Oklahoma Election 2014: May 2014 Archives

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.


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.


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.

About this Archive

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

Oklahoma Election 2014: June 2014 is the next archive.

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