spent this evening playing "Sorry" and otherwise hanging out with the family.

In the meantime, the other Tulsa Bloggers have a lot of new stuff out. Be sure to check out meeciteewurkor's local headlines page.

What does it tell you when a Republican candidate for State House, a first-time candidate with no public track record, refuses to expose himself to direct public scrutiny?

Fred Jordan refused to fill out the Oklahoma Republican Assembly questionnaire.

Over the weekend, KRMG invited Fred Jordan and Chris Medlock to appear separately on Joe Kelley's Monday morning show. Chris Medlock accepted and appeared. Fred Jordan refused. Not only did Jordan refuse, when he was told that Medlock would be on the air whether or not Jordan accepted the opportunity, Jordan complained that that was unfair.

Fred Jordan had set up an interview with the Tulsa Beacon, but cancelled it.

Fred Jordan refused an opportunity to debate Chris Medlock on Charlie Biggs' talk show on KCFO.

What does it tell you?

Runoff endorsements

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Several people have e-mailed asking for my picks in this Republican runoff election. Fortunately, in all the races that have runoffs, my primary pick made it, so that makes matters simple. The links below will lead you to the candidate's website.

Now that the Republican Party is nearing total control of the Oklahoma legislature, two factions are emerging: the fair-dealers and the wheeler-dealers. The fair-dealers believe that government should focus on basic infrastructure and services and to provide the legal framework for the free market to work. The wheeler-dealers want to use government's power to benefit their own businesses and to put their competition at a disadvantage. Some of the fierce primary contests are representative of the struggle between those two factions.

Lt. Governor: Scott Pruitt has a sharp mind and firm conservative convictions. I'm impressed by his vision for making the most of the Lt. Governor's powers to advance a conservative agenda. While I appreciate the way Todd Hiett led the Republican Party to the majority in the State House, I share the disappointment of many Republican legislators in the huge budget increase and the relatively paltry tax cut achieved under his leadership.

House District 69: Chris Medlock. Medlock would strengthen the ranks of the fair-dealers in the Legislature, not only by replacing one who's there now (Fred Perry), but by helping to stiffen the spines of his colleagues who may be wilting under the pressure of the wheeler-dealers. As a councilor Medlock demonstrated the ability to build support to advance the agenda by increments, reaching across partisan and ideological boundaries to get important legislation like the ethics ordinance and the eminent domain moratorium passed. His opponent can't seem to take the heat and is hiding behind an expensive radio and direct mail campaign.

County Commission District 1: Anna Falling. While John Smaligo would also be a vast improvement over the incumbent, Wilbert Collins, I think Anna Falling would be the better choice. She has been tried by fire and would be willing to take the heat that is bound to come if county government is reformed the way it needs to be. Her proactive approach to government is what we need at this time in the County's history. That said, I'm impressed with some of the things Smaligo has said about the bridge deal (that the County was leasing its power of eminent domain to a private business) and about Vision 2025 (the extra $45 million for the arena will really cost taxpayers $56 million, because of bond interest).

County Commission District 3: Fred Perry is a solid conservative, as honest as the day is long and has a long list of legislative achievements during his years in the State House, not least of which is a transportation bill (an effort led by Mark Liotta) that doubles spending on roads and bridges without raising taxes.

Here are links to the Urban Tulsa Weekly columns I've written on these races:

August 17 issue: Tulsa County Commission

July 20 issue: County races (brief Tulsa County Commission endorsements at the end of the column about the DA's race)

July 13 issue: House races (including District 69)

July 6 issue: Statewide races (including the Lt. Governor's race

The Tulsa County Election Board has links to the sample ballots for each precinct. If you don't know your precinct number, you can look it up using the Election Board's precinct locator.

The most powerful way you can help your favorite candidates is to go through your address book and call friends who live in the district, making a personal recommendation.

Every Republican and Democrat in Oklahoma will be able to vote on Tuesday in the Lt. Governor's race.

