Oklahoma Election 2014 Category

Sometimes when a public figure's deviant behavior crosses over into criminal activity, the process of investigation turns up emails that point to a completely unrelated crime.

chad-alexander-477px.jpgLast week we heard about Anthony Weiner's selfie problem leading to a search of his computer, leading to more of Hillary Clinton's emails, including many that weren't among those she turned over to the FBI. It was enough to prompt the FBI to reopen its investigation into Clinton Foundation corruption.

In May 2014, political consultant and lobbyist Chad Alexander was pulled over for driving erratically. His car was searched, and he was busted for possession of 3.35 grams of cocaine and possession of a controlled substance (oxycodone) without a prescription.

Alexander is aligned with what I call the wheeler-dealer faction in Oklahoma politics (as opposed to the fair-dealers), the bunch that believes that government is about favor trading and politics is about which rival gang will get access to money and power.

Alexander is a consultant for Coalition for Oklahoma's Future, which raised large sums from corporations and individuals in 2012 to help Republican incumbents in the Oklahoma Legislature beat back tea party challengers.

Alexander was also working for Oklahomans for Public School Excellence (OPSE), a 501(c)(4) independent-expenditure group opposing Janet Barresi's reelection as State Superintendent and supporting her opponent, Joy Hofmeister. While there were communications hinting at illegal collusion between the Hofmeister campaign and OPSE, enough for the Oklahoma County DA's office to open an investigation, the affidavit by Chief Investigator Gary Eastridge says that forensic examination of Alexander's cell phones and computer in connection with his drug arrest turned up text messages and emails pertinent to the relationship between the Hofmeister campaign and OPSE.

joy_hofmeister.jpgState Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister has been charged by Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater with two felony counts -- accepting personal campaign contributions in excess of the law's limits and accepting corporate contributions. Additionally, Hofmeister and four people connected with her campaign -- campaign consultant Fount Holland, campaign consultant Stephanie Milligan, Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA) Executive Director Steven Crawford, and Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) Executive Director Lela Odom -- have been charged with conspiracy to commit the two felonies, which charges are also felonies.

Fount_Holland-mugshot-20161108.jpgThe affidavit includes a timeline of about 20 pages of selected text messages and emails, supplemented with information gathered from interviews with key participants, emphasizing that "these are but a small sampling of the documented communications."

When we set legal limits on how much an individual can give to a campaign and block corporate contributions, and when the outcome of elections often can lead to financial windfalls for connected businesses, money will look for other outlets to influence the election. Under the First Amendment, you have a right to spend your money to voice your opinion, but courts have ruled that government can limit how much of your money you can use in direct support of a candidate.

For those campaign finance limits to be meaningful, there can't be any coordination between a campaign supporting a candidate and independent groups seeking to influence the outcome. The two groups are like bridge partners. You can combine your knowledge of your partner's personality and strategy with the cards he actually plays to guess what else he might have in his hand and what he might play, but if he tells you what he has or you ask him to play a particular card, you've broken the rules.

(The interests of transparency would be better served by unlimited, but fully disclosed contributions.)

The legal process will determine whether all this rises to the level of illegal coordination, but even if no wrongdoing is found, the trail of communications reveals that influential political consultants, who have been involved in the campaigns of many of Oklahoma's top Republican executive and legislative officials, were in cahoots with groups that oppose reform of education in Oklahoma, groups that want lower-income kids to remain trapped in poor-performing schools with no way out. The OEA, state affiliate of the far-left National Education Association, and CCOSA want no change to education in Oklahoma other than more money for our existing system. These emails and texts appear to show that Joy Hofmeister was a Manchurian Candidate, recruited and backed by the teachers' union and the school administrators' lobby, to ensure that nothing threatens their gravy train.

Speaking of gravy train, it was interesting to see American Fidelity Assurance Company mentioned as the source of corporate contributions mentioned in the indictment:

BETWEEN APRIL, 2013 AND NOVEMBER, 2014 THE CRIME OF KNOWINGLY ACCEPTING CORPORATE CONTRIBUTIONS WAS COMMITTED IN OKLAHOMA COUNTY, OKLAHOMA BY JOY LYNN HOFMEISTER, A CANDIDATE FOR SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION, WHO THROUGH COORDINATION WITH OKLAHOMANS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL EXCELLENCE, KNOWINGLY ACCEPTED CORPORATE MONETARY OR IN-KIND CONTRIBUTIONS, SPECIFICALLY MONETARY OR IN KIND CONTRIBUTIONS FROM AMERICAN FIDELITY ASSURANCE COMPANY, IN VIOLATION OF TITLE 21 § 187.2 OF THE OKLAHOMA STATUTES....

Lela Odom advised in her interview that OEA and American Fidelity have had a 50 year relationship. OEA has helped AF build their business by endorsing their "salary income protection policy".

Here's how it looks to me: An insurance company has a favorable deal with the teacher's union, and it's in the company's financial interest if the teacher's union continues to be in a favorable situation for maintaining and growing its membership, so the company gives to help elect the teacher's union's preferred candidate. A state that offered meaningful school choice including private schools and charter schools will have fewer unionized teachers, and the favored insurance company will have to find another way to build its customer base. That's my speculative impression of the situation, based on what I read in this file.

I encourage you to read through the 32-page indictment of Joy Hofmeister, Fount Holland, Lela Odom, Stephanie Milligan, and Steven Crawford for yourself. I've taken the scan that KJRH posted with their story and put it through optical character recognition to make it easier to search.

When the state had a revenue failure earlier this year, there was a lot of blame-casting -- "see what happens when you let the conservatives run the state!" Those of us who are conservatives will tell you that we're not in charge here; the state is run by the wheeler-dealers, backed by the Chamber Pots, with campaigns run by the likes of Fount Holland and Chad Alexander. Ask Jason Murphey and Gary Jones about the roadblocks that have been put in the way of their efforts to improve government transparency. Ask the OCPA how much cooperation they got from "conservative" officials for their plan to prioritize spending so that teachers could get a raise without a tax increase. Oklahoma has replaced one set of legal looters with another.

MORE:

David Van Risseghem comments at Sooner Politics:

This narrative has replayed itself over and over. The big money often wins the GOP primary and becomes the nominee. If the liberal lobby groups can buy the GOP nomination, they really don't care if the Democrat loses, because they already own the elective office. ​ The Hofmeister election is exactly what that looks like.

After the jump, excerpts from the indictment.

The Oklahoma Democratic Party is trying to invalidate the re-election of Republican 2nd District Congressman Markwayne Mullin because the Democratic nominee died two days before the election.

Earl Everett, 81, died Sunday from injuries suffered in a Friday auto collision. Our condolences go to his friends and family. It's an honorable thing to run for public office, perhaps all the more when there is little expectation of success. Everett won the primary against an opponent barely one-third his age. In the general election, Mullin won with 70% to Everett's 25% and 5% for an independent candidate.

In August 1998, Jacquelyn Morrow Lewis Ledgerwood finished second in the Democratic primary to select a challenger to then-three term U. S. Senator Don Nickles. Ledgerwood had died almost six weeks before the primary, but it was too late under Oklahoma law to take her name off of the ballot. In the primary, Ledgerwood had 2197 votes more than third-place candidate Jerry Kobyluk, and so she advanced to the runoff election, notwithstanding her death. The Deceased-American vote isn't as strong in Oklahoma as it is in, say, Chicago, and Ledgerwood lost the runoff to Don Carroll by a 75%-25% vote. According to news reports at the time, had Ledgerwood won the runoff, the Oklahoma Democratic Party organization could have chosen a replacement nominee.

In 1990, District Judge Frank Ogden III, serving Judicial District 1 in the Panhandle, was three months deceased when he won re-election with over 90% of the vote. His opponent demanded to be named the victor, even though 9 out of 10 voters preferred a dead man to him. (This may be the greatest "none of the above" victory in Oklahoma history.) The Oklahoma Supreme Court declared the election valid, resulting in an immediate vacancy to be filled by the incoming governor when the term of the new judge was to begin.

26 O. S. 1-105, which governs this situation, has been changed twice since 1990. Here is the 1990-2009 version, the 2009-2014 version (currently in effect), and the version that takes effect on January 1, 2015.

Section 3 of the current version appears to dictate that a special election must be held:

If said death [of a party's nominee] should occur five (5) days or more following the Runoff Primary Election date, a special General Election shall be called by the Governor and shall be conducted according to the laws governing such elections, Section 12-101 et seq. of this title, except that there shall be no filing period or special Primary Election and the candidates in the special General Election shall be the substitute candidate named by the central committee and the nominee of other political parties elected in the Primary or Runoff Primary, and any previously filed independent candidates.

In the new version of the law, a special election would be held only if the deceased candidate won the election. The party could still (as now) substitute a nominee up until the Friday after the runoff election -- about 60 days before the general. If the nominee snuffs it after that point, his name remains on the ballot.

(For decades, Oklahoma's election season began with filing the second week in July. In recent years, filing was moved back to June and now April, in order to ensure that servicemen serving overseas could fully participate. The current schedule allows at each stage of the process sufficient time between when the candidate list is determined and when the election will be held to print ballots, send them out, and get them back from overseas voters.)

The current, soon-to-be-superseded version of the law is problematic. It actually creates a perverse incentive for a political party to assassinate its own ineffective nominee in order to get a do-over with a better, handpicked nominee. (Please note: I am NOT saying that this has ever happened.) The party could select the best possible replacement nominee from a pool of candidates that might have been unavailable during the normal election process because they were running for re-election or for higher offices. The other party is stuck with its nominee, and no other independents can get into the race.

In a normal election, a potential candidate has to weigh likelihood of success against the cost of not running for re-election or for election to a more winnable seat. In a special election, anyone can run without risking their current position or foregoing a more favorable race. In a special election right after a general election, a candidate could run without risking his current office. Some candidates will have recent experience, a campaign organization, and name recognition to bring to a special election.

Over the last 20 years, the Democrats have only managed to win only one of Oklahoma's congressional seats: Rural eastern Oklahoma's 2nd District. Brad Carson and Dan Boren held the seat for 12 years. They'd like it back, and Earl Everett's untimely demise gives them an opportunity.

Jamison Faught has a list of possible replacement nominees, and he rates them on likelihood of being selected and competitiveness in a special election. I'm surprised that Faught has overlooked what may be the Democrats' best option, an option that seems obvious given the county-by-county election maps Faught has posted.

The Democrats' State Superintendent nominee, John Cox, won 20 of the 26 counties in the 2nd Congressional District, and won the district with 84,726 votes (53.4%) to Joy Hofmeister's 73,803 (46.6%). By comparison, Joe Dorman only won 43.1% of the 2nd District vote. (Dorman barely outperformed Labor Commissioner nominee Mike Workman in the district, 68,835 to 67,276). In fact, Cox is the only statewide Democratic candidate to win in a congressional district, and the 2nd is the only district he won.

A congressional election has an added dynamic -- the partisan balance of power -- that is missing from a statewide race. In this case, however, the balance of power is known. The Republicans will have the majority in the House regardless of the result of this special election. Would it make a difference to 2nd District conservative Democrats to know that they could have a Democrat congressman once again without handing control of the House to wacky liberals from San Francisco or New York City?

A victory in a special election after last Tuesdays shellacking would be a morale boost to state and national Democratic organizations. It's like winning the Bedlam game -- if OU manages to beat OSU, the whipping they took from Baylor on Saturday won't sting as badly. If Democrats were to convince someone like Cox to run, expect Democrat donors to throw everything they can into this race.

It was a good day, a better day that anyone expected, a real wave election.

The reaction of my local liberal friends on Facebook reveal their contempt for the state where they live, their bigoted opinions of conservatives, and their disconnect from political reality. One wrote a very apt "chin-up" post -- the sort of things I've seen conservatives write to console each other after a loss -- but she ended it with this weird attempt at a barb: "And to those of you gleeful over the election results, I just want to remind you that our President is STILL BLACK." I imagine she imagined people like me shaking our fists and gritting our teeth at those words. (Never mind that the first African-American was just elected to the Senate from a Southern state since reconstruction -- and he's a Republican. Never mind that her party never elected an African-American to statewide office or congress during almost a century of dominance in Oklahoma -- but the GOP has.) Now if she'd said "STILL A SOCIALIST" or "STILL A MISERABLE FAILURE AT HOME AND ABROAD" -- that would have spoiled my gloating a bit. But if she thinks the president's ethnic background is the source of conservative dislike, she and her pals are going to continue to lose elections. So much for the soi-disant "reality-based" community.

I spent part of my Tuesday in a library in Hialeah, Florida. I was in the area on business, free during the day but working during the night. The library was in a large city park where I'd hoped to attend a rally with Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Jeb Bush that I'd read about online, but I had misread the date. (I think it had been two days before.)

When I arrived and pulled into the parking lot, I found two teams of electioneers, one Democrat and one Republican, handling out pamphlets and ballot cards. An older couple with the Democrat group stopped the car in front of me to chat with the driver and give her some literature. Another Democrat electioneer waved me around the blockade.

Once parked, I walked toward the library and heard an older man calling out to me. He was with a group of a half-dozen volunteers -- both young and old -- holding signs for Republican candidates. He handed me a card for Gov. Scott, a card for the GOP county assessor candidate, and a card listing all the GOP candidates in Miami-Dade County. All three cards were in English on on side and Spanish on the other. The man said to me, "Please vote for Gov. Scott. It's important!" I gave him a thumbs-up and walked on.

This must have been a key precinct, because near the entrance was a reporter in a suit holding a microphone and talking to a camera, occasionally interviewing voters.

Inside the library, I had a view through interior picture windows to the polling station set up in the library's meeting room. I pondered the possibility of pulling a reverse Kathy Taylor -- voting in-person in Florida and absentee in Oklahoma -- but I could see that I'd be thwarted by Florida's racist voter suppression laws. Florida does not have election day registration, and with photo ID required, I couldn't very well pretend to be someone else.

I was pleased to see that Florida, like Oklahoma, uses scanned paper ballots. Voters are given a big green folder to carry their ballots privately from the voting carrels to the ballot box scanners. I watched as several waves of voters came and went. Election workers walked the floor, directing incoming voters to the sign-in desk and helping voters with finished ballots feed them into the machines.

That evening I spent an hour after the polls closed at the Miami-Dade Republican watch party at a Cuban restaurant on the western edge of the city. We ate fried plantain chips, carnitas, empanadas, and tequeños while cheering the results. The crowd of about 60 -- but this only one of many GOP watch parties around Miami, I learned -- were especially pleased that the local Democrat congressman, Joe Garcia, had conceded defeat to Republican school baord member Carlos Curbelos. We all held our breath as Gov. Scott maintained his narrow lead over the oompa-loompa-colored flip-flopping former governor, Charlie Crist.

More analysis will have to wait, but here are a few post-mortems worth your time:

The New York Post's Michael Goodwin called for a repudiation of Obamaism ("a quasi-socialist commitment to a more powerful government at home and an abdication of American leadership around the world") and the voters delivered.

Via Ace, a good Washington Post story on how the GOP national apparatus upped their game to win the Senate this year.

The finger-pointing begins: Chris "Tingle Up My Leg" Matthews says Obama lost the midterms because he's surrounded by yes-men.

Pro-immigration-law-enforcement Democrat Mickey Kaus notes that Democrat supporters of amnesty lost their seats.

Philip Klein notes that almost half of the Democrat Senators who voted for Obamacare are gone -- four more lost on Tuesday and one more is likely to lose in December.

MORE:

Some Republicans are saying that, since this was Pres. Obama's attitude toward Republicans in 2009, this should be our newly elected Republicans' attitude toward the Democrats:

(For the record, I liked the Depp version better than the Wilder version and this scene is one of the reasons why, but it works for the current purpose.)


BatesLine_ballot_card_2014_thumbnail.pngHere are the candidates I'm recommending and voting for (when I can) in the Oklahoma general election on November 4, 2014. Links lead to more detailed information or earlier blog entries. (This entry may change as I decide to add more detail or discuss additional races between now and election day. The entry is post-dated to keep it at the top.)

For your convenience, here's a printable one-page "cheat sheet" version to take along to the polls and pass along to friends, but please read the detail and click the links below.

U. S. Senate: James Lankford (R) (unexpired term) and Jim Inhofe (R) (full term). Both are good men and solid conservatives. If you want a Republican majority in the Senate, we have to do our part in Oklahoma and elect Republicans to the two seats on our ballot.

U. S. House: Vote Republican (R). Jim Bridenstine won re-election without opposition. We need to keep all five of Oklahoma's districts in the GOP column. Steve Russell, running for Lankford's 5th District seat, will be a principled, courageous conservative addition to Congress.

Governor: Mary Fallin (R). While Fallin has failed to lead vigorously during this conservative Republican moment in Oklahoma politics, she has signed the good bills that the legislature sent her (even if reluctantly). Her Democratic opponent is conservative on a couple of important issues but is likely to fill his cabinet, state boards and commissions, and the state bench with Democratic allies who aren't as conservative.

Lt. Governor: Todd Lamb (R). Charlie Meadows of OCPAC calls him "the best Lt. Governor we have ever had." Lamb is focused on making Oklahoma a better state to start and build businesses.

State Superintendent: Joy Hofmeister. Although I have my reservations about Hofmeister, her Democrat opponent wants to take education in the wrong direction -- more administrators (fewer would be better), more state funding (more local funding and parental choice would be better), and social promotion. State Sen. Rick Brinkley writes:

I believe her experience on the State School Board and as a classroom teacher prepares her for this position. I am most impressed that she served on the State Board, didn't like the way she saw education headed in Oklahoma, resigned, took on the incumbent and won. She risked a lot for what she believes in and that I greatly respect. I've met John Cox. He seems very nice. I just can't see a person who manages 16 teachers having the experience to run the [State Department of Education.

Labor Commissioner: Mark Costello (R). The incumbent has been working closely with business owners and workers to make the Oklahoma workplace a safer place. Restore Oklahoma Public Education leader Jenni White writes of Costello, "Mark is one of a very few conservatives I have ever met that just intuitively understands the ideals of conservatism."

State legislature: In general (with one important exception -- House 12) I encourage you to vote for the Republican. Here are some races that deserve special mention.

Senate District 6: Josh Brecheen (R). Representing southeast Oklahoma, Brecheen was a champion in the battle to repeal Common Core. The State Chamber wants him gone because he's not a corporate-welfare fan. He voted the wrong way on National Popular Vote, but publicly recanted his vote and called on the House to block it.

Senate District 18: Kim David (R). One of the sensible senators who opposed National Popular Vote.

House District 12: One of the few exceptions to the general rule to vote for Republicans. The GOP nominee in this race supports National Popular Vote and, if elected, could do more harm to the conservative cause nationally than the term-limited Democrat he wants to replace. I encourage my Republican friends to leave the ballot blank in this race.

House District 14: George Faught (R). Faught left the House two years ago to run for Congress, but, sadly, he didn't win the nomination. It will be good to have this principled, intelligent conservative back in the State House.

House District 76: David Brumbaugh (R). Incumbent Rep. Brumbaugh has been a consistent conservative voice for Broken Arrow. He deserves particular praise for putting forward a bill to to require counties to include all funds in their annual budgets. Brumbaugh was one of eight legislators to receive a 100% on the Oklahoma Constitution's annual conservative index.

House District 87: Jason Nelson (R). The leader in the State House in the fight to repeal Common Core.

District Judge:

Here are some general thoughts on district judge races and how the process works. Here's a podcast of my KFAQ conversation on judicial races with Pat Campbell, Eddie Huff, and Charlie Biggs.

District 10 District Judge, Office 1 (Osage County): John Kane. A good man and a well-respected judge, facing an opponent with a problematic personal history.

District 14 District Judge, Office 1 (Tulsa and Pawnee Counties): Incumbent William Kellough is praised for his temperament and damned for his habit of reducing sentences in heinous crimes. His opponent, Caroline Wall, was ousted in 2006 over similar charges of excessive leniency and concerns about temperament and work ethic. Kellough has a massive financial advantage in the race.

District 14 District Judge, Office 2 (Tulsa County judicial election district 3): Sharon Holmes. Incumbent Jesse Harris did not seek re-election. Holmes is described as a hardworking attorney, effective in the courtroom, and a woman of integrity.

District 14 District Judge, Office 8 (Tulsa County judicial election district 5): Doug Drummond. Drummond, a prosecutor, has amassed broad and substantial support, particularly from conservatives in the legal community, in his race to unseat incumbent Mark Barcus, although the local establishment is still backing Barcus.

