Oklahoma Election 2016 Category

Happy election day! Enjoy your freedom to vote now, before Hillary ships you to a concentration camp or Donald abolishes elections and renames himself Caligula II.

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Polls in Oklahoma are open until 7:00 p.m. If you need help finding your polling place, if you'd like to study a sample ballot before you go, the Oklahoma State Election Board has a one-stop-shop online voter tool. Put in your name and date of birth, and they'll look you up in the database, find your polling place and show you a photo of it and a map, will let you see a printable sample ballot, and, if you're voting absentee, it will show you when your ballot arrived at your county election board.

OSEB will have live results available after 7 p.m. Keep in mind that absentee ballots are counted first at the county election board, and then individual precincts bring their scanning ballot boxes to the county election board for processing. Candidates and news outlets who send runners to the precincts to read results posted on the door will have results more quickly than OSEB.

OSEB also has this very handy list of every candidate and every proposition on the 2016 Oklahoma ballot, arranged by county.

Here's my printable cheat sheet for the election.

BatesLine_ballot_card-2016_general.pdf

My thoughts on specific races and questions:

Here's an archive of all of my articles about Election 2016.

Many thanks to the sponsors and supporters of BatesLine who made this year's election coverage possible.

All right, Bob, how 'bout a little music to keep the people happy! Take it away, Leon!

"There'll be cheerin' and hootin' and some friendly shootin' just to keep the spirit of this big occasion."

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.

I almost left the top line of my ballot blank.

When I was filling out my absentee ballot, I left the presidential race until the last. Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton nor Gary Johnson -- our only three choices in Oklahoma -- are fit to serve as president of the United States. Trump says some things that are pleasing to conservative ears, but his livelihood was built on saying one thing to close a deal and then doing another, leaving him sitting pretty and his business partners in the lurch. Clinton is utterly venal and corrupt, selling American foreign policy to the highest bidder, with the money laundered through the family's "foundation," and setting up a private email server, putting American secrets at risk, in order to hide her corruption from the reach of open-records laws. Johnson is a buffoon, a fake libertarian who sees no problem with the State punishing small-business owners who wish to run their businesses in accordance with the understanding of marriage that was near-universal just a decade ago. I'm frightened by how triumphant Trump or victorious Clinton might use their new power to punish their adversaries; both are vengeful and egotistical. I'm disturbed by the willingness of many conservatives to shift their positions and lower their standards in order to justify their support for Trump -- not merely holding their noses and voting for him, which is understandable, but enthusiastically embracing him.

I had pondered voting for Johnson anyway, as a protest vote, but Josh Lewis, writing at SavingElephantsBlog.com, talked me out of it, pointing out that giving the Libertarian Party, particularly in its current state, a permanent foothold in Oklahoma will only cause more problems for electing conservatives:

Suffice it to say for now, I am a conservative and recognize libertarianism as a competing ideology. A vote for Gary Johnson is a vote that will ultimately strengthen the libertarian brand. If you're an ideological libertarian this makes sense. But if you're only casting a "protest vote" it may have dangerous unintended consequences.

So I was going to leave the ballot bank, but as I stared at the space on the ballot, I looked at the three lists of seven names under the names of the presidential and vice presidential nominees:

  • Republican: David Oldham, Teresa Turner, Mark Thomas, Bobby Cleveland, Lauree Elizabeth Marshall, Charles W. Potts, George W. Wiland, Jr.
  • Libertarian: Erin Adams, Mikel Dillon, Joel Britt Dixon, Rex L Lawhorn, Ephriam Zachary Knight, Craig A. Dawkins, Mark C. DeShazo.
  • Democrat: Marq Lewis, Bill John Baker, Mark Hammons, Betty McElderry, W. A. Drew Edmondson, Jeannie McDaniel, Rhonda Walters.

These are the people we're voting for today: One set of seven who will meet in Oklahoma City in December and cast the only votes any Oklahoman will cast for President and Vice President of the United States.

I'm under no illusions: Each of these people were selected by district and state conventions because of their loyalty to their party. Barring some unforeseen catastrophe, they will be voting for the names above theirs on the ballot, which will lead either to a Trump-flavored catastrophe or a Clinton-flavored catastrophe.

ayatollah_edmondson_small.jpgBut what if no candidate appears to have won a majority of electoral votes? What if Utah goes for Evan McMillan, enough to hold Clinton and Trump short of 270? What if there finally emerges a scandal serious enough to chase Donald or Hillary into exile in Irian Jaya? What if (heaven forbid) one or both of the aged main-party candidates suffers a debilitating accident or health emergency? Would it still make no difference which set of seven electors are chosen by Oklahoma voters?