County Commission District 1 includes Skiatook, Sperry, Turley, Owasso, and Collinsville, plus north Tulsa, east Tulsa, and a bit of north Broken Arrow.

County Commission District 3 includes Bixby, Broken Arrow, far south Tulsa and midtown Tulsa roughly between Lewis and Yale.

House District 69 includes all of Jenks, most of Glenpool, a small part of Bixby southeast of 111th and Sheridan, and part of the Tulsa zip codes 74136 and 74137. The ORU campus is also in this district, and the students are back on campus just in time for this runoff.

Runoffs elsewhere


From the cutting-room floor: In putting together last week's Urban Tulsa Weekly column, I decided to concentrate on the two County Commission runoffs, races that only got a brief mention in my pre-primary columns. For the sake of space, I cut my original intro, which included a look at interesting runoffs elsewhere in Oklahoma. Here it is.

Both parties have a statewide runoff for lieutenant governor: State Rep. Jari Askins vs. Pete Regan for the Democratic nomination, Speaker of the House Todd Hiett vs. State Sen. Scott Pruitt on the Republican ballot.

Based on Gaddie’s 40+5 rule, Pruitt and Regan have steep hills to climb. According to Keith Gaddie, a poli-sci prof at OU and the proprietor of soonerpolitics.com, when the leading candidate pulls at least 40% in the runoff and leads the second place candidate by at least 5%, he wins the runoff 95% of the time.

Still, Pruitt has garnered the endorsements of 18 of his 21 Republican Senate colleagues, who have pledged to campaign on his behalf in their home districts. And Regan has Barry Switzer on his side. Switzer’s support was enough to get a bland unknown elected Governor four years ago, so who knows?

And Brad Henry’s 2002 runoff win was one of those one-in-twenty exceptions: He lost the primary to Vince Orza by a 44% to 28% margin.

At the other end of the turnpike, one runoff involves two close relatives of elected officials: Former Governor Frank Keating’s son Chip finished the House District 85 Republican primary just behind David Dank in the race to succeed Dank’s wife Odilia, who is leaving office because of term limits.

In the House 90 race, former State Rep. Charles Key, who lost his seat because of his intense focus on the Oklahoma City bombing grand jury, is trying to get it back, now that his replacement is stepping aside.

Here in Tulsa County, there are runoffs for two open State House seats: Democrats Wayne Guevara and Carl Weston have a runoff in House District 74 (Owasso and Catoosa), and Republicans Chris Medlock and Fred Jordan will face off for House District 69 (south Tulsa and Jenks). It’s an interesting coincidence that the incumbents for those two seats, John Smaligo and Fred Perry, will both be on the ballot the same day, in runoffs for the GOP nominations for Tulsa County Commission Districts 1 and 3, respectively.

Inactive independents

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Ken Neal in today's Whirled, arguing for forcing the parties to allow independents to vote in their primaries:

Although independents make up 11 percent of registered voters, they account for 20 percent of inactive voters, says Gene Pace, Tulsa County election board secretary.

That's probably because they seldom have a candidate who inspires them. In the July 25 primary election fewer than one half of 1 percent of Tulsa County independents bothered to vote. They could vote only in some of the non-partisan judicial races.

No, Ken, to be an inactive voter you have to have not bothered to vote in over four years. Even if you only turn out to vote for president, you will be on the books as an active voter. The reason for all the inactive independents is Bill Clinton's Motor Voter law, which has resulted in a lot of people being registered to vote who have no interest in voting. Unless these apathetic folks indicate a party preference on the registration form, they are automatically registered as independents.

House District 69 candidate Fred Jordan is still trying to tap-dance his way around the photos taken by Steven Roemerman of a work crew site. On KRMG Friday morning, Jordan was interviewed by Joe Kelley about Jordan's claim that the pictures were "doctored and false."

(Here's an MP3 of Joe Kelley's interview with Fred Jordan. It's about 700 KB, about six minutes in length. Hat tip to David Schuttler.)