District 14 District Judge, Office 10 (Tulsa and Pawnee Counties): Eric Quandt. Quandt, a well-regarded workers compensation judge, has also developed strong support against incumbent Mary Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald has been criticized for frequent reversals. Fitzgerald is described as being "part of the problem at the county courthouse" and a source of frustrations for those dealing with family and domestic cases. Quandt is praised for even-handedness; even attorneys with whom Quandt has had personal differences say that he treated them fairly in his courtroom. The local establishment is backing Fitzgerald. (On a personal note, when I questioned Quandt's candidacy based on a campaign consultant's support for National Popular Vote, Quandt contacted me in a very gracious way, and we had a good conversation. Quandt thinks National Popular Vote is a ridiculous idea, a bad solution for a non-existent problem.)

District 14 District Judge, Office 14 (Tulsa and Pawnee Counties): Kurt Glassco. Despite his background as a Democratic candidate for Congress many years ago, Judge Glassco is well-regarded by conservative Republican attorneys as a fair and skillful arbiter. John Eagleton writes: "Judge Glassco has my respect. I have appeared in his court and observed him handling hundreds of cases. He is a great judge. He follows the law without injecting personalities into the outcome. We need more judges like him." His challenger evidently feels comfortable with the redefinition of terms in the law and the overriding of popular will, not a desirable attribute in a judge.

Supreme Court and Appellate Courts:

These judges don't run against each other, but on an up-or-down retention ballot every six years. The three supremes all deserve to be voted out, as does Civil Appeals Court judge Jane Wiseman. Conservatives are supporting retention of Brian Goree on the Court of Civil Appeals and Gary Lumpkin on the Court of Criminal Appeals. So vote YES on Goree and Lumpkin, NO on everyone else.

State Questions:

On the back of your ballot, all three questions will support those currently serving in the military or those who have served, and all three deserve your YES vote.

Tulsa City Council:

All Tulsa City Council seats and the City Auditor position were up for election this year, but some were unopposed, and other races were settled in the primary. Only Districts 3, 6, 7, and 9 have general elections, and they'll be on a separate ballot from the rest of the races.

As predicted, city issues have been completely overshadowed by other races on the ballot and national and state issues. We were better off when city elections were held in the fall of odd-numbered years. My general rule is to find out which candidate is funded by the Money Belt and to vote the other way.

Tulsa City Council District 3: Virgil Wallace. Having graduated to the choir invisible, Roscoe Turner won't be on the ballot this year, but some of Turner's stalwart supporters have told me they're backing Wallace. The incumbent, David Patrick, is backed by the usual big money crowd, including developers who want to drive all other voices out of the zoning and land use planning process.

Tulsa City Council District 6: I'm not a fan of Skip Steele, who was the establishment-backed candidate used to get rid of reformer Jim Mautino. Connie Dodson, Steele's opponent, has run as a Democrat for State House. Her campaign appears to be funded primarily with her own funds, but she has a $5,000 contribution from Santiago Barraza, the president of ISTI Plant Services, a Tulsa Port of Catoosa-based manufacturer with offices in District 6 on 21st Street west of Lynn Lane Rd. Apparently, Barraza either really likes Dodson, or Steele did something that really hacked him off. Other donors include Democratic super-donor George Krumme, Sharon King Davis, Patty Eaton, and Mariscos El Centenario. (What an unusual first name!)

Tulsa City Council District 7: Arianna Moore. Republican incumbent Moore's leading challenger is liberal Democrat Anna America, Kathy Taylor's campaign manager. America had been a school board member but then resigned when she moved out of the district. Kathy Taylor, Taylor's husband Bill Lobeck, other members of the Lobeck/Taylor family, and other members of their political orbit are major donors to America's campaign.

I've been accused of being motivated by mere partisanship in picking Mrs. Moore over Ms. America, and there's some irony in that accusation. When I ran for City Council in 2002, I was endorsed by just about every neighborhood association leader in District 4, most of whom were Democrats. Anna America, then head of the White City neighborhood association, was one of the few exceptions. She supported Democrat Tom Baker, who was backed by the Chamber and the developer groups and who had demonstrated hostility to neighborhood concerns. (When Renaissance Neighborhood successfully fought the location of a new fire station in the middle of their neighborhood, Baker referred to them on the Fire Department's public-access TV show as CAVE people -- Citizens Against Virtually Everything.)

I always assumed America endorsed Baker because he was the Democratic nominee, and she was being a good party soldier, but maybe it was because she didn't want someone on Council who would work for neighborhood empowerment in zoning and historic preservation.

Tulsa City Council District 9: G. T. Bynum is no conservative, and he seems to be laying the groundwork for another tax increase proposal for river projects. His opponent, Paul Tay, has some interesting ideas on urban planning and transportation, but his personal conduct distracts from those ideas and makes him impossible to endorse.

MORE: The ladies who led the fight to repeal Common Core in Oklahoma have posted their personal endorsements. And they reposted this guide to the judicial retention ballot by Sharon Annesley of the Oklahoma Liberty Tea Party.

The Oklahomans for Life 2014 primary candidate questionnaire is online. There are separate sets of questions for state and federal candidates, and you can read the full text of the questions to which the candidates are responding.

OCPAC head Charlie Meadows has posted his personal picks.

Muskogee Politico Jamison Faught has posted his picks.

Here are the Tulsa Beacon's endorsements.

Earlier this year, I heard a Republican activist talking excitedly about the possibility that the Democrats might have only an also-ran as nominee for governor or perhaps no nominee at all. If the Democratic nominee failed to reach 20% of the vote, the party would be decertified and lose its automatic place on the ballot. It was never a likely scenario, but it illustrates the overconfidence Republicans had at the beginning of 2014.

During the 2014 legislative session, many conservative Republican voters became disenchanted with Gov. Mary Fallin. As I wrote before the June primary: "While Gov. Mary Fallin eventually did the right thing on Obamacare exchanges and Common Core, her dithering on these clear-cut issues makes me worry about her decision-making in a lame-duck term. Fallin failed to establish a good working relationship with her own party's legislative leadership, culminating in her veto snit-fit, in which she killed several good bills, including some she'd requested, to make some sort of point." Her inability to advance the conservative agenda assertively in an ideal political environment speaks poorly of her leadership abilities.

Back in June, many conservatives voted for Dax Ewbank to express their disappointment with Fallin's leadership.

Now Ewbank himself and many of his supporters have come out in support of the Democratic nominee, State Rep. Joe Dorman. Because Dorman has a pro-life and pro-gun-rights voting record, some of the usual obstacles to conservatives voting for the Democratic nominee aren't there.

Republican Sen. Patrick Anderson from Enid is backing Dorman, but that seems to be grounded in a local issue, Fallin's decision to close the Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid, a state institution for the developmentally disabled. Anderson says Fallin froze him out of discussions over the future of that facility:

"Joe and I don't agree on all issues, but I think he'd make a fine governor and he's definitely someone who has always, and who will always be willing to talk about whatever the issues are that are important to our community in northwest Oklahoma," Anderson said. "Unfortunately, Gov. Fallin hasn't been willing to do that."

But is Dorman as conservative as some of his supporters claim? Oklahoma Constitution editor Steve Byas reports that Dorman's votes in the legislature have earned him only a 39% lifetime rating in the Constitution's conservative index, and only a 31% rating in the most recent session. That may be an impressive rating for a Democrat, but it still means far more bad votes than good votes.

Byas also calls attention to the governor's power to appoint judges and board and commission members and to fill Senate vacancies:

As a Democrat, Governor Joe Dorman will fill state government with a whole lot of Democrats. Expecting these Democrats to be conservatives is laughable. I guess you can find a four-leaf clover every now and then, too. Regardless of what many people argue to the contrary, there are many Republicans who are worth appointing to state offices. No, I do not expect Governor Mary Fallin to appoint multitudes of conservatives, but I can guarantee you that she will appoint a whole lot more than Dorman, simply because she will appoint more Republicans than Dorman will appoint.

Then, we have the state judicial appointments. If Dorman were to pull the big upset, expect liberal Democrats to take the place of retiring state judges at the appellate court level. While these judges face the voters in retention votes every six years, no appellate judges have ever been denied the additional six years by the voters. Dorman's judges, drawn from the ranks of an increasingly left-wing Democrat Party, will issue liberal decisions for years past the time Dorman is back home in Rush Springs, eating watermelon at the annual festival.

Let's say there is an unexpected vacancy in the U.S. Senate. Do you think Governor Dorman will appoint anyone better than Jim Inhofe to fill that vacancy until the election? Get real. And, guess who will be the candidate of the [Democrat] Party for the U.S. Senate should the great Jim Inhofe have to step down from the Senate? I suspect it will be Joe Dorman. If you cause the election of Dorman for governor, you just might be picking Inhofe's replacement as well.

In September, Oklahoma GOP chairman Dave Weston pointed to Dorman's ambiguous answers in an interview in The Gayly -- a paper that describes itself as "keeping the FABULOUS south-central United States informed on current news and events affecting Lesbians, Homosexuals, Bi-sexuals & Transgenders":

Dorman criticized Gov. Mary Fallin for her moral stance on traditional marriage stating, "When you have a standard set in place, especially like that handed down from the federal government, you have to apply that [marriage rights] equally."

He appeared to apologize to The Gayly staff for his vote in support of a House resolution to reaffirm Oklahoma's support of traditional marriage. When asked how he could "support equality" while also voting to uphold traditional marriage Dorman said:

"Different situations. I serve House District 65 and I try to serve my constituents to the best of my ability... They have, I think, a different point of view when it comes to policies like that."

The Gayly adds: "Dorman said he voted the way he felt his district wanted him to vote."

Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Dave Weston pressed Dorman to tell the people of Oklahoma whether he supports redefining marriage and why.

"It sounds like Joe Dorman meets with voters in Rush Springs and tells them he's a conservative Democrat who opposes reclassifying marriage," said Weston. "Then he tells The Gayly staff in Oklahoma City that's not really what he thinks and proceeds to criticize Governor Fallin for holding the same position that he previously told his constituents he believes."

Weston pointed out other examples where, seemingly under the mere pressure of an interview, Dorman appeared to apologize for and back away from his conservative votes on social issues.

Joe Dorman also has a problem on fiscal issues. Dorman wants to lead Oklahoma into the financial trap known as Medicaid expansion. The state gets a short-term burst of Federal funds, but the price is making more Oklahomans dependent on government-funded healthcare (many of them young and able-bodied), and massive state budget obligations in the out-years, after federal subsidies dry up, obligations that will squeeze out funding for roads and education, among other state priorities. Medicaid expansion increases eligibility, but doesn't improve access, hurting the very people that the program was originally intended to help.

The best a conservative can say about Joe Dorman is that he may be as conservative as Mary Fallin on a couple of issues, but he is well to her left on other important issues, and his party affiliation and ambitions for higher office will pull him further to the left should he be elected. (There is a long list of Democrats who once claimed to be pro-but who abandoned that stance when they began to hanker for the presidency -- Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson to name just a few.)

Byas says he does not "expect Governor Fallin to lead us to the conservative promised land, but she will probably sign good bills, if the Republican-dominated Legislature passes them. Sure, she waited to the last minute to sign the repeal of Common Core, but she did sign it." Byas says Fallin has the highest conservative rating of any of the six governors who have served since his paper's founding in 1979. While that rating is only 63%, that's far better than Dorman's lifetime 39% rating.

Finally, regarding National Popular Vote: On Thursday, I asked Gov. Fallin's spokesman, Alex Weintz, "Would she be willing to say that she would veto any form of a National Popular Vote proposal that reaches her desk?" He stated by return email, "The position we have previously taken is, 'Governor Fallin is opposed to the National Popular Vote.'" (I would have preferred a more strongly worded stance that fully closes the door on the idea.) Still, the Dorman campaign has not stated a position, but I would expect him to support it, given the unanimous support last session's bill had from Senate Democrats. Pressure from the national GOP against NPV (the RNC voted unanimously to condemn the idea) ought to keep Fallin on the right side of that issue, even if it does reach her desk. While the presidency or vice presidency is out of reach, she may reasonably have hopes of a federal appointment under a Republican president as her time as governor ends. Pressure from national Democrats would pull Dorman toward signing the bill.

While Republicans can safely sacrifice one house seat out of 101 to keep the backer of a dangerous scheme out of the House GOP caucus, we cannot safely sacrifice a position with the power of appointment and the ability to sign or veto legislation.

The other two candidates are not even a blip on the pollsters' radar. Either Mary Fallin or Joe Dorman will be elected governor on Tuesday. Mary Fallin is clearly the more conservative of the two, and I hope you'll join me in voting for her re-election.

House District 12 consists of most of Wagoner County, the part that is not in the Tulsa/Broken Arrow conurbation. The district lies mainly east of 257th East Ave (Midway Road) and south of 51st Street. The incumbent is Wade Rousselot, a Democrat finishing his fifth term, currently serving as the assistant floor leader of that party's dwindling minority in the State House.

The lone Republican to file against him is David Tackett, a Republican political operative with a mixed reputation among the conservatives who have dealt with him.

Multiple reliable sources have informed me that Tackett has been working with National Popular Vote lobbyists to give them opportunities to hoodwink grassroots Republicans into supporting legislation that would pledge Oklahoma's electoral votes to a far-left candidate who won the national popular vote, even if Oklahomans voted overwhelmingly for the conservative candidate.

rino-768px.pngI sent Tackett a message via Facebook on Tuesday: "David, I have been told that you have been assisting representatives and supporters of National Popular Vote to connect with grassroots conservatives here in Oklahoma. I'd like to know if there's any element of truth to that. What involvement have you had with NPV-related organizations? As a state representative, will you work to advance or to obstruct Oklahoma's entry into the National Popular Vote Compact? Thank you."

Facebook says that Tackett has seen my question, but Tackett has not replied. His non-response tells me that an honest answer is one that I wouldn't like.

(UPDATE: Charlie Meadows confirms Tackett's support for NPV and says that Tackett almost lost the OCPAC endorsement because of it.)

I won't repeat the full critique of NPV here (my first entry on NPV links to several critical articles), but here in a nutshell is why the Left wants it so badly. With NPV, the battle for the presidency will be fought in the populous media markets on the coasts, and Middle America will be ignored. Under the current system, state boundaries form a firewall against voter fraud, so that the Chicago cemetery vote only runs up the score in Illinois, but doesn't affect the result in any other state, but under NPV, fraudulent votes in Illinois would effectively cancel legitimate votes in Oklahoma.

The campaign for NPV is funded by the Left, but they have found a few individuals on the right to carry water for them. They seem to find former legislators who were genuinely conservative while in office, but who made some bad decisions in their personal lives that may also have hurt them financially and politically. Google the person's name and you learn that he or she was once a conservative warrior, and that's enough to persuade a grassroots conservative in Oklahoma to give the person a hearing. But search on the name plus the word "scandal" or "affair" and you understand why he or she didn't rise to higher office and are alerted that his or her political integrity might be as compromised as his or her personal life. NPV can offer these people a paycheck and a taste of the relevance they once enjoyed in exchange for the rental of their conservative credibility.

NPV lobbyists have been offering legislators electoral college "educational seminars" in desirable locations, like Las Vegas, Miami, St. Croix, and Scottsdale, Arizona. I have been told that certain legislators recently sent emails to colleagues, inviting them to an "educational seminar" in New York City, December 15-17, 2014, with "scholarships" to cover air fare and hotel paid by FairVote, a pro-NPV organization.

After the Oklahoma State Senate passed the NPV Compact bill (SB 906) with the support of 12 Republicans, grassroots conservatives mobilized to stop it, and some of the senators who voted for it recanted their support. Now NPV lobbyists, aided and abetted by consultants like David Tackett and Darren Gantz, are trying to bamboozle conservative activists to reduce resistance when the bill is run again.

I say bamboozle because my conversations with recovered NPV supporters remind me of conversations I've had with people who have escaped cults. NPV seems to have hit upon arguments that resonate emotionally with conservatives, so that the listener not only shuts off his own B. S. detector, but he shuts out perspectives from trusted voices before deciding to convert. Solidly conservative state senators like Josh Brecheen and Gary Stanislawski fell into NPV's trap. It took a massive outcry from grassroots conservatives to wake them up from their lobbyist-induced trance.

Look, I'm all for free and open debate, and I believe the truth will prevail, but I'm still not going to encourage my friends to meet with missionaries from the Church of Sighnutology "just to give their ideas a fair hearing."

Conservatives differ on many issues, but this is a matter of strategic importance, not a minor issue on which reasonable conservatives might differ. Oklahoma is the key battleground in a battle to control our nation into the distant future. Oklahoma would be the first conservative state to adopt the NPV compact. If Oklahoma says yes, it will set a precedent that will lower the resistance to the idea in other conservative states, and NPV supporters will be well on their way to victory.

I don't know whether Tackett's support of NPV is borne of venality or naïveté. Either way, he doesn't belong anywhere near the levers of power. His defeat will send the signal that supporting NPV is a career-ending move, and it will keep an NPV supporter out of a position of power.

Rep. Rousselot, the incumbent Democrat, will be term-limited in 2016. If Rousselot wins a final term, the 2016 election will be an open seat, and I would expect a robust contest for the Republican nomination. (Wagoner County Clerk Lori Hendricks, who has been a Paul Revere on the NPV issue, would make a great state rep.) If Tackett wins, an open NPV supporter will have a seat in the majority caucus and the incumbent's advantage for re-election in 2016. I don't know much about Rousselot's politics, but as a member of a tiny legislative minority, he can't do much damage, certainly not as much as Tackett can as a supporter of NPV in the majority caucus.

The current partisan balance in the State House is 72 Republicans to 29 Democrats. By my count of uncontested seats in the 2014 list of candidates, Republicans are guaranteed 46 seats in the new legislature to the Democrats' guaranteed 19. Only a handful of the contested seats are truly competitive, and the partisan composition of the new state house won't be much different from the old.

Conservatives don't need to pad the massive Republican majority with someone who is working, wittingly or unwittingly, for the strategic defeat of conservatism at the national level. I encourage my Republican friends in House District 12 to leave that ballot item blank.

Three justices of the State Supreme Court (Reif, Colbert, Watt), one justice of the Court of Criminal Appeals (Lumpkin), and five justices of the Court of Civil Appeals (Goodman, Wiseman, Barnes, Rapp, Goree) will be on Tuesday's ballot.

Oklahoma has a two-path appellate system: Criminal cases are appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals, which has the final word. Civil cases are appealed to the State Supreme Court, which may and usually does assign cases to the Court of Civil Appeals. Since 1967, judges in the appellate system have been appointed by the governor from choices presented by a panel dominated by a private club, the Oklahoma Bar Association. A newly appointed justice or appellate judge faces a retention ballot at the next general election and, if retained, every six years thereafter. Voters do not choose between candidates for these offices; each judge or justice faces a YES or NO vote. If the NO votes outnumber the YES votes, that judge is removed from office, creating a vacancy which is filled by the usual process.

I plan to vote YES on only one judicial retention: Court of Civil Appeals Judge Brian Goree, appointed by Gov. Fallin. Conservative blogger and attorney Don Danz wrote a tribute to Judge Goree at his swearing-in:

A former coworker, shooting buddy and good friend was sworn in as a judge today at the Oklahoma Supreme Court. In August, Gov. Mary Fallin appointed Brian Goree to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals. Everyone who knows Brian would attest to the fact that he is the most honest, ethical, moral and hard working person we know. He will be an outstanding and absolutely unbiased addition to the Oklahoma judiciary.

I urge every Oklahoman to vote NO on Court of Civil Appeals Judge Jane Wiseman. As a district judge in 2003, Wiseman demonstrated partiality toward the rich and powerful by approving the unconstitutional logrolling in the Vision 2025 ballot. Her 2003 decision ignored her own reasoning eight years earlier when she rightly discarded a sales tax proposal for the new county jail because it included funds for early intervention programs on the same ballot item as funds for the jail's construction and operation.

Earlier this month, we saw Judge Wiseman officiate over the first "legal" "same-sex wedding" in Oklahoma, showing her solidarity not with the people who voted overwhelmingly to uphold the only definition of marriage that makes sense, but instead with the leftist fascists who seek to impose their morality on every state. Wiseman demonstrated her support for judges legislating from the bench, for seeing the voters of Oklahoma as subjects to be subdued, not a sovereign, self-governing people.

There have been too many examples of judicial overreach and incoherence from Oklahoma's appellate courts.