Under those unlikely circumstances, it would make a great deal of difference. I know many of the people running for elector, and I would trust David Oldham, Bobby Cleveland, and George Wiland to make a decision in the best interest of the nation. I would not trust Craig Dawkins, or Jeannie McDaniel, or Drew Edmondson, the former Ayatollah General.

It's taken me more time to describe my thought process than it took me to come to that conclusion. I had to decide to leave the race blank or mark it, seal up the ballot, get the affidavit notarized, mail it, and get on with trip preparations. I voted for George, David, Bobby, Mark, Teresa, Lauree, and Charles.

There are three contested county offices on the Tulsa County ballot. Republican Josh Turley seeks to defeat incumbent Democrat Commissioner Karen Keith in County Commission District 2. Republican Don Newberry and Democrat John R. Andrew are vying for the Court Clerk position, left open by the retirement of Sally Howe Smith. Republican Sheriff Vic Regalado and Democrat Rex Berry are in a rematch of the April special election to replace Stanley Glanz.

A recent, seemingly unrelated news item raised an issue that should be considered by Tulsa County voters tomorrow. State bond adviser Jim Joseph and State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones spoke out against the widespread practice of school districts waiving competitive bids for bond issues.

Oklahoma school districts are spending millions of taxpayers' dollars every year by paying high fees for financial advisers, bond counsel and underwriters, says Jim Joseph, the state's bond adviser.

Many school districts continue to do the same thing year after year, while stubbornly refusing to use cost-saving competitive selection measures, he said.

"It's like picking a roofer right after a storm because he's the first guy who came to your door," Joseph said. "You're not going to get a deal, that's for sure."

State Auditor Gary Jones agreed school boards could save Oklahoma taxpayers money by obtaining competitive quotes.

"There could be tens of millions of dollars saved over a short period of time," Jones said.

Joseph went on to compare the massive fees paid by school districts to bond counsel and financial advisers, often a percentage of the bond issue, with the smaller amounts state agencies paid for much larger bond issue. Several were listed; here's one example:

For example, Midwest City-Del City Public Schools did a $72.62 million bond issue in 2012 without competitive bids. It paid the Floyd Law Firm of Norman $363,100 for serving as bond counsel and allowed Stephen H. McDonald & Associates and BOSC Inc., a subsidiary of BOK Financial Corporation, to equally split $508,340 for serving as co-financial advisers, records show.

Compare that with a $310.48 million bond issue by the Grand River Dam Authority that was done in 2014 through a competitive process. The state paid a $114,000 bond counsel fee and a $133,448 financial adviser fee.

Although the Grand River Dam Authority bond issue was more than four times as large as the Midwest City-Del City school bond issue, the school district paid more than triple the amount in bond counsel and financial adviser fees, records show.

Joseph pointed out that bond counsel, underwriter, and financial advisers often each take 1% of the bond issue as their fee, which Joseph says "makes no sense at all. It doesn't take any more work to do a $20 million issue than a $10 million issue for the bond counsel and financial adviser, but the fee is twice as high, if payment is on a percentage basis."

What does this have to do with Tulsa County? Joseph noted that the firm of Hilborne & Weidman was frequently listed as bond counsel for these competition-waived bond issues. Hilborne & Weidman was also one of two bond counsel firms selected in 2003 by the Tulsa County commissioners (acting as the Tulsa County Industrial Authority) for the Vision 2025 revenue bonds, a massive bond issue against up to all 13 years of the new sales tax. I urged at the time that Tulsa County put all Vision 2025 bond-related contracts up for competitive bid, as commissioners haggled publicly over which firms would get a piece of the action, but they waived competitive bidding and split the baby, giving each favored firm half of the business.

Over the last 13 years, there's been a complete turnover on the County Commission, but the tradition of waiving competitive bidding has persisted. Here's one example from May 26, 2009, in Karen Keith's first year as a commissioner ($110 million in bonds), another from February 1, 2010.

On May 23, 2016, the commissioners, including Karen Keith, voted unanimously to waive competitive bidding on indebtedness, but neither the minutes nor the agenda explain the amount or nature of the indebtedness. Given the proximity to the April 2016 Vision Tulsa vote, my guess is that the vote was on the revenue bonds pledged against that new 15-year sales tax stream.