Jordan's recorded phone message, sent on Thursday to households in District 69, used Clintonesque phrase-shaping to give the impression that Jordan has no ownership interest in Caprock Homes, the general contractor that is building the home in the picture, and whose sign is visible in the photo. On Roemerman's blog, you can see that the mobile phone number on the Caprock sign at the house matches the phone number on Fred Jordan's business card. It also matches the phone number on Jordan's campaign page on OkInsider.com.

In the KRMG interview, Jordan acknowledged, "Yes, I am one of the owners of Caprock Homes."

When Kelley asked Jordan, in several different ways, "How is that picture doctored?" Jordan never gave a direct answer. On a later attempt, when Kelley said, "But the picture is not doctored." Jordan replied, "Well, the picture does show some Hispanic gentleman sitting in front of a house, but they're not hired by Caprock." He would not give a direct response.

Jordan said that he didn't know who these people were at his worksite. "They might be actors; we don't know who they are."

Jordan's real complaint is that the photos give an impression that he'd rather avoid -- that he hires illegals.

His company Caprock doesn't hire any construction workers at all. Caprock is a general contractor, and they subcontract out all the construction work to other companies. That means that Jordan's company could be benefitting from illegal labor while not being directly responsible for hiring the illegal workers.

If Jordan hires subcontractors without verifying that they hire only legal workers, he is helping to put honest, law-abiding subcontractors out of business.

In the Kelley interview, Jordan mentioned paperwork that he gets from the subcontractors: Proof that the subcontractor carries workers' comp and liability insurance, and the information needed to report payments to the subcontractor to the IRS for tax purposes. None of the documentation he mentions has to do with whether the subcontractor's employees are eligible to work legally in the United States.

A couple of times Jordan said that the Federal government needs to take action to address this problem, but in fact the Federal Government has provided a way for Jordan and his subcontractors to avoid hiring illegal labor. The Basic Employment Verification program is a web-based system, offered by the U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (an agency of the Department of Homeland Security) that provides rapid confirmation of an employee's eligibility to work. Although it is a pilot program and voluntary, it is available in all 50 states, free of charge to employers.

Michelle reports that the smears have already begun against Chris Medlock in the House District 69 race, and Fred Jordan is not only calling Medlock a liar, he's impugning the honesty of fellow Tulsa blogger Steven Roemerman:

I got my mail at about 1:30 today and in it there was a mailer from Chris Medlock. It had a picture on it of six Mexican men who appear to be illegals sitting in front of a "Caprock" home. Caprock is owned at least partially by Mr. Fred Jordan, who is running against Mr. Medlock for State House. At almost 3:30, I got a prerecorded phone call from Mr. Jordan claiming this photo was a fauxto. He said it was a fake. Well, so sorry, Mr. Jordan, but it isn’t fake, and I first saw the picture several days ago. It was taken by an honest citizen.

Steve Roemerman has posted the entire sequence of 14 photos that he shot as he drove past this home in south Jenks which is being built by Caprock, Fred Jordan's homebuilding company. Although there were no doubt some contrast adjustments and cropping done for the sake of presenting a clear image on the printed material, every key element in the picture -- the workers, the house under construction, and the Caprock sign -- appear in several if not all of the photos, taken as Steve drove past the house.

Here's what Jordan said in his recorded phone call:

In fact, I am amazed that my opponent has sent you a doctored and false picture showing Hispanics hired by a company that I have absolutely no ownership in.

Jordan gives a very lawyerly, nay, Clintonian response. You could take that sentence a couple of different ways.

Possibility 1: Jordan is claiming that he has no ownership in Caprock. I don't know the financial arrangement he has with Kevin Jordan or the other partners in the company, but the phone number on the sign in the photo is identical to the phone number on his campaign's page on okinsider.com.

Possibility 2: Jordan is really saying that the workers in the photo were hired by a subcontractor, a company he hired to do part of the work on the house. The implication is that he can't be considered responsible for these workers if they are illegal.