In July, a majority of the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld State Rep. Sydney Fred Jordan's eligibility to be elected District Attorney. Their one-paragraph decision failed to address the legal questions raised by the briefs filed on behalf of Jordan and his opponent Steve Kunzweiler. The heart of the matter was when a state representative's term ends and when a district attorney is considered elected. The majority decision didn't speak to the language of the constitutional provision, Article V, Section 23, at question, or address the claim that Gragg v. Dudley applied to the District Attorney's office. Only Justice Taylor, in his dissent, wrestled with the substantive matters of interpretation raised by the case. The five justices who concurred in the seemingly tossed-off decision -- Kauger, Watt (up for retention), Winchester, Edmondson, and Gurich -- should be deeply embarrassed. Reif, who is on this year's retention ballot, recused himself. Colbert and Combs did not participate. On the strength of this decision alone, I will vote NO on Watt.

State Rep. David Derby reports that the Supreme Court's chief justice, Tom Colbert, came to the state capital to lobby against Derby's proposed reforms to the state's DUI laws. Derby was trying to move DUI charges into District Court so that they would be handled in a court of record, rather than municipal court. He cited one example where a driver had around two dozen DUIs, but because they were handled in municipal court, they failed to trigger a driver's license suspension. According to Derby, Colbert personally lobbied against the bill, which failed to advance.

A series of decisions earlier this year clinch the case against the three justices on the ballot. A split Supreme Court voted 5-4 to issue a stay of execution for brutal murderers Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner over disclosure of the drugs to be used in their lethal injection executions, despite our state constitution giving final jurisdiction over such issues to the Court of Criminal Appeals. The three justices up for retention this year -- Colbert, Reif, Watt -- were in the narrow majority along with Kauger and Combs. Taylor, Edmondson, Winchester, and Gurich dissented. In each of six decisions in the case, Taylor chided his colleagues, describing the majority as "crossing the Rubicon" and putting the Supreme Court in a matter where it has no constitutional authority, and thereby producing a "quagmire."

Of the substance of the murderers' appeal, Taylor wrote:

It is my view that from the very beginning this so called "civil" litigation has been frivolous and a complete waste of time and resources of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma. The plaintiffs have no more right to the information they requested than if they were being executed in the electric chair, they would have no right to know whether OG&E or PSO were providing the electricity; if they were being hanged, they would have no right to know whether it be by cotton or nylon rope; or if they were being executed by firing squad, they would have no right to know whether it be by Winchester or Remington ammunition. I hope that this case ends any thought of future journeys down this path that has led this Court to this day. It is also my hope that this Court never again crosses the Rubicon.

If voters get rid of the three justices on the wrong side of this issue, perhaps we can get a few more justices like Steven Taylor. (Taylor is next up for retention in 2016. It should be noted, however, that Taylor was on the wrong side of the TABOR petition, voting to toss it out without a hearing.)

Oklahomans for Life has called for reform of the judicial selection process because our own courts have thwarted legislative and initiative efforts to pass pro-life legislation. Effectively, these judges have blocked Oklahomans from advancing a law that might provide the occasion for the Federal Courts to reconsider and possibly reverse Roe v. Wade.

When in doubt, vote them out. A Fallin appointment is likelier to be committed to judicial restraint than holdover appointees of Democratic governors Brad Henry and David Walters. The removal of an appellate judge by the voters would also send a message to other justices that voters are paying attention to their decisions.

A few hundred years ago, Voltaire commented on the execution of a British admiral, executed on the deck of his own ship for a failure to do his utmost. "Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres." ("In this country, it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time so to encourage the others.")

In Oklahoma, it is wise to fire an appellate judge from time to time so as to "encourage the others" to do justice and respect the will of the people they are sworn to serve.

Three questions will be on every ballot in Oklahoma next Tuesday. Two have to do with property taxes; one has to do with whether state officials may also serve in the National Guard and Reserves. None of these questions are controversial, but because they involve amendments to the State Constitution, they must be put to the voters for approval. The Oklahoma Secretary of State is the official keeper of information state questions; links below will take you to the Secretary of State's site.

This year's state questions are all legislative referenda. Initiative petitions relating to school storm shelters, marijuana, and fees for connection to the electric utility grid were filed, but petition signatures were filed only for SQ 768, the medical marijuana petition. 155,216 signatures were required (15% of the highest number of votes cast for any office in the previous Oklahoma general election, in 2010), but only 75,384 were submitted and certified.

State Rep. Jason Murphey says that this is the "easiest year to write about these questions because there are only three on the ballot, and they are not controversial." He supported all three proposals.

SQ 769 went through the legislature as Senate Joint Resolution 33, passing the House 82-5 and the Senate 44-0. If SQ 769 is approved, the underlined text will be added to Article II, Section 12 of the Oklahoma Constitution:

Section 12. No member of Congress from this State, or person holding any office of trust or profit under the laws of any other State, or of the United States, shall hold any office of trust or profit under the laws of this State; provided, neither the provisions of this section nor any other provision of this Constitution or state law shall be construed to prohibit the following officeholders from holding at the same time any other office of trust or profit:

1. Officers and enlisted members of the National Guard;

2. Officers and enlisted members of the National Guard Reserve;

3. Officers of the Officers Reserve Corps of the United States;

4. Enlisted members of the Organized Reserves of the United States; and

5. Officers and enlisted members of the Oklahoma State Guard and any other active militia or military force organized under state law.

The Legislature shall have the power to enact laws to further implement the provisions of this section.

The intent is to eliminate any question as to whether guard and reserve troops may also serve in public office in Oklahoma.

SQ 770 went through the legislature as HB2621, passing both houses unanimously. If SQ 770 is approved, a new paragraph will be added to Article X, Section 8E, which provides a full homestead exemption for service-disabled veterans and their surviving spouses:

C. If a homestead otherwise eligible for the exemption authorized by this section is transferred on or after January 1 of a calendar year, another homestead property acquired by the qualifying head of household or by the surviving spouse of such qualifying head of household shall be exempt to the same extent as the homestead property previously owned by such person or persons for the year during which the new homestead is acquired and, subject to the requirements of this section, for each year thereafter.

Rep. Murphey writes:

Oklahoma's Constitution currently allows disabled veterans to receive an exemption from most property taxes. State Question 770 allows disabled veterans to sell their home and transfer the exemption to their new home during the same calendar year with no drop off in the exemption.

SQ 771 went through the legislature in the same bill, HB2621. It adds Section 8F to Article X, providing the same sort of homestead exemption to the surviving spouses of troops killed in the line of duty:

Section 8F. A. Despite any provision to the contrary, and except as otherwise provided by subsection D of this section, beginning January 1, 2015, the surviving spouse of the head of household who is determined by the United States Department of Defense or any branch of the United States military to have died while in the line of duty shall be entitled to claim an exemption for the full amount of the fair cash value of the homestead until such surviving spouse remarries.

B. In order to be eligible for the exemption authorized by this section, the surviving spouse shall be required to prove residency within the State of Oklahoma and must have previously qualified for the homestead exemption authorized by law or be eligible for the homestead exemption pursuant to law.

C. If a homestead otherwise eligible for the exemption authorized by this section is transferred on or after January 1 of a calendar year, another homestead property acquired by the surviving spouse shall be exempt to the same extent as the homestead property previously owned by such person for the year during which the new homestead is acquired and, subject to the requirements of this section, for each year thereafter.

D. The provisions of this section shall be applicable for the 2014 calendar year with respect to an existing homestead property owned by the surviving spouse of a person previously determined to have died while in the line of duty by the United States Department of Defense or applicable branch of the United States military.

I will vote FOR all three state questions.

Judges are supposed to apply the laws passed by our elected representatives in the legislature. Applying the law faithfully requires faithfully interpreting the words of the law as they are commonly understood. A judicial candidate who uses words in accordance with her own idiosyncratic decisions in an obvious attempt to mislead should be blocked from the bench by voters at the ballot box.

District Judge Kurt Glassco faces a challenge in his bid for re-election to District 14, Office 14, from Jill Webb.

In her campaign materials, Webb described herself as "happily married to a minister." That invokes a certain image based on a common understanding of the meaning of words. The vast majority of Oklahomans stand with civilized societies around the world and throughout history in understanding that marriage, rooted as it is in the realities of human begetting and the best interests of those begotten, necessarily involves one man and one woman, united for a lifetime.

Jill Webb means something different by those words. The minister to whom Webb claims to be married is Tamara Lebak, associate minister of All Souls Unitarian Church. Oklahoma law and civilized tradition doesn't recognize that as a valid marriage, notwithstanding the Leftist Fascist effort to impose its destructive redefinition of marriage through the courts. Someone who redefines words and uses them deceptively cannot be trusted to handle justly the words of the Constitution and statutes of Oklahoma. Additionally, a candidate who supports redefining marriage and is "married" to a Unitarian minister can be presumed to stand with Leftist Fascism and in opposition to civilization in the great ideological struggle over American institutions.

Kurt Glassco, the incumbent, has a reputation as a solid, reliable jurist. Although he was a Democratic candidate for Congress many years ago, the conservative attorneys I know unanimously describe him as trustworthy and fair. Certainly Glassco's re-election would be better than the election of a candidate evidently at ease with verbal deception.

SX009198-John_Kane-Mock_Court-20140426.jpg

We'll start our review of judicial races with an easy one, albeit one that is just outside Tulsa County, although it covers portions of the cities of Tulsa, Skiatook, and Sand Springs.

Judicial District 10 consists of Osage County, and it has exactly one district judge. Like all 77 counties, Osage County also has its own associate district judge. (District Attorney District 10 includes both Osage and Pawnee Counties. Why Pawnee County was attached to Tulsa County for judicial purposes is a mystery.)

The incumbent is John Kane. An Osage County native and graduate of Pawhuska High School, Kane was appointed to the post in 2005. Kane drew no opposition for re-election in 2006 or 2010, but this year, he is opposed by Skiatook attorney Philip Best.

Judge Kane is well-regarded by his judicial peers, by local law enforcement, and the legal community. In 2013-2014, Kane was president of the Oklahoma Judicial Conference, the statewide association of judges. He is presiding judge-elect of the Northeastern Judicial Administrative District, again elected by his peers in the region. Kane also serves as the Trial Court Chairman of the Oklahoma Supreme Court's e-court subcommittee. Kane has been endorsed by the Osage County Bar Association, the police chiefs of Pawhuska, Fairfax, Barnsdall, Hominy, Wynona, and Skiatook, the sheriff of Osage County, the principal chief of the Osage Nation, and the current and former district attorneys for the county. During his nine-plus years on the bench, he has presided as a judge in over 9,000 cases.

Our family has known the Kane family for seven years through our homeschooling community. Judge Kane's wife, Cyndi Kane, launched a Classical Conversations community in Tulsa in 2007. The Classical Conversations approach to homeschooling seeks "to know God and to make Him known," and to support homeschooling parents "by cultivating the love of learning through a Christian worldview in fellowship with other families."

More recently, we watched Judge Kane in action, presiding over mock trials involving eighth-grade students from several CC communities. For several years, he has opened the Osage County courthouse to student mock trials, as a way to introduce young people to the law and give them an understanding and respect for the process. Judge Kane's good humor, fairness, and insight were on display throughout the process.

The challenger, Philip Best, has a problematic past readily visible through a search of online court cases. Here's how the Bigheart Times, based in Barnsdall, summarized Best's past, in an October 16, 2014, story (links added):

According to court documents, Best was arrested at his Skiatook home for misdemeanor domestic abuse in December 1999. The case was eventually dismissed at the victim's request after he completed anger management courses.

Additionally, in 2004, his now ex-wife, Lori Duncan, took out a protective order in Tulsa County on behalf of the couple's underage daughter.

When asked about his record, Best chalked it up to his health and his marriages at the time and emphasized his ability to remain fair and impartial on the bench if elected.

There are long gaps in the list of cases in which Best shows up as attorney of record.

The contrast is clear. John Kane, an accomplished judge with a solid personal life and grounded in a classical Christian worldview, would deserve re-election whoever his opponent might have been, but even more so given the spotty record of his opponent. I urge my Osage County friends to re-elect Judge Kane.

Tomorrow morning, Monday, October 27, 2014, at 8 a.m., I'll be on 1170 KFAQ discussing judicial races on the Pat Campbell Show. (UPDATE: Here is the podcast of my conversation about judicial races with Pat Campbell, Eddie Huff, and Tulsa Beacon publisher Charlie Biggs. Here is a direct link to the MP3 file.)

Judicial races are the trickiest part of the ballot. In Oklahoma, only district court races are contested, and all judicial elections are non-partisan. The Oklahoma Code of Judicial Conduct, set by the State Supreme Court, tightly controls what judicial candidates can say and how they can campaign. This code grants a private club, the Oklahoma Bar Association, an official role in policing judicial candidates. Attorneys, who have first-hand experience with the capabilities and character of judicial candidates, are wary of speaking out against a judge before whom they may one day have to stand. If you're lucky, you may get some off-the-record scoop from friends at the courthouse. All this adds up to confusion and frustration for the voter.

In 2004, the Oklahoma Family Policy Council put together a questionnaire for Supreme Court and appellate judges 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.

Worldview matters. We are in the midst of a culture war. Like all movements grounded in unreality, the leftist fascist movement seeks totalitarian control of institutions and the destruction of any institution it can't control. Never has it been more important to know whether the men and women who seek to be our judges are in accord with the founding principles of American jurisprudence and Western Civilization or are in sympathy with the destructive forces arrayed against civilization.

While I know many fair-minded and good-hearted liberals, fair-minded enough to rule against their own ideological interests if the law points that way, many on the left have been influenced by the ideas of critical legal theory, which boils everything down to power and the use of any means to the end of establishing left-wing dogma as the state religion.

We need to see the hearts of these candidates. Sometimes we have rulings and written opinions that tell us whether a judge is with civilization or against it. At times we may only have indirect indications of a judge's character and worldview.

In the blog entries that follow, and in my radio comments tomorrow, I'll do my best to set out my judgment of the judges and the basis for that judgment.

MORE: This is an update of an entry from 2006 about the judicial offices in Judicial District 14. The structure and offices are the same, but some of the names are different for 2014.

It took me a while to puzzle all this out, and I thought others might be interested as well.

Oklahoma has 26 District Courts. Tulsa County and Pawnee County constitute Judicial District No. 14. State law says that District 14 has 14 district judge offices. (Why are Tulsa County and Pawnee County coupled together? Why not Pawnee with, say, Osage, and Tulsa on its own, as Oklahoma County is?)

One judge must reside in and be nominated from Pawnee County, eight must reside in and be nominated from Tulsa County. If there are more than two candidates for any of those nine offices, there is a non-partisan nominating primary in the appropriate county, and the top two vote-getters are on the general election ballot. (Even if one gets more than 50% of the vote, the top two still advance.)

In the general election, all voters in Pawnee and Tulsa Counties vote on those nine seats.

The remaining five district judges are selected by electoral division in Tulsa County. In order to comply with the Voting Rights Act, Tulsa County is divided into five electoral divisions, one of which (Electoral Division 3) has a "minority-majority" population. (The minority-majority district is much smaller than the other four, as it must be in order to guarantee that the electorate is majority African-American.) For each of these five offices, if there are three or more candidates, there is a non-partisan nominating primary. If one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, he is elected; otherwise, the top two advance to the general election. For each of these five offices, the candidates must reside in the corresponding electoral division, and only voters in that electoral division will vote for that office in the primary and general election. (Oklahoma County, Judicial District No. 7, is the only other county with judges elected by division.)

Despite the three different paths one can take to be elected, a Judge in Judicial District No. 14 can be assigned to try any case within the two counties.

Each county in the state also elects an Associate District Judge, nominated and elected countywide. After two elections in a row in which the incumbent Tulsa County Associate District Judge was ousted, for the second time Dana Kuehn has been reelected without opposition. There is a two-man contest for Pawnee County Associate District Judge, Patrick Pickerell of Cleveland v. Ken Privett of Pawnee.

In addition to the elected judges, the District has a certain number of Special Judges, who are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the District Judges. There is no correspondence between being a district judge, associate district judge, or special judge and the docket you may be assigned to handle.

All this I was able to puzzle out from prior knowledge and browsing through the relevant sections of the Oklahoma Statutes. What I still couldn't quite figure out is which of the 14 offices corresponded with the five electoral divisions, and which one was nominated from Pawnee County. Although electoral division 4 votes for office 4, I was pretty sure the pattern did not apply to the other offices. After a few phone calls, someone from the Tulsa County Election Board found the relevant info in the League of Women Voters handbook. So here it is, for your reference and mine.

Office Incumbent Nominated by Primary 2014 Elected by General 2014
1 Kellough Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes
2 Harris1 Tulsa Co. ED 3 Yes Tulsa Co. ED 3 Yes
3 Caputo Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
4 Cantrell Tulsa Co. ED 4 Tulsa Co. ED 4
5 Sellers Pawnee Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
6 Chappelle Tulsa Co. ED 2   Tulsa Co. ED 2  
7 Gillert1 Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
8 Barcus Tulsa Co. ED 5   Tulsa Co. ED 5 Yes
9 Morrissey Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
10 Fitzgerald Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes
11 Nightingale Tulsa Co. ED 1   Tulsa Co. ED 1  
12 Fransein Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
13 Musseman Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
14 Glassco Tulsa Co. Yes Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes

Offices elected by Tulsa County Electoral Divisions in red.
Offices nominated by Pawnee County in blue.

1 Not seeking re-election.

Eight of the incumbent district judges were re-elected without opposition.

Two incumbents did not seek re-election. Former Tulsa Mayor and Tulsa County District Attorney Bill LaFortune was the sole candidate for the open seat (Office 7) being vacated by Tom Gillert. Retiring judge Jesse Harris left the other vacancy in Office 2, which drew four candidates; Sharon Holmes and Tanya N. Wilson survived the primary and will face the general election voters in their north Tulsa judicial election district.

The other four incumbents face challengers in the general election:

Office 1: William Kellough v. Caroline Wall
Office 8: Mark Barcus v. Doug Drummond
Office 10: Mary Fitzgerald v. Eric Quandt
Office 14: Kurt Glassco v. Jill Webb

The contested races will be decided by all voters in Tulsa and Pawnee counties, with the exception of Office 2 (decided by voters in Election District 3, mainly the north part of the City of Tulsa) and Office 8 (decided by voters in Election District 5, which covers Tulsa County west of the Arkansas River and north of 141st Street S, plus north of the river and west of downtown Tulsa, plus the east side of the river south of downtown and west of Lewis). The Tulsa County Election Board hosts a map of the Tulsa County judicial election districts. So everyone in Tulsa County will have three district judge races on the ballot, and about half the county will vote on a fourth race. Everyone in Pawnee County will vote on Offices 1, 10, and 14, plus their county's Associate District Judge race.

Judges on the Court of Civil Appeals, Court of Criminal Appeals, and Oklahoma Supreme Court face retention every six years after their initial retention vote at the general election after their appointment. If there are more votes against retention than for retention, the judge is removed from office and the governor appoints a replacement.

Polling_Place_Vote_Here.jpgHappy Election Day! Polls open across Oklahoma at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

Results should start rolling in soon after 7 p.m. The Oklahoma State Election Board website will update results as they are received from the county election boards. Although results are posted on each precinct door shortly after the polls close, a precinct's results have to be taken to the county election board to be read into the state election computer system. Be aware that the county election boards will not process and transmit the tallies from individual precincts to the State Election Board computers until all absentee ballots (both in-person and by mail) are counted and posted. This was the cause for a significant delay in November 2012. Some media outlets may employ runners to go to the precincts directly in order to post initial results before Election Board numbers are ready.

A few resources as you go to vote:

Here are my endorsements in GOP runoffs. You will notice that they are consistent with those of other conservative groups and diametrically opposed to the wheeler-dealer chambercrats and the Tulsa Whirled's still lamentably liberal editorial board.

U. S. House, 5th District: Steve Russell
Tulsa County District Attorney: Steve Kunzweiler
State House District 69: Chuck Strohm
State Senate District 40: Steve Kern

Also, the City of Broken Arrow has eight bond issues on the ballot. That's pretty sneaky, given the usual low turnout of a primary runoff election.

Republicans don't have any statewide runoffs, but Democrats have two. Freda Deskin and John Cox are the finalists to be the Democrat nominee for State Superintendent, and either State Sen. Connie Johnson and perennial candidate Jim Rogers will face Congressman James Lankford in November for the remaining two years of Sen. Tom Coburn's unexpired term.

Both parties have runoffs for the 5th Congressional District. Conservative groups across the state are backing State Sen. Steve Russell, a retired U. S. Army Lt. Col. who served in Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq, leading a unit that was involved in the pursuit and capture of Saddam Hussein. As a legislator, Russell has earned Freshman of the Year and Legislator of the Year awards from the Oklahoma Conservative PAC (OCPAC). Russell's opponent, Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas, is regarded as aligned with wheeler-dealer chambercrats. Douglas has come under fire for a mail piece that gives the false impression that she has been endorsed by incumbent Congressman James Lankford.