Apple strudel! Mmmmm!!! This is the defense that was often employed by a fictional man in uniform, Sgt. Hans Schultz of Luftstalag 13: "I see no-THING! I know no-THING!" While Jordan may be able to truthfully say that he doesn't have ownership in the subcontractor, that doesn't absolve him of ethical responsibility for whether his subcontractors' employees are legally allowed to work in the United States.

If a general contractor like Fred Jordan simply takes the low bidder everytime he invites bids on part of a homebuilding job (e.g., bricklaying, framing, roofing, landscaping) without ensuring that the low bidder is only hiring legal labor, he gives an insurmountable advantage to subcontractors who break the law. That willful ignorance on the part of the general contractor puts law-abiding subcontractors out of business.

In a May 1, 2006, Tulsa Whirled story, Randy Sissom, who owns a bricklaying business, talked about his struggles trying to operate as a subcontractor who plays by the rules:

Hargrove said when he bids a brick job he can't compete with the price of an all-immigrant crew. Sissom faces the same problem. He usually charges builders about $245 per thousand bricks installed. Immigrant competitors charge about $200 per thousand, he said. Sissom says immigrants, mainly from Mexico, stop by his job site almost on a daily basis looking for work. "They say, 'You pay cash?' " he said.

When they find out he takes out money from their checks to pay taxes they often lose interest, he said. But if they still want the job, Sissom says he makes a copy of any documentation they provide like a Green Card and Social Security card.

Guys like Sissom suffer when general contractors like Jordan turn a blind eye to their subcontractors' illegal hiring practices. A law that fines general contractors for indirectly employing illegal workers would help level the playing field for law-abiding subcontractors. Do you think that, as a state rep, homebuilder Fred Jordan would vote for a law like that? Do you think the developers who have financed his campaign would want him to vote for such a law?

(The title of this post relates to this earlier one, about the misleading last minute tactics used against District Attorney Tim Harris by political consultant Fount Holland, who is the consultant for the Fred Jordan campaign.)

Remember the late, unlamented election for Tulsa County District Attorney? In my Urban Tulsa Weekly column on the race, I examined and refuted the misleading claims being made by challenger Brett Swab about DA Tim Harris's prosecution record.

Swab's negative campaign also included claims about DA office spending on remodeling and furnishings and on a rap song. Here is a large postcard mailer that the Swab campaign sent to Tulsa County voters very close to the primary election:



To say this is misleading is an understatement. Here's the truth regarding the "redecorating" claim:

The truth is that when the new jail was built away from the courthouse, County officials reclaimed the old jail space in the courthouse to build offices for the D.A. This in turn freed up old D.A. offices so that more courtrooms could be built. This was a Tulsa County Commission construction project supervised and financed by County officials - not Tim Harris. This construction project was planned when David Moss was the D.A.

Near the end of the project when resources were stretched, Harris contributed $50,000 from the D.A. budget to the County to finish the construction. This paid for items including sound batting for walls, ceiling work, library bookshelves and fixtures for the bathrooms.

It was Tim Harris’ responsibility to furnish and equip the space after it was constructed. Over a number of years, Harris saved $450,000 in fees recovered by his bogus check program to invest in office equipment for 100 employees which included workstations, desks, chairs, computers, and a filing system for 30,000 cases.

Tim Harris also used money from his budget to furnish the Victim-Witness Center, which is a respite area where more than 10,000 victims and witnesses come each year. Harris created separate and safe, pleasant spaces for adults, children and police officers to wait before testifying in court. Framed posters were put in the Victim-Witness Center and in the common waiting areas, conference rooms and hallways of the D.A.’s Office. Despite what the opponent says, framed posters for two separate floors covering 35,000 square feet cost less than $8,500.

The Truth is Tim Harris budgeted funds responsibly in order to furnish a professional law office for the people of Tulsa County.

And the rap song? The DA's office, on behalf of Project Safe Neighborhoods, received a $10,000 grant from the Federal Government earmarked for community outreach to prevent gun violence. The DA's office used the funds to bring Marcus Nelson, Ph. D., a motivational speaker, the keynote speaker at the U. S. Department of Justice-sponsored National Youth Gang Conference. Nelson came to Tulsa spoke to the students of Central High School and Tulsa School of Science and Technology, and met with school staff.

In addition, Dr. Nelson’s performance was videotaped so that his anti-violence message can be shown to every student in Tulsa area schools. Dr. Nelson also produced two versions of an original anti-violence song “T-Town.” He provided an instrumental version that can be used in the fall as part of an anti-violence contest for Tulsa students to write their own anti-violence lyrics.

Why am I bringing all this up again, a month later? Because the same political consultant who orchestrated this unfair and misleading attack on Tim Harris is involved in at least one other race on this Tuesday's runoff ballot. His name is Fount Holland, and he is the consultant for the Fred Jordan campaign for House District 69, and if you live in that district, you shouldn't be surprised to see the same sort of misleading cartoon postcard show up in your mailbox this weekend, attacking Chris Medlock.

Fount Holland was City Hall reporter for the Tulsa Whirled from 1990 to 1995, when he left to become press secretary for newly-elected Congressman Tom Coburn. In 1997, he left to become a political consultant, heading up the Oklahoma Values Coalition, a PAC formed by Coburn and his congressional colleague Steve Largent to help elect conservative candidates to the state legislature.

Holland deserves credit for some significant accomplishments. He is a gifted communicator and his ability to get a message across to the voters has played an important role in helping Republicans win control of the State House.

First with the Oklahoma Values Coalition and then as the exclusive political consultant for the Republican State House Committee, Holland helped Republicans win marginal seats all across Oklahoma. His partner in A. H. Strategies, Karl Ahlgren, Coburn's chief of staff during his tenure in the U. S. House, has had a similar role with the corresponding Senate PAC.

But in recent years, I've noticed a departure from Holland and Ahlgren's roots in Tom Coburn's office.

In 2003, they were consultants to the vote yes campaign for the Vision 2025 sales tax. Bill LaFortune singled them out for praise in his post-election "State of the City Address" that year. I remember how shocked I was at the time that these two, still strongly associated in my mind with Coburn, would be using their skills and connections to sell Republicans on a tax increase to pay for a package of pork projects.

As a lobbyist for Utica Partners, Ahlgren pushed for legislation this year which would have undermined historic preservation and local control of zoning.

Where Holland and Ahlgren were at one time mainly focused on helping Republicans defeat Democrats at the polls, they have increasingly been getting involved in Republican primaries. As noted above, Holland was the consultant for Swab's ugly and deceptive campaign against Tim Harris. Any Republican insider in Oklahoma would recognize Fount Holland's style in the layout of the mailer above.

And increasingly in those primary races, when their candidate is losing ground, they will strike back with some last-minute nastiness. Tim Harris experienced it this year. State Rep. John Trebilcock was hit by it in his runoff with Melissa Mahan in 2002. Expect to see the same sort of thing from the Fred Jordan campaign, attacking Chris Medlock, this weekend.

I'm disappointed that Ahlgren and Holland are using their considerable talents to defeat candidates like Harris, Trebilcock, and Medlock, candidates who resemble their old boss Tom Coburn in political courage and commitment to conservative principles.

But don't get me wrong -- Holland is no Jim Burdge, and I hope he'll turn around before he adopts a do-anything-to-win, work-for-the-highest-bidder ethos.

(Which reminds me: Keep an eye out for a last-minute slime attack against Fred Perry in the County Commission District 3 race this weekend. Perry's opponent, Bill Christiansen, is Jim Burdge's boy in the runoff.)