Tulsa County Republicans will pick our new District Attorney today. I'm joining conservatives across the county to support Steve Kunzweiler, the only highly experienced and constitutionally and professionally qualified candidate in the race. As head of the criminal division, Kunzweiler has 24 years of experience as a prosecutor, oversees a team of 35 prosecutors and thousands of criminal cases every year. Kunzweiler works closely with law enforcement and legislators to improve the justice system by reforming laws and procedures. Kunzweiler has the endorsement of most of the Fraternal Order of Police lodges in Tulsa County.

His opponent, Sydney Fred Jordan, Jr., appears to be a legislator close to his term limit and looking for his next gig. Jordan has no experience as a prosecutor or supervisor of prosecutors in Oklahoma's criminal justice system. As an assistant majority leader, Jordan failed to reign in state spending and failed to reprioritize spending to relieve the overburdened budgets of the state's 27 DA offices. Some of us are still puzzled by Fred Jordan's 2006 answer to questions about the legal status of workers on one of his company's job sites.

More recently, in this current session, Fred Jordan was an outspoken leader of the effort to kill a key pro-life bill, a bill that would have reigned in the role currently played in the appointment of judges and justices by the Oklahoma affiliate of a very liberal private organization. The pro-life community believes the Oklahoma Bar Association's involvement skews the bench to toward leftist judicial activists; Jordan is evidently OK with that situation.

Two significant runoffs for legislature:

Here in Tulsa County's House District 69, conservative small businessman Chuck Strohm faces Melissa Abdo. Chuck Strohm opposes Common Core and has been endorsed by all the members of the board of Restore Oklahoma Public Education, the grassroots group that led the effort to repeal Common Core. Strohm has also been endorsed by the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association and County Assessor Ken Yazel. Strohm

Abdo has been endorsed by a pro-Common Core organization. Abdo also has the support of the county courthouse RINO brigade, including County Clerk Pat Key. If you want to evaluate Key's ability to discern character and qualifications of public officials, remember that Pat Key appointed Nancy Rothman as her chief deputy and put her in charge of most aspects of the office's operations. Abdo is also endorsed by former Commissioner Fred Perry, who voted to put the River Tax and Vision2 corporate welfare tax on the ballot and supported their passage.

In Oklahoma County, in Senate District 40, pastor Steve Kern is the conservative pick to replace term-limited Cliff Branan. His opponent, Ervin Yen, contributed $1,250 to liberal Democrat Andrew Rice's 2008 campaign to unseat Sen. Jim Inhofe.

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If you run into any difficulty voting or spot any irregularity, contact your county election board. The phone number for the Tulsa County Election Board is 918-596-5780.

Take it away, Leon!

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys perform "Election Day" by Cindy Walker in the movie Wyoming Hurricane, starring Russell Hayden. Leon McAuliffe on vocals; Cotton Thompson, Bob Wills, and Jesse Ashlock on fiddle, Junior Barnard on guitar, Luke Wills on bass. And from the same movie, here's Cotton Thompson to deliver Cindy Walker's message for many of our candidates:

I hear you talkin', yes, I do,
But your talk-talk-talkin' don't ring true,
I'm listenin' politely, too,
But I don't b'lieve a word you say.

I hear you talkin', tellin' lies,
I can see it in those great big eyes.
I hear you talkin' wise,
But I don't b'lieve a word you say.

You say that I'm your honey-love,
That I'm all you're thinkin' of,
I hear you talkin', dove,
But you ain't been foolin' me.

Posted in the wee hours of Tuesday, August 26, 2010. Postdated to remain at the top of the blog through poll closing time.

MORE: Paul Blair explains why he will never support any candidate that chooses to partner with AH Strategies or Majority Designs. The AH stands for founding partners Karl Ahlgren and Fount Holland; Ahlgren now serves as chief of staff to Congressman Markwayne Mullin. For similar reasons to Blair's, I pulled my endorsement of Preston Doerflinger for Tulsa auditor although I later relented. While I won't absolutely rule out support for a candidate who affiliates with those firms, it's two strikes against a candidate. Fred Jordan, Patrice Douglas, and Melissa Abdo are all clients of these firms in the current cycle.

In a state as strongly pro-life as Oklahoma, legislation to protect the unborn and pregnant women normally sails through to passage. But sometimes that legislation is stymied by judges. Although appeals court judges and supreme court justices are subject to a periodic retention vote of the people, I can't recall the last time that a judge has been removed by the voters. (District Judges, where candidates can challenge a sitting judge, are sometimes replaced by the voters.) A bill aimed at reducing pro-abortion influence on judicial selection was defeated in this year's session, and one of the candidates for Tulsa County District Attorney led the effort to defeat the pro-life bill.

Here's a press release from Oklahomans for Life:

Tulsa Rep. Fred Jordan Major Opponent of
Crucial Measure Strongly SUPPORTED by
Oklahomans For Life

The most damaging legislative defeat for the pro-life cause this spring occurred when the Oklahoma House of Representatives killed a resolution, SJR 21, which was strongly supported by Oklahomans For Life. Rep. Fred Jordan of Tulsa was a leading opponent of this measure which we strongly supported.

SJR 21 would have diminished the influence of the Oklahoma Bar Association in the selection of judges for Oklahoma's highest courts. The background:

1) The American Bar Association has an official position in support of legal abortion on demand, paid for at taxpayer expense;

2) The Oklahoma Bar Association is a member of the American Bar Association;

3) The Oklahoma Bar Association exercises a heavy influence over who sits on Oklahoma's highest courts;

4) Oklahoma courts have repeatedly struck down pro-life laws, overturning even the most modest, reasonable legislative attempts to regulate abortion;

5) SJR 21 would have diminished the influence of the Oklahoma Bar Association over the selection of nominees for vacancies on Oklahoma's highest courts.

Pro-life laws enacted by the Oklahoma legislature have been consistent with the U.S. and Oklahoma Constitutions, and with U.S. Supreme Court precedents - nonetheless, Oklahoma judges selected for nomination to the bench through the influence of the Bar Association have repeatedly nullified these pro-life laws.

Our efforts to improve this situation by enacting SJR 21 were thwarted, in part, by Rep. Fred Jordan on the floor of the Oklahoma House. Fred Jordan placed himself at the center of the opposition to this much-needed legislation by assuming the role of chief debater against this critically important measure, giving the closing arguments in opposition to SJR 21, and thereby advocating the continuation of the system which has brought such harm to the unborn child.

While the Senate, the Governor, and the House Republican Leadership all supported the effort to establish a better system for filling judicial vacancies with fair-minded, unbiased judges, Rep. Fred Jordan actively engaged in the killing of this vitally essential measure on the House floor. The defeat of SJR 21 was the most damaging pro-life loss of the year.

Tony Lauinger, State Chairman

Rogers_County-Kirt_Thacker-dump.PNG

It seems that ousted Rogers County District 3 Commissioner Kirt Thacker is just gonna take his ball and go home. On Tuesday, Thacker lost the Republican primary to Ron Burrows in an election with higher than normal turnout. Burrows goes on to face a Democrat opponent in November.

A member of the Conversation Catoosa Facebook group reported that, on the day after the election, she went to the free dump that Thacker had established and found that it was closed.

Thacker's reply to the report and to comments on the report:

The majority of the voters apparently didn't like the job I've done. I see no reason to force something on the people that they don't want. Sore loser? On the contrary I am relieved and glad it's over....

I explained the reason for the closing and you are welcome to believe what you want. As far as responsibility goes, the trash program isn't a requirement of the job, that was an extra.

I hadn't followed Rogers County politics closely until a friend of ours (Treasurer-elect Jason Carini) filed for office. I listened to audio of the May 29, 2014, Catoosa candidate forum (courtesy Oklahoma Constitution reporter Theodore King), including the part of the forum devoted to the Rogers County Commission candidates. Thacker was asked if there were any plans to close the free dump. "I have no plans whatsoever to close it." He said that prior to establishing the dump, he would get a call about a large abandoned item, and he'd have to pull his crews off of their assignments to go pick it up. With the dump, those calls have decreased from three or four times per week to two calls per month. The dump is funded through grants from the Association of County Commissioners, with no local funding required.

20140529-RogersCountyForum-03-Commissioner-Dump.mp3

In his response to the same question, Burrows praised the dump and the reduction in roadside trash. He wants to expand the program by having jail trusties pick up roadside trash in the district.

If Thacker has a grant to operate the dump, doesn't he have an obligation to keep it open or else return the money?

UPDATE 1: Thacker answers the question on Facebook: "The fiscal year ends on June 30. The grant has ran it's course."

OK, but wouldn't he have already applied for a grant for the upcoming fiscal year?

UPDATE 2: On Facebook, Thacker answered that question: "Nope."

I asked, "But at the May 29 forum, you said that you had no plans whatsoever to close it. Most grants take some time to prepare, submit, and process. You hadn't started the grant application process at all?"

Thacker's reply:

Plans change. This grant is easy and fast to prepare thru the Association of County Commissioners. I am a "Lame Duck" so for the remainder of the term we will concentrate on road work. The required part of the job.

What an interesting night!

I had been at the watch party for Randy Brogdon, Ken Yazel, David Brumbaugh, and Chuck Strohm. The mood there was generally upbeat: Yazel had survived another establishment attempt to knock him off, winning re-election to another four-year term as County Assessor and Courthouse Gadfly with 64.8% of the vote. Brumbaugh won renomination to represent House District 76 with almost 75% of the vote. Strohm, running for the open House District 69 seat to replace Sydney Fred Jordan Jr, finished second but made the runoff.

Brogdon delivered an upbeat speech before the results began to come in and was as upbeat even after it was clear that no miracle was in the offing. He mentioned that he would be a grandfather for the first time later this year and urged the audience to continue to fight for liberty and for fiscal sanity for the sake of generations to come. He was, as always, a gracious gentleman. I've never seen him otherwise.

It was a pretty good night for the BatesLine ballot card.

Ken Yazel's re-election and sizeable margin was especially heartening.

My friend Jason Carini will be the new Rogers County Treasurer. He got into the race because no one else would run, and he wound up defeating a six-term incumbent. The incumbent DA and District 1 County Commissioner were both tossed out as well.

Republican DA Brian Kuester (Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Adair Counties) won re-election by a wide margin. (No Democrat filed in an area that was once part of solid-Democrat Little Dixie.)

In the Tulsa County DA race, Steve Kunzweiler finished first with 46.8% and received a majority of the votes that were cast for the two actively-campaigning candidates, but State Sen. Brian Crain, who dropped out, got 13%. Jordan could gracefully drop out at this point, as Cathy Keating did in the 2001 special Congressional primary, but if he doesn't, it looks like there will have to be a runoff with the question of Jordan's eligibility still looming. (Could the State Election Board revisit eligibility at this point, as they certify the result of this election? Or must the court intervene? Will the court enjoin the State Election Board from certifying Jordan as a candidate for the runoff?)

For the first time in many years, a statewide incumbent official finished last in the primary. State Superintenden Janet Barresi not only finished behind Joy Hofmeister, who won the GOP nomination without a runoff, but she was beat by Brian Kelly, an also-ran four years ago. Some say that the last time something like this happened was 40 years ago, when scandal-tarred Gov. David Hall finished third to David Boren and Clem McSpadden in the 1974 Democrat primary. With 22% of the vote, Barresi wasn't beat quite as badly as Tulsa County Commissioner Randi Miller in 2008, but it was close.

Congratulations to City Councilors Jack Henderson, Jeannie Cue, and Blake Ewing, all of whom won re-election without a runoff. Ewing's principal opponent, Dewey Bartlett Jr's 2013 campaign manager Dan Patten, who raised $15,000 before the deadline, won 15% of the vote, not do much better than political novice Elissa Kay Harvill, who raised so little she didn't have to file paperwork, but won 6%.

In District 7, Republican incumbent Arianna Moore finished second to Democrat Anna America in the non-partisan primary, but there will be a runoff. Jonathan Turley finished a close third. Moore and America will face off in November, when partisan fervor is likely to energize Republicans and demoralize Democrats, at least here in the Sooner State.

It was not a good night for national Tea Party organizations. Mark McDaniel lost narrowly to decrepit incumbent Thad Cochran in the Mississippi Republican runoff for U. S. Senate. An important political difference between Oklahoma and Mississippi is that Oklahoma has party registration while Mississippi doesn't. In Oklahoma, if you're a Democrat or Independent on April 1, you can't become a Republican until September 1. In Mississippi, you may have voted in every Democrat primary for decades, but as long as you didn't take a Democrat ballot in the primary, you can take a Republican ballot in the runoff. Oklahoma's system is more consistent with the idea of a political organization choosing its own standard-bearer.

I've got a lot to say about the Oklahoma Senate race and why the national Tea Party groups failed to get their choice elected, but I'm too tired tonight.

And now, your moment of zen:

After many enjoyable conversations at the Brogdon/Yazel watch party, I drove into town to a coffeehouse to write this report and get a bite to eat. As I sat down, Paul Tay, candidate for Tulsa City Council District 9, who had been outside, walked in and made a determined beeline for my table. Not far behind him was Mike Workman, local Democrat activist and Labor Commissioner nominee. They had been at the Constance Johnson Tulsa watch party.

Tay, resplendent in a cowboy hat with an NRA sticker on the front, explained to me that his November opponent, Councilor G. T. Bynum, was overqualified for the Council, and what Bynum needs to do is leave the City Council, make a hard-right ideological turn, and prepare to run to replace Jim Inhofe in the U. S. Senate in six years. Why? Because Bynum in the Senate is the only way we'll get a federal earmark to pay for new low-water dams in the Arkansas River. The taxpayers won't pay for it, George Kaiser won't pay for it, so that leaves Uncle Sam.

The idea displays some insight, although Oklahoma conservatives wouldn't be likely to approve a candidate who supports earmarks, and Bynum has already burned several bridges with local conservatives. Local government is more often than not the graveyard of political careers. (Inhofe is a rare exception, but he lost re-election to a fourth two-year term as mayor in 1984 before a successful run for an open seat in Congress in 1986.) After a few minutes, Workman thoughtfully pointed out to Tay that I was probably writing on deadline and the two left.

Polling_Place_Vote_Here.jpg

Results should start rolling in soon after 7 p.m. The Oklahoma State Election Board website will update results as they are received from the county election boards. Although results are posted on each precinct door shortly after the polls close, a precinct's results have to be taken to the county election board to be read into the state election computer system. Be aware that the county election boards will not process and transmit the tallies from individual precincts to the State Election Board computers until all absentee ballots (both in-person and by mail) are counted and posted. This was the cause for a significant delay in November 2012. Some media outlets may employ runners to go to the precincts directly in order to post initial results before Election Board numbers are ready.

A few resources as you go to vote:

Thumbnail image for IVoted.jpgHappy Election Day! Polls open across Oklahoma at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

If you run into any difficulty voting or spot any irregularity, contact your county election board. The phone number for the Tulsa County Election Board is 918-596-5780.

Take it away, Leon!

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys perform "Election Day" by Cindy Walker in the movie Wyoming Hurricane, starring Russell Hayden. Leon McAuliffe on vocals; Cotton Thompson, Bob Wills, and Jesse Ashlock on fiddle, Junior Barnard on guitar, Luke Wills on bass. And from the same movie, here's Cotton Thompson to deliver Cindy Walker's message for many of our candidates:

I hear you talkin', yes, I do,
But your talk-talk-talkin' don't ring true,
I'm listenin' politely, too,
But I don't b'lieve a word you say.

I hear you talkin', tellin' lies,
I can see it in those great big eyes.
I hear you talkin' wise,
But I don't b'lieve a word you say.

You say that I'm your honey-love,
That I'm all you're thinkin' of,
I hear you talkin', dove,
But you ain't been foolin' me.

Posted in the wee hours of Tuesday, June 26, 2010. Postdated to remain at the top of the blog through poll closing time.

MORE: For your amusement, the story of when Mary Fallin's first husband proposed to her -- at the Playboy Mansion.


BatesLine Oklahoma primary election 2014 printable ballot cardHere are the candidates I'm recommending and voting for (when I can) in the Oklahoma primary elections on June 24, 2014. (This entry will change as I decide to add more detail or discuss additional races between now and election day. The entry is post-dated to keep it at the top.)

For your convenience, here's a printable one-page "cheat sheet" version to take along to the polls and pass along to friends, but please read the detail and click the links below.

U. S. Senate (unexpired term): Randy Brogdon. He's running a low-key campaign, but he has a consistent record of a conservative approach to government as city councilor, mayor, and state senator. There's a runoff, so there's no need to cast a tactical vote for one of the two front-runners. Vote your conscience. Vote for someone we know we can trust to do the right thing.

U. S. Senate (full term): Jim Inhofe. He annoys the left, particularly with his refusal to kneel to climate deniers (i.e., the anthropogenic global warming cultists who deny the Medieval Warm Period and deny the current stability of global temperatures). Good enough for me.

Governor: Dax Ewbank. While Gov. Mary Fallin eventually did the right thing on Obamacare exchanges and Common Core, her dithering on these clear-cut issues makes me worry about her decision-making in a lame-duck term. Fallin failed to establish a good working relationship with her own party's legislative leadership, culminating in her veto snit-fit, in which she killed several good bills, including some she'd requested, to make some sort of point. Fallin never took a stand against the National Popular Vote compact, a left-wing dream that had been slipped through the Oklahoma Senate early in the session. (More about NPV here.)

I don't believe Fallin deserves another term, but I'm not sure the other candidates have the resources to defeat the lone Democrat candidate, Joe Dorman, in November. I will likely cast a protest vote for Dax Ewbank, an IT professional and former pastor who calls for abolishing the state income tax. UPDATE: I'm not even sure Fallin is strong enough to win in November. At the very least she needs a wake-up call, and a guy whose name sounds like a Star Trek character seems to be the person to deliver it.

State Superintendent: Joy Hofmeister. Janet Barresi has made enemies across the political spectrum. Conservatives don't like her support for Common Core. Liberal public school administrators don't want to be held accountable by her school grading system. Those same administrators have heavily funded Joy Hofmeister's campaign, and Hofmeister's emails to some of those administrators at their official school email accounts display considerable hostility to school choice programs, including the Lindsay Nicole Henry Scholarship program that allows children with special needs to receive the education they need. I will likely cast a protest vote for Brian Kelly, the third candidate in the Republican primary. UPDATE: Conservatives I trust, including the ladies who led the fight to kill Common Core in Oklahoma, have convinced me that Barresi is not a friend of conservative, locally-controlled reform of public education and that Hofmeister, thoughtful and principled enough to oppose Common Core despite the alienation of some of her early supporters, is trustworthy. That remains to be seen, but at the moment Hofmeister seems to be the only hope we have.

Insurance Commissioner: John Doak. The incumbent has done a fine job representing Oklahoma's ratepayers in their dealings with insurers.

Corporation Commissioner: Former Speaker Todd Hiett. A good rule of thumb is to vote for the Corporation Commission candidate with the smallest bankroll. As one of my friends put it -- Hiett is a square-dealer, Branan is a wheeler-dealer. Hiett was an honorable and honest Speaker of the House. Hiett has been endorsed by State Auditor Gary Jones, who has worked closely with both candidates over the years. Hiett opposes mandatory smart meters.

The other candidate, State Sen. Cliff Branan, is backed by bajillionaires who might have an interest in regulating certain energy sources out of existence. Branan is one of the doofuses who voted in favor of the National Popular Vote Compact, SB 906 and has never apologized, as far as I am aware. Branan has also been endorsed by Ed Apple, who wanted to replace Bob Anthony, a beacon of courage and integrity at the Corporation Commission, with a Democrat utility company lobbyist. While there are a few good people backing Branan, many more people I trust are endorsing Hiett.

Senate District 12: John Knecht. The incumbent, President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, voted for the National Popular Vote compact and allowed it to slide through the Senate before the public knew what was happening.

House District 31: Jason Murphey. An IT professional, Murphey has received national recognition for his efforts to modernize and streamline state government's use of computer technology and to make public information more readily available to the public online. He is a principled conservative who doesn't take any gifts from lobbyists.

House District 69: Chuck Strohm This is an open seat that will be decided in the GOP primary. Strohm is a software engineer, a member of the Jenks Planning Commission and school bond oversight committee, and is the grassroots conservative candidate in the race. Strohm authored the county GOP's precinct organization manual. His chief opponent has names on her reports that link her to the Chambercrat wing of the party.

House District 76: David Brumbaugh. Incumbent Rep. Brumbaugh has been a consistent conservative voice for Broken Arrow. He deserves particular praise for putting forward a bill to to require counties to include all funds in their annual budgets. Brumbaugh was one of eight legislators to receive a 100% on the Oklahoma Constitution's annual conservative index.

House District 98: Terri Cleveland. This is an open seat in Wagoner County that includes Broken Arrow and Coweta and will be decided in the GOP primary. I've known Terri through Republican Party politics for over a decade, working together on many campaigns and committees. After working as a campaign and organizational consultant, she went to work for the City of Broken Arrow, representing the concerns of this growing city at the state capitol. Her opponent, Michael Rogers, is heavily funded by special interest PACs, but he has the endorsement of outgoing incumbent John Trebilcock and the Oklahoma Conservative PAC.

Tulsa County District Attorney: Steve Kunzweiler. With 24 years of experience as a prosecutor, Steve Kunzweiler is the Chief of the Criminal Division in the DA's office, mentoring 35 assistant DAs and overseeing the prosecution of thousands of criminal cases every year, over 12,000 in 2013 alone. His opponent is a legislator in search of his next gig and doesn't appear to be eligible to serve.

Tulsa County Assessor: Ken Yazel. In the State Auditor's annual review, Yazel's team has the highest rating of any county assessor office in the state. The only stalwart ally for fiscal conservatives at the county courthouse, Yazel has pushed for full financial transparency, including all county funds in the annual budget (like Oklahoma County does), not just new general fund money. The county officials who back his opponent have resisted that idea, even lobbying against it at the State Capitol.

Tulsa County Commissioner District 1: Brian Pounds. Northern and eastern Tulsa County needs a change in this office. Pounds has county courthouse experience from his work in the assessor's office. The incumbent wasted taxpayer time and money by putting two ill-advised tax packages on the ballot, taxes that were ultimately shot down by the voters. Rather than taking the challenge to fund criminal justice needs without raising taxes, he voted to put a county sales tax hike on the ballot instead. The incumbent is said to have been a ringleader of the resistance to total county budget transparency.

Rogers County Treasurer: Jason Carini. Carini, a successful small-business owner and lifelong conservative Republican, is challenging an incompetent incumbent who hasn't issued tax warrants at any time during her 23 years in office.

District Attorney, Adair, Cherokee, Sequoyah, and Wagoner Counties: Brian Kuester. Kuester is finishing his first term as DA of this district that sprawls from the suburbs of Tulsa to the suburbs of Fort Smith and has achieved a 200% increase in the number of cases tried.

Tulsa City Council District 2: Jeannie Cue. Cue is a voice at City Hall for the neighborhoods of her district, particularly the oft-forgotten west side of the river.

Tulsa City Council District 4: Blake Ewing. Ewing has been a leader on the City Council. He is unafraid to ask the questions that need to be asked of the mayor and department heads. As we approach the adoption of a new zoning code, Tulsa's historic neighborhoods need Blake Ewing at the table. Ewing understands land use and planning issues as a homeowner, as a businessman invested in reviving District 4 neighborhoods, and as a student of what makes a city grow and prosper.

Ewing's chief rival, Dan Patten, was Dewey Bartlett Jr's campaign manager. When the mayor's campaign manager decides to run against the mayor's leading critic, the campaign manager has the burden of proof to show that he's not just running at the behest of his client. At a recent forum, Patten seemed not to have any understanding of the purpose or history of land-use planning.

Ewing's endorsement of Kathy Taylor was disappointing, but the alternative was Bartlett Jr, who had also endorsed Taylor for re-election on the strength of her first-term performance. When Bartlett Jr alienates one set of city councilors, manages to defeat nearly all of them at the polls, and then alienates the new set of city councilors who replaced them, it's apparent where the problem lies. Ewing also points out that it was Bartlett, not Taylor, that pushed for the Vision2 corporate welfare slush fund.

Elissa Harvill, a newcomer to Tulsa politics, displayed admirable enthusiasm and a strong foundation of principle during the TulsaNow forum. What's missing, at this early point in her time in Tulsa, is knowledge of the particulars of Tulsa history and governance. As she gets involved and learns her way around, I expect she'll make many positive contributions to our civic dialogue.

Tulsa City Council District 7: Arianna Moore. Republican incumbent Moore's leading challenger is liberal Democrat Anna America, Kathy Taylor's campaign manager.

District 14 District Judge, Office 14: Kurt Glassco. Despite his background as a Democratic candidate for Congress many years ago, Judge Glassco is well-regarded by conservative Republican attorneys as a fair and skillful arbiter. John Eagleton writes: "Judge Glassco has my respect. I have appeared in his court and observed him handling hundreds of cases. He is a great judge. He follows the law without injecting personalities into the outcome. We need more judges like him."

One of his opponents, Jill Webb, is the "partner" of Unitarian clergyperson Tamara Lebak. Question for the reader: If someone would twist the words of Scripture and disregard the consensus of all civilized societies in order to justify sexual perversion, is it reasonable to expect them to show due regard for our state's laws, constitution, and judicial precedent?

MORE: The ladies who led the fight to repeal Common Core in Oklahoma have posted their personal endorsements. All four like Dax Ewbank for Governor; three of the four support Brogdon for Senate (the fourth supports USAO Professor Kevin Crow); three of the four back Steve Russell in the 5th Congressional District (the fourth supports Harvey Sparks); and all four want Robert Hubbard to unseat incumbent Frank Lucas in the 3rd Congressional District.

The Oklahomans for Life 2014 primary candidate questionnaire is online. There are separate sets of questions for state and federal candidates, and you can read the full text of the questions to which the candidates are responding.

OCPAC head Charlie Meadows has posted his personal picks. He wants to see all three incumbent GOP congressmen who drew challengers -- Mullin, Lucas, and Cole -- replaced by their challengers.

Muskogee Politico Jamison Faught has posted his picks.

NOTE: Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel was on 1170 KFAQ with Pat Campbell and Eddie Huff at 7:35 a.m. Tuesday.

UPDATE 2014/06/25: In an 8-1 decision today (Winchester dissenting), the Oklahoma Supreme Court overturned the Court of Civil Appealsand remanded the property tax appeals to be considered on their merits. The Supreme Court affirmed that the Legislature has given County Assessors the authority to use their general counsel for appeals, rather than being shackled to counsel supplied by the District Attorney's office or the Oklahoma Tax Commission. For Yazel, who won re-election with 65% of the vote, this is icing on the cake.

Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel's challenger has made an issue of Yazel's 2012 decision against Montereau's application for a total exemption from ad valorem taxes. The fair market value of the upscale senior residential complex was estimated at $178,990,029. Yazel validated that 40% of the facility was legally qualified for tax exemption as a state-licensed continuum of care facility, based on the proportion of the facility devoted to those 154 licensed beds, but the remainder -- independent living apartments and cottage homes that require an entrance fee ranging from $198,000 to $1.2 million just to get in the door, plus a monthly fee in the thousands -- was taxable under state law, with a tax bill of over $1.5 million.

Montereau protested Yazel's decision, won in district court, and Yazel, as authorized by state law, appealed to the Court of Civil Appeals (COCA).

Yazel's opponent has described Yazel's pursuit of the appeal a "waste of resources." The simple version of his argument as I understand it, is that, because state law specifically grants an exemption for state-licensed continuum of care facilities, the entire property should be exempted from ad valorem taxes. The counterargument is that taxable property shouldn't be exempt because it sits on the same parcel as property that is exempt.

While Montereau and the William K. Warren Medical Research Center (WKWMRC, which owns the land and leases it to Montereau) are both 501(c)(3) non-profits, not every activity of a non-profit is exempt from all taxes under Oklahoma law. Article X, Section 6 of the Oklahoma Constitution exempts "property used exclusively for religious and religious purposes" as well as government-owned property, free museums, and several other specifically enumerated exemptions. State statutes grant other exemptions. As far as I can tell, none of the constitutional or statutory exemptions cover market-rate housing. However much he might want to, the County Assessor can't grant an exemption that isn't authorized by law.

(Yazel's opponent, John Feary, has received a significant amount of his reported campaign funds -- $10,150 out of $36,311 by my count -- from Warren family members, Warren Foundation and Montereau board members, a Montereau executive, and (judging by the addresses) a couple of Montereau residents. Montereau and WKWMRC were created by the William K. Warren Foundation.)

Tulsa County taxpayers have a great deal at stake. If Montereau is right, property owners will have a strong incentive to take otherwise taxable uses off the tax rolls by lumping them in with a relatively minuscule tax-exempt use. That means the burden of paying for property-tax-funded government (schools, libraries, county operations, city and school bond issues, etc.) will fall more heavily on the rest of us.

This is particularly true for the sinking funds that pay back the general obligation bond issues that fund projects like streets and school improvements. The millage rate for sinking funds is calculated by dividing the debt service requirements for the year by the assessed value of property in the jurisdiction. It's basic fractions: If the denominator goes down (by removing property from the tax rolls) while the numerator stays the same, the millage rate goes up on the property still on the tax rolls. This means a tax increase even for seniors who have a valuation freeze. If Montereau gets its exemption, seniors who can afford expensive Montereau accommodations will benefit at the expense of seniors living in their own modest homes and younger property owners decades from retirement.

By fighting this battle, Ken Yazel is fighting to keep our tax rates from going up. With all due appreciation for the Warren Foundation and the institutions spawned by it and affirming their right to pursue their legal remedies vigorously, Oklahoma property taxpayers had better hope that Yazel prevails in this case.

At this point, however, Yazel is blocked from pursuing this fight by COCA's bizarre theory that he can't appeal without using an attorney from the District Attorney's office. Yazel filed his appeal using the general counsel that he is authorized to hire under 19 O.S. 527. The law was passed in 2005, recognizing that certain county offices needed legal expertise in technical areas to carry out their duties, and that such expertise may not reside in the DA's office.

COCA has taken a statute that requires the DA's office to assist the assessor in pursuing an appeal and turned it into an effective veto over the assessor's judgment. Yazel has appealed COCA's ruling to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which has granted certiorari. (Yazel's petition has a copy of COCA's ruling attached.) In an amicus curiae brief in support of Yazel's position, attorneys for the County Assessors Association of Oklahoma and County Officers and Deputies Association of Oklahoma write:

In effect the COCA's decision would allow the district attorney or the Oklahoma Tax Commission to determine the issues of ad valorem tax law to the exclusion of the judicial branch of government. COCA's decision would eviscerate the power invested in the judicial branch to say what the law is, while closing the courthouse doors and leaving no effective remedy for an assessor to fulfill his or responsibilities absent district attorney approval.

The brief goes on to show that COCA's ruling contradicts numerous precedents.

In its published decision, the COCA effectively held that the failure, unwillingness or inability of a district attorney to fulfill its duty to represent an assessor under § 2880.1(D) somehow extinguishes an assessor's right to appeal under § 2880.1(A), thereby preventing the assessor from fulfilling his or her duties in connection with the assessment and collection of ad valorem tax. There simply is not, nor has there ever been, any language in what is now § 2880.1 suggesting that an assessor's right to appeal is conditioned upon the district attorney's review of a tax case and that district attorney's willingness to appear in such appeals on the assessor's behalf. The COCA's decision is plainly contrary to the decisions of this Court holding that courts are "not free to rewrite the statute" and must "vigorously resist reading words or elements into a statute that do not appear on its face.

In footnotes to the above paragraph, the brief lists "four occasions [in which] this Court has decided appeals under § 2880.1 or its predecessor statutes where no district attorney had entered an appearance." The amicus brief also quotes the court's ruling in a "situation strikingly similar to that in this case" (1980 OK 96, 614 P.2d 45, 06/17/1980, State ex rel. Howard v. Oklahoma Corp. Commission):

The foregoing language of Article IX s 20 does not bar Commission's attorneys from appearing for it. It clearly is implicit from the language of 74 O.S.1971 s 18c that the ... Commission may appoint its own in-house counsel.

Likewise, the right to be represented by counsel ordinarily should include the right to make a choice, if timely exercised, of attorneys whose views are consonant with one's own or who at least will present the client's interests....

If then, the Commission may be brought into court . . . , Sections 6 and 7 of Article 2 of our State Constitution, . . . under any concept of affording it any semblance of even-handed justice, must require that it be represented if it so desires, by counsel who can and will ably and conscientiously express its views to the tribunal. . .. Commission may properly be represented in this case by its own in-house counsel (employee-attorneys).

The right to counsel undergirds all our other rights. If someone can force an attorney on me who may work to thwart my aims, I really don't have legal counsel at all. If an elected official is forced to rely on counsel at odds with him, it ultimately thwarts the will of the voters who elected that official.

To me, COCA's ruling looks like the latest example of an attempt to control an elected official's performance of his duties by denying him legal counsel to support the actions he believes he needs to take. This entry is long enough already without delving into the efforts by the Cockroach Caucus to prevent the Tulsa City Council from hiring its own attorney, forcing the Council to rely on the Mayor-appointed City Attorney, even when the Mayor's aims and the Council's aims are at odds.

A candidate runs on a platform and once elected, if he has integrity, he implements that platform. Sometimes he will need legal advice to know how to proceed or to deal with legal challenges from opponents to his policies. This is especially important when the official is a reformer, sent by the voters to change the way government operates; he will encounter resistance from those whose interests are aligned with the status quo.

Just as a besieged army uses trenches, mines, and razor wire as multiple lines of defense against an attacking force, so the defenders of the political status quo have multiple ways to block reform. The first layer is to use campaign money to persuade voters to keep the reformer out of office. If a reformer manages to win an election, they can attempt to co-opt him. If that fails, they can launch a PR campaign attacking the reformer as a petty bickerer or worse. They can attempt to entice and entrap him in wrongdoing. They can exert pressure via friends and family. They can sue him and then deny him access to counsel.

Voters need to realize that the forces denying legal counsel to the elected official are not merely thwarting the elected official but the voters who put him in office.

The precedent set by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, quoted above, is crystal clear. If the Supreme Court is consistent, Yazel will be allowed to pursue his appeal and the original issue -- does a tax exemption rub off on the taxable uses attached to the exempt use? -- will be considered and resolved. If voters are wise today, we'll still have Ken Yazel as Tulsa County Assessor to pursue this fight on behalf of taxpayers and his fellow county officials all across Oklahoma.

MORE: A few more notes regarding the discussion on Monday's Pat Campbell show:

I've looked at all the Budget Board minutes available online, going back to July 2011. Most Budget Board meetings appear to be routine and brief, with votes to approve retroactively a long list of appropriations that have already been made. Ken Yazel has personally attended all Budget Board meetings at which the budget for the upcoming fiscal year's budget was discussed or significant adjustments to the budget were discussed. Like every other Budget Board member has done, Yazel sends his chief deputy to attend when he is unable to be present. Only twice in the last three years, at routine meetings, has no one been present to represent the assessor's office.

According to Yazel, the Tulsa County Assessor's Office headcount is ten below the number recommended for a jurisdiction the size of Tulsa County. While Oklahoma County has more parcels, it has, as the capital city, a much larger number of tax-exempt government-owned parcels, which are not assessed at all. Large swaths of northern and eastern Oklahoma County consist of undeveloped property; bare land requires less effort to assess than real estate with improvements.

Regarding the Vision 2025 surplus funds: The projected grand total revenues, as of September 2013, totaled $730.5 million. That's about $195 million more than the $535 million in projects approved in 2003. This accounting of remaining Vision 2025 obligations, cash on hand, and projected revenue from December 31, 2013, shows a projected surplus of $35.7 million. If you add back in the $45.5 million that was "promised" to the suburbs in exchange for the extra $45.5 million for the BOK Center (a promise whose existence was denied during the 2007 River Tax debate), that's $81.2 million, plenty to have handled our criminal justice needs without a tax hike.

A couple of weeks ago, I discussed Tulsa County's lack of budget transparency -- not illegal, but not in the taxpayers' best interest, and not as good as Oklahoma County. In my endorsement of Yazel, I discussed the different colors of money and how millages and budgets could be adjusted to meet county needs without raising taxes, if the County Commissioners had the political will to do so.

Dear James Lankford, your scaremongering about a runoff to raise money is shameful. Unless the nominee is caught in a Minneapolis airport restroom with a wide stance, there is no way the GOP will lose Tom Coburn's seat. Your November opponent will either be a very liberal pro-abortion state senator who proposed frivolous amendments to a pro-life bill, the perennial candidate who ran against Coburn in 2010 and got only 26% of the vote, or the perennial candidate who listed his occupation as "plasma donor" when he filed for State Senate in 2004. If any of those three potential opponents worries you, you either don't have the guts to represent us in Washington, or you have plans for a Minneapolis restroom rendezvous.

Three of the seven candidates in this race have experience in elective office -- a member of the U. S. House, a former mayor and leader in the State Senate who has run a statewide campaign, and a former Speaker of the State House. It's normal for a primary with three credible candidates to go to a runoff.

P. S. Tom Coburn has not endorsed you to succeed him, although you are trying very hard to give voters that impression. Coburn expressed dismay about the bad things independent groups are saying about you, and Coburn expressed dismay about the bad things your independent-expenditure pals are saying about one of your six opponents.


Dear judicial candidate Jill Webb: A quote from Mary Fallin and a reference to the Constitution on a postcard is not going to fool conservative Tulsa County voters into voting for the female "partner" of a female Unitarian minister, endorsed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, to be a District Judge. Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid have all sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution, but their actions show that they redefine the meaning of that commitment in a way that would be unrecognizable to the Framers of the Constitution. Your Clintonesque account of your personal life ("happily married to a minister") seems plainly intended to create a false impression, and it suggests that you have a rather flexible relationship with "telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."


If you want my vote for Tulsa City Council, one of the worst things you can do is tell me that former Mayor Susan Savage wants you to win. Savage was one of the worst mayors we've had when it comes to neighborhood empowerment and sensible zoning. Yes, she encouraged the registering of neighborhood associations, but she and her team worked against neighborhoods trying to build effective influence at City Hall over zoning issues that affected their property value and quality of life. Ask residents of Maple Ridge Central about how the Savage administration thwarted their efforts to protect their historic neighborhood. Her 1997 "Tulsa Project" plan would have sacrificed the area we now call the East End or Hodge's Bend to become a parking lot of a soccer stadium. That proposed tax increase failed, as did her tax hike proposal in 2000. While she brought speakers to Tulsa to talk about urban design, she didn't expend the political capital to move any ideas forward, not if it risked alienating her Chambercrat and developer backers. Ultimately, it took the neighborhood-friendly Gang of Five City Councilors to fund a new comprehensive plan. The most Savage would do was to fund three pilot small-area plans; fifteen years later we're still fighting resistance to implementing the recommendations of those plans.


Another thing you can do to make me regret my endorsement is to send a letter that refers to the "constant petty bickering" of the 2009-2011 City Council. The reality is that the nine councilors got along very well with one another and worked together across partisan lines. The problem, from Dewey Jr's point of view, is that they were united in their distress with Dewey Jr's actions and his refusal to build a cooperative working relationship. So Dewey Jr and his Chamber and developer buddies promoted the "petty bickering" meme and redrew the district lines to separate these councilors from the citizens who knew and appreciated them. The same people who wanted them gone want you gone, too, and for the same reasons.

There is a repeating pattern: A new reformer comes to the Council and arrogantly thinks, "The reason my bozo predecessors got tossed is they refused to be intelligent and polite in their approach. I'm going to be intelligent and polite and everyone will love me and accept my ideas." Guess what? Your "bozo" predecessors thought the same thing about their predecessors. No, the problem is that their ideas and your ideas are threatening to certain special interests, and they will paint you as a troublemaker and a petty bickerer so that low-information voters can't wait to toss you out of office.

To repeat what I wrote five years ago:

Lakin's critique of some current councilors reminds me of what I've heard from other councilors in the past about their predecessors. The gist of it: "If they'd just be nicer, people would pay more attention to the substance of what they're saying." Many of the councilors who have said that in the past have later learned the hard way that as soon as you challenge the power or the budget of some entrenched interest, everyone will think you aren't nice, no matter how nicely you make your case. The newspaper will run pictures that make you look angry. The mayor will accuse you of bickering. And then some council candidate will come along and tell you that if you'd just be nicer, people would pay more attention to the substance of what you're saying.

Have some respect for the councilors who blazed this trail before you. Because of their willingness to take risks and endure ridicule and defamation, the Overton Window is open a little wider for you.


And finally: If your bulk-mail house doesn't know how to remove duplicates from your address list, you need to get a better bulk-mail house, one who won't waste your mailing and printing budget.

common core with flowers.jpgNational Review has a wonderful history of the effort to pull Oklahoma out of the Common Core curriculum and the four women who spearheaded it.