Bridge Hi-Jenks

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The Jenks Journal has a story in its latest edition about the impact of the south Tulsa toll bridge as an issue in the House District 69 and Tulsa County Commission District 3 races. In the House 69 race, Chris Medlock opposes the bridge as proposed and has signed the South Tulsa Citizens' Coalition representation letter. His runoff opponent, developer Fred Jordan, did not sign the STCC representation letter. Accordingly, the STCC has endorsed Medlock for House 69:

Mr. Medlock is against the South Tulsa bridge as it is currently proposed and has signed one of STCC’s representation letters. You can learn more about Mr. Medlock’s campaign at www.chrismedlock.com.

STCC does realize that the South Tulsa bridge issue is only one of many issues facing our city, county and state. However, given the candidates’ responses and to ensure that your voice continues to be heard with regard to the South Tulsa bridge issue, STCC encourages you to vote for... candidate Medlock in the Oklahoma House District 69 race.

[The elided text refers to the County Commission District 3 election. Click the link above to read the full text.]

Click here to see a screen capture of the STCC's endorsement of Medlock.

In the Jenks Journal, Medlock points out that despite Jordan's protestations, the legislature will be involved in the issues surrounding the proposed toll bridge. As an example, there was a bill before the legislature this year that would have required toll agreements with private companies and similar arrangements to be handled under the Oklahoma Competitive Bidding Act, to prevent insider deals like that between Infrastructure Ventures, Inc. (IVI) and Tulsa County. HB 2740 passed in the House and Senate by a large margin, but a parliamentary maneuver by Sen. Nancy Riley killed the deal.

Here's something I wrote before the primary about the range of issues that the Legislature could and should take up, in order to resolve some of the many legal questions surrounding this bridge scheme.

UPDATE: More hi-Jenks! I received a report from an STCC member who attended the Jenks City Council meeting earlier this week:

The 3 items that came up this evening where Jenks is relying on Tulsa are:

Water Supply: Jenks water pressure has been low recently and thinks the problem is Tulsa’s inadequacy at the Turkey Mountain Tank. They are trying to work towards having Tulsa upgrade the pumping system to solve their problem (Once again...Tulsa cost, Jenks benefit).

Centennial Celebration: Jenks anticipates Tulsa picking up the tab for the fireworks that will be shot off at the 96th street bridge in mid November for the celebration.

Public Transportation Service: Jenks contracts with Tulsa to provide bus service into Jenks. Service also includes handicap transportation needs.

It seems like time and time again the city of Jenks wants to take advantage of Tulsa....and we are just letting them.

Real regionalism is a two-way street, but Tulsa's suburbs seem to expect Tulsa to do all the work and carry all the costs while they reap the benefit, in the form of sales tax growth at Tulsa's expense.

(Unfortunately, Tulsa's previous mayor has made it possible for suburban officials to claim that they've given Tulsa what it wanted by backing the downtown arena as a part of Vision 2025. It may be what the people pressuring Bill LaFortune wanted, but it certainly isn't what Tulsa needed, and it won't offset sweetheart long-term water deals and the like.)

State Sen. Nancy Riley, who represents District 37, announced yesterday that she is leaving the Republican Party and becoming a Democrat. Her stated reasons, according to the Daily Oklahoman:

Riley, who finished third in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor but received enough votes to force a runoff election, said she received little respect from the Senate Republican Caucus and felt her concerns about the party were met with a "pat on the head." ...

She said she received no support from the party during her campaign for lieutenant governor. She was not invited to a debate of Republican candidates for lieutenant governor, she said.

In 1988, I was living in Brookside, which was then in SD 37. The State Senate seat was open -- David Riggs was stepping down -- and no Republican had announced. I actually considered filing, but was I relieved to learn that a former pastor and insurance broker named Jerry Riley had decided to enter the race. I called him and volunteered my help, and he named me the precinct coordinator. I knocked doors for Jerry in Maple Ridge, in Brookside, and on the west side.

It was during that campaign that I got to know Nancy. Nancy and Jerry had just been married a couple of years -- the second marriage for both of them. Nancy had been widowed at a young age. At the time of the campaign, she was not even 30. Jerry ran a good race, but lost to Democrat Lewis Long of Glenpool.