[Jenni] White has spent the past four years telling Parent Teacher Organizations and anyone else who would listen that Oklahoma should not implement Common Core, the education standards that most of the country adopted in 2010.

She hasn't been working alone. "Our organization is made up of a board that just consists of four of us moms basically," White says, referring to her cohorts Julia Seay, Lynn Habluetzel, and Joy Collins. "We have bankrolled the whole thing out of our poor husbands' bank accounts."

Ask anyone in Oklahoma politics who they think led the successful fight to repeal Common Core -- Governor Mary Fallin signed the repeal into law on June 5 -- and they'll tell you that the story starts with this foursome. White served as the writer and spokeswoman for the group, which operates under the auspices of their LLC, Restore Oklahoma's Public Education (ROPE). Together, the women have spent the past four years talking to Republican-party leaders, attending conservative conferences, and lobbying state legislators. Most of all, though, they cultivated a grassroots political movement against Common Core that overcame a bipartisan coalition ranging from the Department of Education to the Chamber of Commerce. By May 2014, a poll conducted on behalf of a Republican candidate showed that 57 percent of likely primary voters held an unfavorable view of the standards while only 9 percent had a favorable view.

In short, the four moms fought the proverbial city hall and won. "Look at Eric Cantor, seriously," White suggested. "Some guy who had $300,000 beat him. You don't think that kind of thing is possible when people have had enough?"

To explain how states became willing to surrender control over their own curriculum, State Sen. Josh Brecheen drew an unusual analogy:

A rancher by trade, he compared the states that scrambled for federal funding to the feral hogs he has to bait and trap. "You get them dependent on a free handout long enough, and you can get them in that live trap," Brecheen told NRO. "What's happened to states is the same thing as what you would see in that scenario. We've been baited, and we've surrendered our freedom because of a free handout. And I think Oklahomans became aware of that, and that's why we've had success this session."

The article points out that Common Core wasn't just a danger to local control of public schools, but to private schools and homeschoolers as well:

They met with county Republican groups and tea-party organizations but found especially willing supporters among homeschoolers in the state. That might seem unusual, since homeschooled kids don't attend the public schools that would be governed by Common Core, but their involvement points to one result of combining model national standards with model national tests: The companies that write curricula modify their products to comply with Common Core.

"The options for homeschoolers have been greatly reduced," Brecheen says. "Ultimately, Common Core is a national market for services in education. It's a national marketplace. . . . When 45 states do one thing, then you no longer have experimentation with anything else."

Other interesting points in the story:

  • How massive parental opposition to the Reading Sufficiency Act spilled over into Common Core opposition.
  • How the initiative of these Oklahoma moms led to a Republican National Committee resolution against Common Core, through the work of Oklahoma RNC member Carolyn McLarty, and how that helped the lobbying effort at the State Capitol.
  • Speaker T. W. Shannon's role: Was his refusal to advance an anti-Common Core bill in 2013 tactical brilliance -- keeping a bill from getting killed before the support was strong enough to pass it -- or craven cowardice? (MORE: Here's Jenni White's account of Shannon's role and Shannon's reaction.)
  • Gov. Mary Fallin's refusal to meet with Common Core opponents and her superficial gesture.
  • How ROPE mobilized to ensure state senators heard their protests.
  • The legislative maneuvers required to get around roadblocks in the State Senate.

MORE:

Jenni White responds to U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's fulminations against Oklahoma's rejection of Common Core.

It's interesting how quickly the anti-Common Core forces, once vilified as "conspiracy theorists", "fearmongers" and "liars" have become vindicated since -- and by Duncan's own hand no less. Duncan's latest temper tantrum can't help but make it readily apparent to even the passing skeptic that there must be something to the legions of arguments connecting Common Core and federal overreach into public education....

Oklahoma -- and the other 49 states -- got along for hundreds of years without education via national standards offered as carrots for federal programming dollars. In fact, it wasn't until 1970 -- after the first real federal intervention into local public education (President Johnson's Elementary and Secondary Education Act) -- that America saw the beginning of the tremendous decline in public education we fight today.

In a personal blog post, Jenni White talks about State Superintendent candidate Joy Hofmeister and contrasts Hofmeister's response to ROPE's efforts against Common Core to that of incumbent Superintendent Janet Barresi:

No, Joy did not come out whaling away against Common Core when she began her campaign for superintendent. This frustrated many of our ROPE friends. I understand their perspective, but it's important to remember what perspective is and that there are frequently multiple views of the same issue. As I talked to Joy about Common Core, it became very clear she was not going to move the way a group wanted, she was going to continue researching until she could make the decision on her own. The implied hypocrisy in the statement "She was for it before she was against it" is completely ridiculous. I was an atheist at one point in my life. Now I am a follower of Jesus Christ. So, I can't grow into a relationship with the Lord? This argument is sound for anyone who considers themselves to be an educable individual on any issue at any level.

Our current superintendent has shown she is not educable. She knows what's right and by Hell or high water, she's going to do that/those thing/s.

That is not Joy. Joy will study, deliberate, debate and discuss before she comes to a conclusion. In my experience she's not going to be led around by the nose, or decide she has the only solution, she's going to work to find her true north and move in that direction.

And finally, Jenni White's perspective on State Superintendent Janet Barresi. White worked with her at the charter school Barresi founded, volunteered for the 2010 Barresi campaign, then ran into a brick wall trying to get a hearing from Barresi on Common Core. She explains why ROPE is calling for Barresi's defeat and why Barresi doesn't deserve conservative support.

Here is a playlist of videos from TulsaNow's June 4, 2014, Tulsa City Council District 4 candidate forum. Incumbent Blake Ewing and challengers Danny Patten and Elissa Kay Harvill participated in the forum.

Former Tulsa County Republican Party Chairman J. B. Alexander has announced his endorsement of Brian Pounds, Republican candidate for Tulsa County Commissioner District 1. Pounds is challenging two-term incumbent John Smaligo. The district covers northern and eastern Tulsa County, including Owasso, Skiatook, Sperry, Collinsville, north and east Tulsa.

In his endorsement, Alexander points out that Brian Pounds has been endorsed by the Tulsa County Deputy Sheriff FOP and the Owasso FOP. Alexander reviews Smaligo's record and explains why Smaligo needs replacing and why Pounds should be the one to take his place. I agree.

The state of Oklahoma has the lowest taxes of any of the surrounding states. Yet Tulsa County has the second highest taxes of any county in the surrounding states. That's just not right.

Over the past 7 years John Smaligo has a proven track record of wanting to keep our taxes high. In 2012 he led the county commissioner's support of the failed Vision 2 tax increase.

If you will remember Vision 2 was a thirteen year, $748 million tax package (the amount was based on a zero percent growth. Using the past ten year growth rate the amount would have been close to $1 billion).

This tax package included borrowing money FOUR years before the revenues would be coming in. Since we would have been borrowing the money yearly payments would be required. So this package also included borrowing the yearly payments for those four years until the revenues started coming in. That's like charging something on your credit card knowing you couldn't make the monthly payments until next year so you take out a loan to make the monthly payments...paying interest on all of this. Sounds like Washington, DC, tactics.

John Smaligo also is claiming credit for getting 1,000 new jobs with the Macy's warehouse development west of Owasso. What he is not telling you are most of those jobs are part-time, no benefit positions. And taxpayers are paying Macy's to move here at the upfront cost of $2 million.

If Tulsa County is going to work to attract new businesses who are looking for lower taxes we need someone who is not a career politician and understands working class folks.

Brian Pounds is just that person. Brian has worked in the Tulsa County Assessor's office for the past thirteen years and is a reserve deputy for the Tulsa County Sheriff's office. He is married to Judy Pounds who is an 18 year veteran of the Tulsa County Sheriff's office. Brian and Judy live in Owasso and have two daughters, Tabitha Wood and Ashley Pounds. Tabitha is a five year veteran of the Tulsa County Sheriff's office and a Senior Airman with the 138th Fighter Wing of the Oklahoma Air National Guard. Brian is also a veteran of the US Army.

Brian has received the endorsements of the Tulsa County Deputy Sheriffs Fraternal Order of Police and the Owasso Fraternal Order of Police.

Brian is a person who has spent his life serving those in need and will continue that dedication once elected as a Tulsa County Commissioner. He believes that tax dollars should be spent on Public Safety and Infrastructure needs first and would work hard to lower our high tax rate.

If we are going to get Tulsa County recognized as a low tax county that will attract small and large businesses then we need Brian Pounds as our District 1 county commissioner.

Next Tuesday vote for Brian Pounds for County Commissioner.

cathy_pinkerton_baker-delinquent_taxes.jpgI don't often comment on other jurisdictions, but this is a race worthy of note, and the best candidate is someone I've known personally for many years, someone I can endorse with unqualified enthusiasm. I urge my Rogers County readers to vote for Jason Carini as County Treasurer on June 24, 2014. The race will be settled in the Republican primary.

The Carini family has been a part of our church family for many years, and we've seen firsthand the deep roots of Jason Carini's conservative principles, Christian faith, and interest in public policy. Jason has a degree in public policy from Patrick Henry College and played a key role in Tom Coburn's first race for U. S. Senate in 2004. Jason and I have had many after-church chats about politics and government -- not just the latest developments, but also about the bigger picture and the long run.

But Jason Carini also knows there's more to life than politics. About five years ago he established a small business, Green Country Mowing and Landscaping. He and his wife Jessica own a home in Catoosa, where Jason grew up, and they have a two-year-old daughter and a newborn son.

Carini has grown his business to six employees, debt-free and with a high customer retention rate. Carini understands that diligent and courteous service are what bring customers back and keep them from leaving for a competitor. You have to pay attention to detail, and you have to follow through on your commitments. That understanding is often absent from government offices, where the "customer" has nowhere else to go. Rogers County residents need Carini's service-oriented attitude, honed in the private sector, in the County Treasurer's office.

Jason Carini would have been happy to stay in the private sector, but when an incompetent incumbent failed to draw a challenger, Carini answered the call.

At a May 29, 2014, candidate forum, incumbent Rogers County Treasurer Cathy Pinkerton-Baker admitted that, in her 23 years in office, she has never issued warrants to collect delinquent taxes. I'm no fan of high taxes, but the county treasurer's job isn't to decide whether a tax is appropriate or at the right level. The treasurer's job is to collect taxes owed and to take certain legally required steps if taxes are not paid in a timely manner. It hurts law-abiding taxpayers if other taxpayers face no penalties for failure to pay.

A county treasurer also has an obligation to maintain diligent control over funds and data. The State Auditor's annual reports and county audits have called out Pinkerton-Baker for failing to ensure that every financial transaction has proper oversight, for failing to plan for data recovery after a disaster, and for failing to enforce sound data security procedures, and for making personal use of county property.

In her response to deficiencies identified in the just-released audit covering Fiscal Year 2012-2013, Pinkerton-Baker claims that she is addressing each issue, but there's no way to know for sure until the next audit is released next year.

Rogers County is one of Oklahoma's fastest growing counties. Since incumbent Rogers County Treasurer Cathy Pinkerton-Baker was first elected in 1990, the population has grown from 55,170 to an estimated 89,044 last year, from 10th place to 6th place. The population will likely pass 100,000 in this decade. Once mainly populated by residents of small towns and acreages, the county has sprouted suburban subdivisions filled with Tulsa commuters. Citizens have a rightful expectation that government officials will be professional. The sloppy, good-ol'-boy approach to government is no longer acceptable (not that it ever was).

As Rogers County has grown, its voter profile has changed as well. When incumbent Treasurer Cathy Pinkerton-Baker was first elected in 1990, Republicans were a tiny minority. As of January 2014, 51.6% of Rogers County voters are registered Republican. Apparently responding to the shift in the political winds, Pinkerton-Baker, daughter of a former Democratic Wagoner County Commissioner, switched parties from Democrat to Republican about a year ago. (Even liberal newspaper editor John Wylie has switched his registration, so he can have a vote in county races. Unsurprisingly, the recently Democratic editor has endorsed the recently Democratic treasurer for re-election.)

Rogers County has a choice between a principled conservative and a convenient convert, between a small businessman who will diligently follow the law and a career bureaucrat who has carelessly ignored the law for decades. Jason Carini is the right choice for Rogers County Treasurer.

MORE:

Courtesy Oklahoma Constitution reporter Theodore King, here are audio clips of the Rogers County Treasurer candidates at the May 29, 2014, candidate forum. (He did not have audio of the opening statements, but all other answers and statements by the treasurer candidates are linked below.)

"When did you become a Republican?" Pinkerton-Baker said she became a Republican only a year ago. Carini registered Republican when he turned 18.

"What experience outside of your current role will help you fulfill your role as County Treasurer?" Pinkerton-Baker mentioned service on legislative committees and involvement in the Round-Up Club. Carini discussed his five years of experience serving customers as a small-business owner. Carini also pointed out that prior to her 23 years as County Treasurer, Pinkerton-Baker worked in government for an additional 13 years.

"What are your plans for addressing the State Auditor's findings concerning internal controls and segregation of duties?" Carini noted that this is not a one-time finding, but it has been repeated year after year. Rogers County has the size to assign sufficient personnel to properly segregate duties. Pinkerton-Baker excused her county because 74 other counties don't comply.

"What can the treasurer's office do to help increase county funding sources?" Pinkerton-Baker acknowledged that she had not issued tax warrants during her 23 years in office. Carini pointed out that, in previous last seven years alone, uncollected taxes totaled roughly $1.5 million.

Closing statements from Carini and Pinkerton-Baker.

MORE:

State Auditor reports for Fiscal Years 2010 through 2013:

2010 State Auditor's Report on Rogers County Treasurer's Office
2011 State Auditor's Report on Rogers County Treasurer's Office
2012 State Auditor's Report on Rogers County Treasurer's Office
2013 State Auditor's Report on Rogers County Treasurer's Office
FY 2010 Audit of Rogers County
FY 2011 Audit of Rogers County
FY 2012 Audit of Rogers County
FY 2013 Audit of Rogers County

Terry Simonson pushes through Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr's office doorTerry Simonson was on 1170 KFAQ with Pat Campbell this morning, arguing the case for State Rep. Fred Jordan's eligibility to be elected District Attorney. Simonson's LinkedIn profile indicates that he is the Director of Governmental Affairs for the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office and the President/Owner of Pathways Consulting & Government Relations, LLC.

(MORE: Assistant DA Steve Kunzweiler, who filed the petition to resolve the eligibility issue, called into KFAQ later Tuesday morning. Listen online at the link.)

Simonson assumed, incorrectly, that I looked only at statutory and constitutional language and not at case law in researching my article on the ineligibility of Fred Jordan to be District Attorney. In fact, every page of statute and constitution and court opinion on OSCN has links at the bottom of the page to cases and Attorney General opinions in which the provision is cited, so it's easy to see how courts have interpreted the law over the years. I've also had conversations with attorneys who have brought relevant cases and AG opinions to my attention.

There's no dispute about when Jordan's term expires. It's clearly set out in 14 O.S. 137 as November 19, 2014. The question is when the new DA would be considered elected.

Addressing Simonson's specific points:

1. Had Simonson read Steve Kunzweiler's petition before calling in, he would have seen that it was being brought to the District Court for Oklahoma County. The first paragraph states that venue is proper in Oklahoma County under 12 O.S. 133 and 12 O. S. 1653, as the case involves an official action of the Oklahoma State Election Board, which is situated in Oklahoma County. The State Supreme Court is not involved at this point.

2. This issue couldn't have been settled four weeks ago, because it only became an issue two weeks ago, on June 3, when Gov. Fallin signed HJR 1096, causing the emoluments of the District Attorney to increase. It was only at that point that Jordan and Crain officially became ineligible under Article V, Section 23. (When the measure passed the Senate on May 23, having already passed the House, Crain saw the handwriting on the wall and stepped aside.)

3. This issue doesn't affect State Rep. Joe Dorman, a candidate for Governor, because the bill in question did not increase the Governor's salary. In fact, HJR 1096 Section 3 amends 74 O. S. 250.4 subparagraph 1 to exclude the Governor's salary from increasing as a result of the increase in judicial salaries (the underlined language was added to the law by HJR 1096):

1. The Governor shall receive a salary equal to the salary received by the Chief Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court; provided however, the Governor shall not receive any increase in salary as a result of the provisions of Section 1 of this resolution;

The same section of the measure also explicitly excludes all other statewide elected officials from receiving a pay raise. The same sort of language could have been added to exclude District Attorneys from the pay raise, but it was not.

4. Simonson claims that the DA is not elected until the canvassing of votes by the Legislature after the organization of the House in January, after Jordan's term as a State Representative expires. He cited Gragg v. Dudley (1930 OK 280), which cites Article VI, Section 5. Article VI covers the state's executive officers, which are enumerated in
Section 1(A):

A. The Executive authority of the state shall be vested in a Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, State Auditor and Inspector, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Commissioner of Labor, Commissioner of Insurance and other officers provided by law and this Constitution, each of whom shall keep his office and public records, books and papers at the seat of government, and shall perform such duties as may be designated in this Constitution or prescribed by law.

Nothing in Article VI deals with District Attorneys. Gragg v. Dudley involved a legislator seeking the office of Lieutenant Governor, which is listed by name in the above section as one of the state's executive officers.

Note that each of these officers, both explicitly listed and named by implication, is required by the State Constitution to "keep his office and public records, books and papers at the seat of government." The seat of government is specified in Article V, Section 26, as the place the Legislature is required to meet in regular session. In fact, the Gragg v. Dudley ruling cites that very provision. 73 O.S. 1 declares that "The seat of government and capitol of the State of Oklahoma shall be and is hereby established at Oklahoma City, in the county of Oklahoma, in the said state...."

Clearly, the District Attorney for District 14 (Tulsa County) does not keep his office, public records, books, or papers in Oklahoma City. At the time Gragg v. Dudley was decided, the office of District Attorney did not exist. There were County Attorneys in Oklahoma until 1967, when the district system came into effect, under which most DAs serve multiple counties. Despite that change, District Attorneys still have a significant connection to county government, as the office is created under Title 19 (Counties and County Officers), and the DA must provide legal advice and defense to county officers and employees in the conduct of their duties, while the counties provide the DA's office space, including utilities and maintenance.

The DA's offices are, therefore, in the county courthouses for the counties in his district. In District 14, there is one county, Tulsa, and one DA's office, in the Tulsa County Courthouse, not in Oklahoma City. District Attorney is, therefore, not an office covered by Article VI, and the requirements of Article VI, Section 5, cited in Gragg v. Dudley would not apply.

Note also that on our ballots, the District Attorney's race appears under "Legislative, District, and County Officers," along with the race for County Assessor and County Commissioner, and not under "State Officers."

Also, 26 O.S. 5-102 lists those offices for which candidates are required to file with the State Election Board, and district attorney is listed separately from state officers:

Candidates for United States Senator, United States Representative, state officer, State Senator, State Representative, district judge, associate district judge and district attorney shall file Declarations of Candidacy with the Secretary of the State Election Board.

While "state officer" is sometimes defined differently for the purposes of a specific section of the law, here, in the context of election, it must mean only the statewide elective offices, as legislators, judges, and district attorneys are listed separately.

5. 19 O.S. 215.20 says that the term of the District Attorney's office begins "on the first Monday of January following his election." Article V, Section 26, of the Constitution says (emphasis added)

The Legislature shall also meet in regular session at the seat of government on the First Tuesday after the First Monday in January of each odd numbered year, beginning at twelve o'clock noon for the purposes only of performing the duties as required by Section 5 of Article VI of the Constitution and organizing pursuant to the provisions of this Article and shall recess not later than five o'clock p.m. of that same day until the following first Monday in February of the same year, beginning at twelve o'clock noon.

If a District Attorney is not elected until January 6, 2015, as Simonson claims, his term of office could not begin until January 4, 2016.

6. So when is a District Attorney elected? For every office other than those listed in Article VI, a candidate is given a certificate of election by the appropriate election board -- state election board for legislative and district officers, county election board for county and municipal officers.

26 O.S. 8-103 says:

The county election board shall certify a list of successful candidates for county offices and shall provide Certificates of Election to the same following the General Election, except that Certificates of Election may be issued to unopposed candidates after 5 p.m. on the second day following the close of the filing period. The State Election Board shall certify a list of successful candidates for offices for which the Board accepts filings of Declarations of Candidacy and shall provide Certificates of Election to the same following the General Election, except that Certificates of Election may be issued to unopposed candidates after 5 p.m. on the second day following the close of the filing period.

According to 26 O.S. 8-108, those certificates would be issued at 5 p.m. Friday after the general election, barring any contest that would affect the DA's race. Since the last possible vote in the DA's race will happen on August 26, any recounts and contests will have been resolved long before November 7 at 5:00 pm, when the State Election Board will issue a certificate of election, 12 days before the end of Jordan's term as a member of the State House.

Randy_Brogdon-Senate_2014.jpgSeven candidates have filed to complete the final two years of U. S. Senator Tom Coburn's term, but if you were to follow the news coverage you might think there were only two candidates in the race.

Three of the seven have been elected officials: Former State Sen. Randy Brogdon, U. S. Rep. James Lankford, and State Rep. T. W. Shannon, the former Speaker of the Oklahoma House. The other four candidates are each interesting in their own way, and I may write about them in a later entry.

Six of the seven candidates profess to be in line with the conservative views and values of Oklahoma Republicans on all the key issues of the day. Our decision on June 24th comes down to which one we can trust to maintain consistency with those views in the face of heavy pressure, which one will not be coopted by the Inside the Beltway culture of favor-trading and corporate welfare.

One candidate of the seven has a long record of consistency standing for the rights of Oklahoma taxpayers. Whatever the merits of the other candidates, Randy Brogdon has earned our trust.

Brogdon, a small-business owner in the heat and air industry, was elected in 1998 to the Owasso City Council and was elected as Mayor by his fellow city councilors. In 2002 he was elected to the State Senate, serving two terms and earning the highest ratings possible from conservative groups.

Brogdon was the leading advocate for the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) initiative, a popular measure that was scuttled by special interest litigation. He led the effort to pull Oklahoma out of the effort to build the eminent domain nightmare known as the NAFTA Superhighway through the state. A champion for privacy rights, he led Oklahoma to opt out of the Real ID Act. In 2010, he authored SQ 756, the Oklahoma Healthcare Freedom Amendment. He was one of the few Republican elected officials with the courage to stand consistently with grassroots Tulsa County Republicans against ill-considered boondoggles funded by sales tax increases.

In his 2010 run for governor, Brogdon finished strongly in his home base, winning Tulsa County and surrounding counties in his primary race against Mary Fallin, but he failed to break through in the rest of the state.

Some readers will point out that Brogdon is polling in the single digits. He has been outflanked by T. W. Shannon, who has actively pursued endorsements from conservative national groups and politicians. Local Tea Party leaders and conservative activists have objected loudly to the anointing of Shannon as the grassroots candidate, as the outside groups and politicians didn't bother to talk to locals who know these candidates best.

Brogdon seems to have an aversion to asking for endorsements and support. As an example, even though I knocked doors for Brogdon in 2010, I've not received any contact from the campaign asking for my help this year. This is Campaigning 101: Keep a list of supporters from past runs and reach out to them to help again. People are busy, potential volunteers and donors are swamped with requests from candidates, and if a candidate doesn't ask for help, he isn't going to get it.

Nevertheless, Randy Brogdon is the one candidate I know I can trust to do the right thing consistently in Washington, and thanks to our runoff system, I don't have to vote for a lower-ranked choice in this primary. Unlike some elections, this one doesn't require a tactical vote. I don't notice a bandwagon effect for either Lankford or Shannon. The leading candidates are close enough in the polls that it's unlikely that either will win outright, which means that I might have to choose between Lankford and Shannon in the August runoff. But if enough people realize that they don't have to cast a tactical vote, if they take a closer look at the candidates' records, if they are put off by the back and forth of negative ads between Shannon and Lankford and their respective "dark money" allies, Brogdon might make it into the runoff.

No matter who wins the nomination, there is no realistic danger of a Democrat winning this seat, given how out of sync the Democratic field is with Oklahoma's political values. (Liberal Oklahoma City State Sen. Connie Johnson is the leading Democrat in the race.)

Even if Shannon or Lankford won the primary outright, it would hardly be a tragedy for conservatives. Charlie Meadows of the Oklahoma Conservative PAC had kind words for both after his group gave their endorsement to Randy Brogdon. But here's how Meadows summed up OCPAC's support for Brogdon:

When it comes to Randy Brogdon, the bio is conservative, consistent and reliable. He finished 8 years in the legislature with a lifetime Conservative Index Score of 93, a remarkable feat. He was the first Republican SENATOR to score a perfect 100 on the Index in modern times and he did that in his second year in the legislature and in a few more years following.

On more than one occasion Brogdon used his reasoning skills to persuade his fellow Republican Senators to at least consider the moral arguments on issues. He was an effective lawmaker and earned the trust of the grassroots activists across the state. In the 3 years he served Insurance Commissioner Doak, he worked hard to make the agency lean and efficient. It is in his bones, Brogdon has always been about reducing the size of government and liberty.

In closing, the down side for Brogdon is that he got started late in this effort, especially after switching from the Governor's race to this Senate race. Though he has raised more money and faster than he has anticipated, his funds come from the grass roots and they can never produce the kind of money the "folks in tall buildings" provide. Often times the wealthy contribute because they want something from government and expect elected officials to ask how high when they tell them to jump. On the other hand, the grass roots contribute because they believe in a cause.

Bottom line, I believe Brogdon got the OCPAC nod because the people TRUST him, his whole time in government has been about limiting government and expanding liberty. The grassroots people know he will not be beholden to what I lovingly call the "Oklahoma Mafia", the rich and powerful who happen to be more into fascist capitalism and central planning rather than free market capitalism.

Next Tuesday I'm voting for a candidate with a long record of consistent conservative governance. I'm voting for someone we can trust to represent Oklahoma values faithfully in Washington. I hope you'll join me in voting for Randy Brogdon to be Oklahoma's next U. S. Senator.

MORE:

Brian Ervin's 2007 profile of Randy Brogdon.

Paul Jacob praises Randy Brogdon during his 2010 run for Governor.

Fivethirtyeight has an analysis of the Oklahoma race that captures the subtleties and appropriately notes Brogdon as a local Tea Party favorite and a factor in the race. They also note SoonerPoll's problems in past Oklahoma Republican primary elections. (Right after the 2010 primary, Oklahoma native and pollster Chris Wilson wrote about polling failures in that election.)

Steve Kunzweiler, the Assistant DA seeking the open Tulsa County District Attorney's seat, has filed a petition in Oklahoma County District Court seeking a ruling on the eligibility of his two opponents in the June 24, 2014, GOP primary. A legislative action taken after the April filing period made the two legislators in the race constitutionally ineligible to be elected or appointed to the job, under Article V, Section 23, of the Oklahoma Constitution. One of the two, State Sen. Brian Crain, has withdrawn from the race, but the other, State Rep. Fred Jordan, refuses to withdraw.

The heart of the question is when the legislative term ends and when the DA is considered elected. Jordan's term does not end until November 19, 2014, but the new DA will be elected prior to that date.

Kunzweiler is asking the court to rule that Crain and Jordan are both ineligible and that neither can be certified as elected. Kunzweiler notes, "The office of District Attorney is too important to public safety to risk a period of disruption and confusion. The election of a constitutionally prohibited candidate to the office could call into question and subject to legal challenge every official act taken by the newly-elected Tulsa County District Attorney."

Here is a press release from the Kunzweiler campaign:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DA candidate Steve Kunzweiler asks court to declare opponents Fred Jordan and Brian Crain ineligible to be elected DA

TULSA, Okla., June 16, 2014 - Republican Candidate for District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler today filed a petition in Oklahoma County District Court asking the court to declare candidates Fred Jordan and Brian Crain ineligible to be elected Tulsa County District Attorney.

The action claims Kunzweiler is entitled to a declaratory judgment finding:

a. That Crain and Jordan are constitutionally prohibited from being elected to the Office of Tulsa County District Attorney pursuant to Article V, Section 23 of the Oklahoma Constitution; and

b. That the state Board of Election is constitutionally prohibited from certifying either Crain or Jordan as elected to the Office of District Attorney.

Kunzweiler's petition cites the Oklahoma State Constitution's prohibition against Legislators increasing pay of an elected official and then seeking election to that office while they are legislators.

State Representative Fred Jordan and State Sen. Brian Crain are candidates for DA along with Kunzweiler. On May 23, 2014, the Legislature voted to increase the pay of state judges and district attorneys. Sen. Crain then publicly acknowledged that the action prohibits him from seeking the DA office and suspended his campaign, although his name remains on the ballot. Jordan claims that the prohibition does not apply to him and has continued campaigning for the office.

On June 3, 2014 Governor Mary Fallin signed HJR 1096 into law, rendering both Jordan and Crain ineligible for election. The Oklahoma Constitution Article V, Section 23 provides:

No member of the Legislature shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed or elected to any office or commission in the State, which shall have been created, or the emoluments of which shall have been increased, during his term of office . . .

According to Kunzweiler's petition, the election of a constitutionally prohibited candidate would call into question every official act of the Office of Tulsa County District Attorney.
Kunzweiler, an Assistant District Attorney in Tulsa County and a 24-year prosecutor, said, "I did not ask to be put in this position. Since the governor signed this into law, I have asked many different attorneys to research the law to determine whether Jordan could be considered eligible for election. After consultation with them, it is clear to me that Jordan's candidacy violates both the spirit and the letter of the law. The Oklahoma Constitution clearly states this," Kunzweiler said.

"The actions of the Oklahoma Legislature - of which Jordan is a Majority leader - put me in this position. I took an oath of office to uphold the Oklahoma and US Constitutions. It is my duty and my obligation under the Constitution of Oklahoma to raise this issue and to resolve it," Kunzweiler said.

"The office of District Attorney is too important to public safety to risk a period of disruption and confusion. The election of a constitutionally prohibited candidate to the office could call into question and subject to legal challenge every official act taken by the newly-elected Tulsa County District Attorney beginning January 1, 2015. Our citizens need to be protected without interruption. Based upon Oklahoma's Constitution, it is apparent that neither Jordan nor Crain can be elected or appointed to the Office of Tulsa County District Attorney come January 1, 2015.

"I honor and respect State Senator Brian Crain, who recognized that he could no longer run for this office based upon the pay increase. He announced that he was withdrawing from the election. That was the correct thing to do because it was required by Oklahoma's Constitution," Kunzweiler said. "Jordan is also subject to the same Constitutional prohibition that Senator Crain faced."

"As I said at the outset - I am a prosecutor - not a politician. As a prosecutor I am obligated to follow the rule of law. I am sworn to uphold our Constitution. I am doing what the law requires me to do."

MORE: Steve Kunzweiler's petition to the Oklahoma County District Court regarding eligibility of candidates for Tulsa County District Attorney.

Steve_Kunzweiler-Tulsa_County_DA.jpgAfter 16 years in office, Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris is stepping down. Three Republican candidates filed to replace him, but one candidate quit the race because of a constitutional impediment to his election, and a second candidate should stand down for the same reason, but he refuses to do so, risking a protracted legal battle should he win. Our next district attorney will be chosen by voters in the June 24, 2014, Republican primary.

Happily for Tulsa County citizens, the one candidate in the race who is unquestionably eligible to serve is Assistant District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, who is the most qualified, by experience and temperament, to serve as District Attorney.

There are three aspects to the District Attorney's job: Prosecuting criminals, mentoring and managing a team of prosecutors, and partnering with public officials and community leaders to advance the cause of justice. Steve Kunzweiler is the only candidate with extensive and current experience in every aspect of the DA's job.

With 24 years of experience as a prosecutor, Steve Kunzweiler is the Chief of the Criminal Division in the DA's office, mentoring 35 assistant DAs and overseeing the prosecution of thousands of criminal cases every year, over 12,000 in 2013 alone. Beyond the courtroom, Kunzweiler works with legislators, police departments, victims, and community leaders to provide training and improve the process so that bad guys receive their just punishment and Tulsa County residents are safer.

One example of Kunzweiler's innovative approach to his job is his advocacy for the use of therapy dogs to accompany child abuse victims when they testify in court. A courtroom can be a frightening place to a child, particularly when arguments get heated and voices are raised. In the past, an adult counselor has sometimes been allowed to sit with a child witness, but that raises concerns that the adult might prompt the child's testimony. That could open the door to exclusion of the child's testimony and the acquittal of an abuser or to the conviction of a wrongly accused defendant.

Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler with a therapy dogSteve Kunzweiler's solution is to have a therapy dog accompany the child in the witness box. The dog can't offer any prompts. These dogs are selected for a calm temperament and trained to remain calm in the midst of commotion. They reassure the child that all is well, even in this strange environment. Kunzweiler writes on his website:

When a child witness is accompanied to court by a dog that he or she has bonded with in pretrial preparations, the effects are immediate and profound. The trust, acceptance, and tactile comfort of a friendly dog changes the physiology of the nervous child. Human heart rate decreases and blood pressure falls in the presence of therapy dogs. The child may simply feel safer to recall past events, even with an audience of strange adults in the courtroom.

During the just-ended legislative session, Steve Kunzweiler worked with State Rep. Pam Peterson to pass a law authorizing the use of therapy dogs statewide. Kunzweiler has also successfully worked with legislators to add many other reforms to criminal law: expanding the statute of limitations for the reporting of child abuse, increasing the range of punishment for drunk driving offenders who seriously injure their victims, allowing the introduction of hearsay evidence for developmentally delayed children, allowing repeat child abusers to be impeached with their prior crimes.

While Kunzweiler works effectively with the legislative process, he is new to electoral politics. He is a Republican and a conservative, but his focus has been his calling as a prosecutor and a leader of prosecutors, rather than partisan politics. Some politicians have sought the DA's office as a platform for running for governor or congress, but Kunzweiler has no ambitions beyond being able to continue to pursue his vocation as a prosecutor. Steve Kunzweiler sees himself as the next DA in a long line of non-politician DAs, like Buddy Fallis, David L. Moss, and Tim Harris.

Steve Kunzweiler's family life underscores his conservative temperament. He has been married for 25 years to Dr. Christine Kunzweiler, a veterinarian. Steve, Christine, and their three daughters are active members of Christ the King Catholic Parish. Steve earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Missouri then came to Tulsa to earn his law degree at the University of Tulsa Law School in 1988. He's been here ever since.

A recent article about Kunzweiler gives you a sense of his heart for his vocation:

He has an old, ragged file in a desk drawer, labeled "This is Why I Do It!" The folder is bursting with pictures of people he's fought for in court - a 10-year-old girl in her cheerleader uniform. An 18-year-old in a baseball uniform with a bat on his shoulder. A proud tuxedo-clad papa walking his daughter down the aisle in a wedding gown.

The photos depict happy, smiling people enjoying life, often on some of the most important days of their lives - graduation, weddings, family celebrations. The photos
are reminders to Kunzweiler that the victims had dreams and goals and active lives that were stolen from them and from their families.

"Too many times, the criminal justice system is all about the defendant. We don't hear much about the victim. I am the victim's voice in court, and I want to know as much as I can about who they were and what was happening in their life," Kunzweiler said.

Steve Kunzweiler has been endorsed by outgoing DA Tim Harris, the Tulsa Area Republican Assembly, and FOP chapters in Owasso and Glenpool.

It's necessary to say a few words about Kunzweiler's opponent. The same constitutional prohibition that caused State Sen. Brian Crain to withdraw applies equally to State Rep. Fred Jordan, but Jordan has invented a rationale to dodge the clear language of the Oklahoma Constitution. It is worrisome that the man who wants to be our county's chief legal officer isn't willing to abide by the plain meaning and spirit of a constitutional provision that has been in place since statehood. Setting that issue aside, there is still the matter of Jordan's lack of preparation for the job he seeks. Jordan's brief experience as a prosecutor is over a decade old, in a very different legal context than Tulsa County.

But I'd rather focus on Steve Kunzweiler, the highly-qualified man of character who has served the people of Oklahoma as a prosecutor for nearly a quarter-century and has the servant's heart and preparation to step up one level from his current job to serve as our District Attorney. I urge you to elect Steve Kunzweiler for Tulsa County District Attorney on June 24 and to encourage your friends to do the same.

ken_yazel.jpgSeveral important elections will be settled in the June 24, 2014, Republican primary. Between now and then, I will be posting endorsements, starting with an enthusiastic recommendation that I can make without hesitation.

Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel is one of those rare elected officials who has remained true to the principles on which he was elected and to the voters who elected him, despite heavy pressure from special interests and their media mouthpieces. At the same time, Yazel has fulfilled his assigned duties diligently, leading the top-rated assessor's office in Oklahoma. Tulsa County taxpayers are blessed to have Ken Yazel in office. Republicans need to vote on June 24 to keep Ken Yazel as our assessor for another four years.

Detractors call Yazel a contrarian, but to Tulsa County taxpayers, Yazel is a trusted ally, friendly, accessible and ready to help. We need more elected officials like him.

When there's a bandwagon pushing toward higher taxes and more difficult access to public information, when the other elected officials take an "us vs. them" attitude, in which their fellow officials are "us" and the taxpayers are "them," we need at least one contrarian at the county courthouse who is pushing in the opposite direction, toward fiscal sense and government transparency. Ken Yazel has been there for Tulsa County taxpayers, standing firm and taking flak on our behalf.

Yazel has done an outstanding job with public access to information and keeping properties fairly and consistently valued, and he's often been the lone voice at the Tulsa County Courthouse speaking on behalf of the taxpayers.

In Oklahoma, a county assessor's primary job is to ensure that properties are fairly valued and that every property is reviewed at least once every four years. The State Auditor's office has given Ken Yazel's office the highest rating of any county assessor's office in Oklahoma -- 265 points out of a maximum score of 275. That means that under Yazel's leadership, the office carefully and consistently follows the rules to ensure a fair valuation for every property -- even if means stepping on the toes of some powerful people.

As one of the eight members of the County Budget Board, Yazel has been pushing to have Tulsa County follow Oklahoma County's good example and account for every penny under county control in the annual budget. Tulsa County's practice has been to budget only new funds that have to be appropriated, but to exclude earmarked money or carryover funds. Sadly, the other county elected officials have opposed him on this point and have even lobbied against legislation that would require full county budget transparency.

Notwithstanding a dubious "transparency" award, most Tulsa County departments make it hard to find the info you want online. I spent some time looking for the 2014-2015 budget that was approved this week. I don't give up easily, and I tried several different approaches, but ultimately did not find what I was looking for. I found plenty of notices, agendas, and minutes, but not even a draft of the new budget book.

Another example of Tulsa County's typical approach to web access: If you want to look at filed deeds, plats, and other land-related records, you have to go to the County Clerk's office during their office hours and go through a metal detector. Just to look at metadata for those records requires you to go to a library during the library's regular hours.

Under Ken Yazel's leadership, Tulsa County assessor records are easily accessible from home any time day or night. You can search by name, by legal description, or by clicking on Google Maps. From your own property's record, a click of a button lets you see recent sales in your subdivision and comparable properties that influence the assessed value of your home. Beyond property information, Yazel's county assessor website has a wealth of detail on ad valorem taxes and how they are calculated and all the information you need to file for exemptions and valuation freezes to which you may be entitled.

Yazel's outreach to the public isn't limited to the web. He speaks to neighborhood associations, civic groups, and other gatherings all over the county to help people understand ad valorem taxes, and he brings his team along to help property owners get their specific questions answered. During the period for filing homestead exemptions and valuation freezes, Yazel sets up "sub-offices," taking the process to where people live all across the county, rather than make taxpayers come down to the courthouse and go through the metal detector. Yazel sets up the assessor's office booth at the Tulsa State Fair, home shows, and local festivals where taxpayers can ask questions and get information on exemptions.

Yazel is a voice, too often the only voice, for the taxpayers at the Tulsa County Courthouse. When other county officials pushed the poorly conceived river tax and Vision2 tax plans, Yazel was the only county official with the courage to speak out in opposition. By doing so, he gave a big boost to the underfunded but ultimately successful campaigns to defeat those corporate welfare and pork barrel boondoggles. Those who benefit from county tax programs and revenue bonds no doubt would like to see Yazel gone, because they want all county elected officials singing the praises of the Vision 2025 replacement tax when it comes to the voters in 2016.

When other county officials proposed increasing taxes to fund criminal justice facilities, Yazel proposed alternatives to pay for the facilities without raising taxes.

You may have noticed, as I have, that certain property taxing entities which receive a fixed millage always have an abundance of funds, some to the point of being able to build a new building without blinking an eye. While it would not be a simple matter, if the political will existed at the county courthouse, a vote could be scheduled to reduce millages for overfunded entities to make room, say, for a bond issue for more critical capital improvements, at no net increase in property taxes or sales taxes. That is the sort of process that Yazel has been advocating and that his detractors have mischaracterized. No one is saying that you could simply take funds from one entity and give it to another.