The Rileys and I had limited contact over the next few years -- although I remember visiting their church, then Sandusky Ave. Christian Church in '89 or '90 when my wife and I were looking for a new church home. (Doctrinal differences aside, I couldn't forgive that church for tearing down the Will Rogers Theater for a parking lot.)

In 2000 Nancy Riley decided to run for the same seat against Lewis Long, still firmly ensconced in what was still a majority Democrat seat, although it was swinging to the GOP. (Long had won re-election against Tim Plinsky in 1996 with 54% of the vote.) Jerry managed the campaign. I was happy to be a part of the campaign team. Despite Long's incumbency and deep pockets, Nancy won by 265 votes. After district lines were redrawn, she won re-election in 2004 with 65% of the vote.

In 2002, I hired Jerry to be campaign manager for my second run for City Council. He did a great job, and we got very close, but lost by 700 votes. Nancy helped stamp a last minute mailer, and she knocked doors for me in the area around Hoover Elementary School, where she had been a teacher.

All that history is to explain why Nancy's decision to leave the Republican Party saddens and surprises me for more than merely partisan political reasons.

Still, the political implications can't be ignored. Nancy's defection means the Senate is split 26-22 in the Democrats' favor, undoing the Republican gain in the southwest Oklahoma special election earlier this year. This raises the bar for a Republican takeover, which would be the first time in state history for the GOP to control the Senate and to hold one of the most powerful offices in the state: Senate President Pro Tempore. Nancy's defection makes it more likely that key committees will continue to be controlled by liberal Democratic committee chairman. In the most recent legislature, key leaders and committee heads like Cal Hobson and Bernest Cain were well to the left of even most Democratic legislators and they blocked conservative and moderate legislation that had majority support in both houses. If the Ds keep their hold on the Senate, we can expect more of the same.

It's usual in situations like this that the potential defector is offered a committee chairmanship or some other plum as an inducement to convert. Both parties have done this, especially when gaining or losing a majority is at stake.

Nancy's reasons for switching seem petty and prideful to me, and that's a side of her I hadn't seen before. She seems to think that just because she was female and Republican, female Republican activists owed her their support in her race for Lt. Governor. That's not the way it works. A politician doesn't even have the right to presume that those who backed her for a lower office will support her when she seeks to move up the ladder.

In seeking to be the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor, Nancy Riley put herself up against two formidable, credible opponents. It was her job to persuade individual Republican volunteers and donors to help her make phone calls and raise money. These people are not owned by a party organization, and the party can't parcel them out to ensure that every candidate gets a fair share. If she failed to persuade these grassroots volunteers to help her, she has only herself to blame.

One more thing that surprised me was Nancy's description of herself as a moderate. I had always assumed she was conservative, but now that I look back at her campaign website, I notice that the word isn't present. If she was known not to be a conservative, it's no wonder that Republican activists weren't enthusiastic about helping her, as most of the ones I know get the greatest motivation in helping principled and consistent conservative candidates like Tom Coburn.

The Daily Oklahoman mentioned one issue-based reason for Riley's conversion:

She said there is a movement in the Republican Party to undermine public education with such things as blaming teachers for school problems and pushing for charter schools and vouchers.

I don't hear a lot of blaming of teachers from Republican critics of public education. Most of the blame goes to the curriculum experts, the teacher training process, and the school administrators.

I do hear talk about offering parents real choice in education (and there needs to be less talk and more action). For Riley to complain about charter schools and vouchers means she's more interested in protecting school administrative bureaucracies and less interested in meeting the needs of the students.

Regarding her complaint about debates: She was a full participant in the only Lt. Governor's debate I saw, the one sponsored by the Tulsa County Republican Men's Club.

The Oklahoman item quotes Senate Democratic Leader Mike Morgan as saying Riley approached him in June about switching. So she was campaigning for the Republican nomination for Lt. Governor under false pretenses. At the very least, she should have suspended her campaign.