Other county offices derive a considerable amount of revenue from statutory fees, but these fees are not included in the county budget, although Yazel believes that they should be. Even the carryover funds from the previous year are not included in the county budget, even though they are available for the elected official to spend. In his plan to fund criminal justice needs without raising taxes, Yazel suggested that, because of their considerable cash reserves, the County Clerk and Treasurer's offices could receive less money from the general fund and that the money saved could be used to fund competitive salaries and technology upgrades for the Sheriff's office.

Likewise, if county commissioners were willing to pledge Vision2 funds four years before they would be collected, it was surely possible to allocate funds from the remaining Vision 2025 collections to have paid for the juvenile justice facility and jail expansion. It would not have been a simple matter, and it would have required some combination of public votes to authorize the change in use, but it could have been done if the political will had existed.

Given the choice between (1) a rearrangement of public funding that required some effort and coordination but kept tax levels the same and (2) proposing a tax increase, county commissioners opted for the tax increase, while turning Yazel's plan for public improvements without a tax increase into a straw man and mischaracterizing it as impossible. Even if there had been minor flaws in his proposal, his fellow elected officials could have proposed adjustments and alternatives in keeping with the spirit of the idea. Instead, the other Tulsa County officials refused to cooperate with Yazel's taxpayer-friendly proposal.

Yazel is committed to ensuring that no one pays more property tax than is legally required, but he is also committed to ensuring that everyone is assessed in accordance with state law. State law makes the assessor the gatekeeper for property owners claiming that their property is tax exempt. That includes the responsibility to ensure that a previously granted exemption is still valid under the law. Like many assessors across the US (here's one example), Ken Yazel is finding some properties with exemptions don't meet the strict requirements of the Oklahoma Constitution and statutes. On occasion, a property owner disagrees with the assessor's interpretation of the law, and the matter goes to court.

When a property is undervalued or receives an exemption to which it is not entitled, every other taxpayer has to pay higher property taxes to make up the difference. Much of your property tax burden is used to repay general obligation bonds or court settlements. Each year, the excise board determines how much money each taxing authority (cities, schools, the library system, etc.) needs to cover its obligations. That amount is divided by the assessed value of all properties in the jurisdiction, and the result is the millage rate applied to every property. Your property tax rate is a fraction, and when a large, expensive property is undervalued or unjustly exempted, the denominator shrinks significantly and the millage goes up, raising everyone else's taxes.

It would be easy to give in to the erroneous tax exemption claims of the rich and powerful, just because they have the money to make trouble for you in the next election, but to do so means raising taxes on everyone who can't raise as big a stink. Ken Yazel is doing his duty on behalf of the taxpayers by strictly applying the law and, when necessary, pursuing questions of interpretation through the state court system. (UPDATE: More about a specific case here.)

As they have in previous elections, interests that don't appreciate Ken Yazel's advocacy for the taxpayer are backing an opponent. The race will be decided in the Republican primary.

The daily paper's editorial board endorsed Yazel's opponent, as it has done over the last several elections. The Whirled editorial writers' biggest beef with Yazel seems to be that he wanted to fund new facilities without raising taxes. A commenter on the Whirled editorial noted: "Also notice that the TW makes no mention whatsoever of actual professional qualifications, certifications, etc. [of Yazel's opponent]. The main selling point of [Yazel's opponent] seems to be that he will shut up and do what he is told. Not good qualifications for my vote."

I appreciate Ken Yazel, because he will speak out when taxpayers need a friend at the County Courthouse. I appreciate the high professional standards to which Yazel holds himself and his staff at the assessor's office. I appreciate an elected official who sets the standard for transparency and public access to public records.

I urge you to join me in voting to re-elect Ken Yazel as Tulsa County Assessor on June 24, 2014.

MORE: Former State Rep. John Wright gives ten reasons why Ken Yazel should be re-elected. Prominent in his reasons is that Yazel has built a well-educated professional staff, with very little turnover. Every member of Yazel's staff, even those not engaged in assessment, have gone through certain professional classes on assessment to ensure that anyone speaking to the public has a proper understanding of the property tax system and the role of the assessor's office.

UPDATE: Detailed analysis of some of the criticisms leveled against Ken Yazel

Tulsa County Clerk Pat Key says she is tired of Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel's annual push for budget transparency.

Yazel has repeatedly voted against the county's budget, saying it does not provide a complete accounting of all county revenues and expenditures. He made the same argument Monday, and again, other Budget Board members were not buying it.

"I, for one, am tired of revisiting this same issue over and over again," County Clerk Pat Key said. "I don't know how many more opinions or court cases that we have to give before we don't discuss this same thing over and over again."

While state law only requires the county budget to cover money that must be appropriated (principally property tax revenues that go into the county's general fund), Assessor Ken Yazel believes that taxpayers deserve a full accounting of every penny under the control of county officials, and he points to Oklahoma County as the example to follow.

Oklahoma County's total budget for Fiscal Year 2013-2014 covers $180.7 million: $132,019,665 in revenues, $48,712,216 in beginning fund balance, $149,331,246 in expenditures, and $31,400,635. Tulsa County's budget for the same year was $83.6 million. Why is Oklahoma County's budget twice as big as Tulsa County's budget? Because Oklahoma County budgets all funds, all sources of revenue, and all expenditures, even if they involve earmarked revenue sources.

Tulsa County's budget includes only the bare minimum required by law. Previous year surpluses in non-appropriated funds, some of them under the sole control of an elected official, can be kept off-budget and out of the budget book. (I would link to the newly adopted budget, but I can't find it online.)

State Rep. David Brumbaugh (R-Broken Arrow) filed a bill (HB1986) in the first session of this Legislature to raise the budget transparency standards for county governments. It's my understanding that Tulsa County elected officials (other than Yazel) successfully lobbied the legislature to keep the bill from coming to a vote.

One of the lovely features of Oklahoma County's budget book is that you can see when an elected official spends an unusually big pile of money from a designated fund under her control. Maybe it was for an important upgrade that will benefit taxpayers and other citizens. Or maybe the big expenditure was the result of poor judgment. If taxpayers can easily see all of the county's financial information where they expect to find it -- in the budget -- they can ask questions about these sorts of expenditures. Maybe that's why the non-Yazel elected officials at the Tulsa County Courthouse are fighting this idea.

Maybe it's because they've shown such poor judgment in other respects -- like appointing to the juvenile justice authority a woman who plotted to frame her ex-husband as a child porn collector and molester and then hiring that same person as the County Clerk's chief deputy -- there's some poor financial judgment that they'd like to make as inaccessible to the public as they are legally able.

Counties are required by law (19 O.S. 444) to publish an annual payroll report. Oklahoma County posts its report, as well as a monthly payroll report, on the county clerk's website, and the files are in Excel format -- easy to search and process.

I'm sure Tulsa County complies with the letter of the law, but I have been unable to find the required annual payroll report on any county website. In fact, when I used a search engine to look for it, I find Oklahoma County's report instead. Perhaps I need to go downtown to the courthouse and go through the metal detector to be able to look at the report.

Tulsa County Clerk Pat Key has done an impressive job of hindering public access to public records. If you want to look at a plat of your subdivision -- a drawing that shows the streets and lot lines and easements and sometimes also lists applicable covenants -- you have to drive downtown to the County Courthouse during office hours, pay for parking, and go through a metal detector. If you want to look at a title deed or a lien or some other legal document that has been filed with the County Clerk, it's the same routine -- office hours only, pay for parking, get magnetometered and have your wallet x-rayed. Just to see the metadata for deeds and other documents -- buyer, seller, date, parcel, document number, etc. -- you have to go to a public library during library hours and use a special computer. That's just so you can plan your trip to pay for parking and go through a metal detector to see a digital image of the actual document.

The Oklahoma County Clerk's office makes land records and UCC filings -- including images -- available online, any time day or night, from anywhere on the internet. It's my understanding that the Tulsa County Clerk's system is capable of that, from which I infer that Pat Key chooses not to make these public records available for convenient public review.

So no one should be surprised that Tulsa County Clerk Pat Key would oppose Assessor Ken Yazel's efforts to make complete county revenue and expenditure information readily available to the public in the budget.

By contrast to Pat Key's limited public website, Assessor Ken Yazel's website is well-organized and provides easy access to information on every parcel in Tulsa County, any time day or night, from anywhere on the Internet. You can search by name and address, and if you don't know the address you can click on a Google map.

Ms. Key, if you want to stop revisiting the issue of full budget transparency over and over again, do the right thing. Go above and beyond the letter of the law to provide the public with the information it ought to have. Instead of fighting with the one county elected official who has demonstrated a commitment to governmental transparency and fiscal conservatism, work with him. Follow Ken Yazel's excellent example instead of sniping at him.

MORE:

There is a way to get internet access, of a sort, to County Clerk records. It costs $30 a month, and the Board of County Commissioners has to vote in one of its regular meetings to approve your application for access. So to review: Oklahoma County offers free, anonymous access from anywhere to public land records. Tulsa County, under Pat Key's leadership, offers $30 a month, subscriber-only access and only to those subscribers approved by the County Commissioners.

One more thing: It seems like there was a time when you could access Tulsa County land records metadata at home and could see the images if you went to the library. Anyone else remember when that changed?

MORE on HB1986:

Here is the language that Rep. Brumbaugh's bill would have added to the County Budget Act, 19 O.S. 1408, 1411, 1412, 1414. This is the level of disclosure that Oklahoma County provides and that Assessor Yazel had hoped his fellow Tulsa County elected officials would support, even if the law doesn't require it. Strikethrough is deleted text, underline is added text:

Section 1408. The county budget board shall prepare for each budget year a budget for each fund whose activities require funding through appropriation from the budget board for which there is a reasonably anticipated fund balance or revenues. The county budget shall include each fund for which any department head or elected official has spending authority, irrespective of the fund type or whether or not the fund is, either by law or accredited budgeting standards, subject to appropriation.

Section 1411. A. On or before a date set by the county budget board, the county excise board shall provide a tentative estimate of anticipated revenues from all sources, classified by funds, for the succeeding fiscal year. For the purposes of this section, "all sources" means any reasonably anticipated revenue for any fund of any department or elected office within the county. For the purposes of the County Budget Act, fund balances shall be treated as revenue. The county excise board shall arrive at the tentative estimates independently. In furtherance of this requirement and the other requirements of the county excise board, the county excise board is authorized to hire appropriate staffing on either a permanent, full-time, part-time, temporary, or contract basis. The county budget board shall include in its annual budget sufficient funds for these purposes.

Section 1412. The county budget board shall hold a public hearing on the proposed budget no later than fifteen (15) days prior to the beginning of the budget year. Notice of the date, time and place of the hearing, together with the proposed budget summaries, shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the county not less than five (5) days before the date of the hearing.... Budget summaries shall be grouped by department or elected office and shall include beginning fund balances for each department or elected office and for the county as a whole.

Section 1414. A. In addition to any other powers and duties granted to the county excise board in this act, the board shall act in an oversight capacity with respect to the county budget. The county excise board shall examine the county budgets.

Article 5, Section 23, of the Oklahoma Constitution:

No member of the Legislature shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed or elected to any office or commission in the State, which shall have been created, or the emoluments of which shall have been increased, during his term of office, nor shall any member receive any appointment from the Governor, the Governor and Senate, or from the Legislature, during the term for which he shall have been elected, nor shall any member, during the term for which he shall have been elected, or within two years thereafter, be interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract with the State, or any county or other subdivision thereof, authorized by law passed during the term for which he shall have been elected.

State Sen. Brian Crain stepped out of the race for District Attorney in Tulsa County this weekend, citing the above constitutional provision. HJR1096, which was approved by the House on Wednesday and the Senate on Friday, increases salaries for judges by 6% and indirectly increases salaries for district attorneys, which are set as 98% of a district judge's salary.

State Rep. Sydney Fred Jordan Jr., another candidate for DA, claims that he isn't affected by this provision because, as a House member, his term expires this year, while Sen. Crain isn't up for replacement until 2016.

But the term of office doesn't expire until after the November elections. New legislators are sworn in in late November, after their election has been certified. If the Governor were to call a special session between now and that time, Sydney Fred Jordan Jr. would still be the representative for House District 69. Jordan is as ineligible as Crain is.

Jordan appears to have been aware of a potential problem -- he claimed "Constitutional Privilege" when the issue came before the House. Perhaps he thought it would exempt him from the constitutional provision, but Article 5, Section 23, doesn't care whether you voted yes or no, or abstained, just whether the raise was enacted during the legislator's term of office, when the legislator may have had opportunity to exercise influence in support of the raise, whether or not he voted for it.

Joe Dorman, leading Democratic candidate for governor, also claimed Constitutional Privilege, even though the bill expressly excludes the Governor and other statewide elected officials from receiving an indirect raise as a result of the judicial raise, which means Article 5, Section 23, won't affect Dorman's candidacy.

Crain had the decency to recognize the problem and back out of the race, rather than force the public to endure lengthy litigation in the event he had been elected. Jordan should do the same. Steve Kunzweiler, the remaining candidate, is currently the head of the criminal division in the DA's office and is well prepared to move up a step to the top job. Tulsa County residents will be in good hands for the next four years. If, in 2018, Crain or Jordan feels that Kunzweiler needs to be replaced, he can run at that time without any constitutional impediment.

MORE:

The Oklahoma Legislative Manual, available online, explains rules, procedures, terminology, and tradition.

David Van Risseghem at Sooner Politics wonders if Steve Kunzweiler will be declared the winner without an election, and he wonders whether other violations of Article 5, Section 23, are just waiting to be found.

Then there's the issue of former legislators doing business with the state. It happens in some very subtle ways and often the state agency's procurement systems don't always know who owns the company they are awarding contracts to. Will there be a new effort to hunt down violators? It will be very interesting to see how this provision is enforced.

Did Brian Crain already violate the last half of Article 5, Section 23? In 2005, Crain co-sponsored (with Rep. Ron Peters) SB 478, which authorized county treasurers and county assessors to employ their own general counsel. This was a sensible bill -- these officials deal with specialized law involving real estate and finance, matters beyond the usual ambit of the District Attorney's office. In 2007 (within the same term of office in which the bill was approved), according to news reports, Crain was paid, via his law firm, to represent the Tulsa County Treasurer's office in bankruptcy proceedings, and in 2008 (still within the same term of office), the County Treasurer directly contracted with Crain for the same role.

John Hart, Sen. Tom Coburn's communications director, attempts to help the mainstream media understand what's happening with the Tea Party movement, and in the process encourages Tea Partiers to be of good cheer, notwithstanding the renomination of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell:

For those keeping score, it is now roughly the GOP establishment 5 (Kentucky, Texas, North Carolina, Ohio, Georgia) and the Tea Party 1 (Nebraska).

But this win-loss story line doesn't reflect reality. The real struggle in 2014 is not between the GOP establishment and the Tea Party but within the Tea Party itself. And, more importantly, in spite of this struggle, the Tea Party continues to ascend.

Primary campaigns in states like Kentucky are merely bringing to the surface long-simmering tensions within the conservative movement. On one side is the grassroots -- the Tea Party. Alongside it is crabgrass -- the Tea Party establishment's sometimes invasive tactics, bad judgment (i.e. the government shutdown) and even worse candidate vetting that draw nutrients away from the grassroots.

(A little slap there at Ted Cruz?)

And what is the Tea Party establishment exactly? Like with the Republican Revolution of 1994, it's the part of the reform movement that went native after acquiring real political power. Today, it's the gilded conservative neighborhood of "This Town," Mark Leibovich's book about D.C.'s culture of self-love. It's the catered lunch that never adjourns; the cabal, the mutual-admiration society of master strategists who have never successfully limited government but know how.

In primary campaigns, it's the part of the Tea Party that has the hubris to suggest candidates like Bevin are representative of an organic uprising because it says so, regardless of what the real grassroots may think.

In that light, I wonder what Hart and his boss think about the campaign to replace Coburn. Former State House Speaker T. W. Shannon has rounded up endorsements from out-of-state Tea Party-related individuals and groups: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, Citizens United Political Victory Fund, FreedomWorks for America, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and Mark Levin. Club for Growth PAC, which played an important role in Coburn's come-from-behind primary win in 2004, has yet to make an endorsement.

(Most recently, Shannon has been endorsed by Sen. Rob Johnson, the driving force behind the Oklahoma Senate's passage of the National Popular Vote compact. That's an endorsement I wouldn't trumpet too loudly. The same could be said of his endorsement by recent chairmen of the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce.)

But leaders of local Tea Party organizations like the Tulsa 9/12 Project and OKforTea have expressed their displeasure with groups from outside Oklahoma issuing endorsements before talking to local grassroots activists or investigating voting records. They aren't pleased with U. S. Rep. James Lankford's record either.

Many local conservative activists are lining up behind former State Sen. Randy Brogdon. The Oklahoma Conservative PAC endorsed Brogdon, and OCPAC chairman Charlie Meadows explained why, in a post that also praised Lankford and Shannon.

They are all good communicators, with Lankford being an exceptional talent. His experience in Washington gives him an edge in knowing the process. His intelligence and hard work there allows him to speak with a certain degree of expertise and gravitas....

In my opinion, T.W. Shannon has been the most conservative and finest Speaker of the House in state history. In many cases when Republicans get into leadership, they govern a little more liberal. However, that was not the case with T.W. as he even became a little more conservative than before he became Speaker....

When it comes to Randy Brogdon, the bio is conservative, consistent and reliable. He finished 8 years in the legislature with a lifetime Conservative Index Score of 93, a remarkable feat. He was the first Republican SENATOR to score a perfect 100 on the Index in modern times and he did that in his second year in the legislature and in a few more years following....

Bottom line, I believe Brogdon got the OCPAC nod because the people TRUST him, his whole time in government has been about limiting government and expanding liberty. The grassroots people know he will not be beholden to what I lovingly call the "Oklahoma Mafia", the rich and powerful who happen to be more into fascist capitalism and central planning rather than free market capitalism.

But the candidate embraced by the local Tea Party grassroots is reportedly running third in the polls. Should Tea Partiers be discouraged? That brings us back to John Hart's column. He says we shouldn't focus on who is winning but what has changed about what the winners are saying and doing. The Tea Party is transforming the mainstream:

Second, the transformation of McConnell's campaign from 2008 to 2014 shows the overwhelming persuasive and redemptive power of the Tea Party. In 2008, the Senate minority leader ran a series of ads touting his success at bringing home the bacon. In 2014, his campaign had lost that aroma. McConnell himself helped end earmarks in 2010 and recently said no to Majority Leader Harry Reid's call to restore the disgraced practice. McConnell's evolving message shows how the real Tea Party can co-opt and win over the GOP establishment when it sticks to its principles.

In fact, thanks to the Tea Party, the old-style "bring home the bacon" campaigns have largely been wiped off the electoral map. Even Democrats have joined the Tea Party's anti-pork campaign. Mark Udall, Claire McCaskill and Elizabeth Warren have all vocally opposed earmarks, a rare challenge to Reid's rigid party discipline.

The Tea Party's influence, of course, extends well beyond earmarks. In race after race, candidates are embracing its message of less government, less spending, less regulation and more freedom, particularly on Obamacare....

The status quo apologists are so eager to belittle the Tea Party because they know its appeal is mainstream. Ronald Reagan (echoing Richard Nixon) called it the silent majority. Tom Coburn called it the rumble. But our founders called it America. The real Tea Party is just another name for our national aversion to centralized power, a core conviction that inspired our founders and is rooted in a deep understanding of history and human nature.

The good news for Oklahoma Tea Partiers is that the leading candidates for U. S. Senate are all talking about their principles. The question is whether the man who replaces Tom Coburn will conduct himself accordance with those principles.

MORE:

James Lankford was elected in the 2010 "Tea Party wave," but that doesn't make him a "Tea Party" congressman.

Evidently even beating an incumbent with Tea Party support doesn't make you a "Tea Party congressman."

Francis Wilkinson praises the Tea Party for channeling anger into political activism:

To see what radical activism and rage-fueled politics look like without such constraints, just look back at the New Left. Black Panther shootouts. Symbionese Liberation Army shootouts. Kathy Boudin & Friends shootouts. The occasional ROTC building explosion. Reckless politics was a cause of death in those ugly years. To the extent that gun laws encourage suicide, homicide and manslaughter, it still is. But the word "laws" makes all the difference.

Unlike the New Left, the Tea Party has worked within the system. It has organized public demonstrations, supported candidates and lobbied legislatures. What it has not done is murder police officers or blow up buildings.

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This page is a archive of recent entries in the Oklahoma Election 2014 category.

Oklahoma Election 2010 is the previous category.

Oklahoma Election 2016 is the next category.

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