And she owes her constituents an apology as well. She can't know how many of them voted for her in 2004 because she was the Republican nominee and how many voted for her regardless of party. The honorable thing to do would be to follow Phil Gramm's example:

In 1978 and 1980, he had been elected as a Democrat to Congress. In 1981, he decided to change parties, so he resigned his seat, then ran as a Republican in the special election, letting the people decide whether they wanted him back in Congress as a member of the GOP caucus.

Phil Gramm didn't have to take that step, but it was the honest thing to do. Nancy Riley should give the voters of south and west Tulsa County the right to decide whether they want her back as a Democrat more than they want to help the Republicans win the State Senate.

In the race to replace Judge David Peterson, candidate David Blades chose not to seek a recount. He finished third of three-candidates by only 51 votes out of 11,000 cast. Collinsville Municipal Judge Jim Caputo finished second, making the runoff with Special District Judge Daman Cantrell. Because this is a non-partisan race, the "runoff" will be at the November general election. This is also one of five district judgeships elected by a portion of Tulsa County -- the electoral division for this seat covers the north Tulsa County suburbs and the City of Tulsa roughly east of Sheridan.

There will be a recount in the Republican primary for House District 6, an open seat that covers Craig County and parts of Mayes and Rogers Counties. Wayland Smalley, the Republican nominee for the 2nd Congressional District in 2004, won his primary by five votes out of about 1,500 cast. Whoever prevails will have an uphill battle -- 4,700 Democrats voted in their primary for the seat.

Oklahoma has a history of voting for candidates with famous names, but I doubt that Owasso and Catoosa Democrats had Ché in mind when they voted for Wayne Guevara, who finished first in the Democratic House District 74 primary. Guevara is an Owasso City Councilor, works for the Palmer Drug Abuse Program, and is a paralegal specialist with the National Guard. The Owasso Reporter reports that Guevara will be out of the state for the runoff with Carl Weston of Catoosa; he's being deployed for three weeks with his National Guard unit to New Mexico.

There were a number of primary races where the outcome might have been different if Instant Runoff Voting were in use. Oklahoma's runoff system, rematching the top two candidates if no one gets a majority, works well with only three candidates, but it can break down when there are four or more candidates. If the fourth- or fifth-place candidate hadn't been in the race, it might have changed the order of finish between the first three candidates, and a different pair of candidates would have made the runoff. The 1991 Louisiana governor's race is a classic example of the problem -- incumbent Buddy Roemer might have made the runoff instead of ex-Klansman David Duke or ex-con Edwin Edwards.

Ideally, you'd have a series of runoffs, each round eliminating one candidate until a candidate has a majority of the vote. IRV does that with a single election, by having voters rank the candidates in order of preference, rather than mark a single candidate.

Instant Runoff Voting might have produced a different result in Democratic primaries for Lt. Governor, House District 15, and DA District 17. The primary for House 99 had five candidates and will be going to an August runoff, but IRV wouldn't have changed the outcome, because the combined votes of the third-, fourth-, and fifth-place candidates were less than the second-place candidate.

On the Republican side, the race most likely to have been affected by IRV was in House District 41, where only 101 votes separated the second- and third-place finishers, and fourth and fifth place had 700 votes between them. Theoretically, IRV might have changed the result in the race for the 5th Congressional District and in House District 69, but in both cases there was a much bigger gap between second and third places.

Three judicial races might have had a different outcome with IRV, Judicial District 14 Office 10 (the six-candidate Tulsa County race to replace Gregory Frizzell), and the elections for Associate District Judge in McClain and Choctaw Counties.

An advantage of IRV is that you don't have to have a separate runoff election. The disadvantage of IRV to a candidate is that you wouldn't get that extra month to make your case to the voters, who would no longer be distracted by the large number of candidates in your race and the large number of races on the ballot.

About this Archive

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

Oklahoma Politics: July 2006 is the previous archive.

Oklahoma Politics: October 2006 is the next archive.

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