How many more projects might have been built if Vision 2025 bonds had been competitively bid? Could we have had a new juvenile justice facility without being asked for more tax dollars in two separate elections? (And it still hasn't been built! Karen Keith has been in office eight years, and we're still waiting.)

Given the size of these bond issues, even a 1% fee would be a huge amount for a small firm. The temptation to corruption would be immense. Think of the money the former Skiatook superintendent got in kickbacks from the janitorial supply company. That would be chump change compared to even a small cut of 1% of a $500 million bond issue.

Oklahoma taxpayers need legislation to require competitive bidding on bonds and to require counties, school districts, and cities -- and their associated Title 60 trusts -- to use the state bond adviser rather than hiring their own favored exclusive firms. Until we get that legislation, we need county officials who will support transparency and fiscal prudence. Josh Turley and Don Newberry, both good men with long years' experience as county employees, will provide that kind of leadership, and I hope Tulsa County voters elect them both.

As for the sheriff's race, I've voiced my concern with the pattern of funding Regalado received in the special election primary and even more concern with the way he responded to the charges. He seems to have settled down and done a reasonable job of setting TCSO on a better course, away from last year's scandals. Rex Berry is way out in left field; we don't need someone like him as sheriff. I'm voting for Regalado.

Three Tulsa City Council seats made it to the general election. As the current City Council has been a complete disaster, backing a massive increase in the permanent sales tax, shutting down Riverside Drive for two years, and imposing their radical left-wing theories of gender and sexuality on the property owners of our city, I don't want any of them to be re-elected.

I was sad to see Jack Henderson work against the interests of District 1 by backing the regressive sales tax for dams in the Arkansas River. Burdening Tulsa's poorest neighborhoods with higher taxes so residents of our wealthier neighborhoods can look at water in the river is unjust, and the Jack Henderson I thought I knew used to understand that. Vanessa Hall-Harper does understand that. She stood against the dam sales tax. While I would never expect a conservative to win District 1, we can at least hope for a city councilor who wants to help her constituents to conserve their own hard-earned funds.

Jeannie Cue, the incumbent in District 2, has been a big disappointment for the aforementioned reasons. But the only thing I've been able to find out about her opponent, Aaron Bisogno, is that he really loves Star Wars. No endorsement in District.

In District 9, Ben Kimbro has the endorsement of the Tulsa Regional Chamber and a bunch of current city councilors. Clearly, we need someone different.

Eric McCray owns a small heat and air company, and he wants to see the reopening of Riverside Drive fast-tracked. He also has some sensible thoughts on the blighted sections of District 9:

Shutting down Riverside for 2 years with no end in sight is unacceptable.

We can make opening Riverside for commuters a priority and fast track the reopening date.

Tulsa commuters should not have to endure multiple, simultaneous road projects which shut down traffic all over the city. We should not see roads shut down with nobody present working on the projects. Crews should focus on a project 24/7 until it is completed and then move to the next. There is a management issue with the roads in Tulsa, and I aim to fix it.

Government assistance programs tend to fund the crime problem in our District. If you don't have to work for your food or housing, you likely have the time and entitlement mentality to commit crime. We have had one of the highest crime spots in all of Tulsa at 61st and Peoria. It is no coincidence that it is located near the swath of government assistance housing. It is not merely a poverty problem--I will work with law enforcement officials, community leaders, and business owners to determine the best way to deter crime from our District while promoting and bringing business to District 9. Let's change the reputation on this side of town.

Two State Supreme Court justices, two judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals, and three judges on the Court of Civil Appeals are before the voters for retention. If any of the judges get more no votes than yes votes, he or she will be out of office, and a replacement will be appointed by the usual process.

Ordinarily, a third Supreme Court seat would be on the ballot, but Justice Steven Taylor announced his retirement at the end of the year. There's no need to vote on retaining someone who is stepping down.

In going back through some controversial decisions over the last few years, I find a mixed record. Justice Douglas Combs was alone in rightly parsing law and precedent regarding the Ten Commandments monument, understanding that something can be religious without being sectarian, and noting that his colleagues rejected precedent in Meyer v. Oklahoma City (a 50-foot cross on the State Fairgrounds, lit by city-funded lights) without explicitly overturning it.

Justices James Winchester and Taylor were the only ones to see the problem with the State Supreme Court crossing a constitutional boundary to get involved in a criminal matter in the Clayton Lockett botched-execution case. (In Oklahoma's split appellate system, criminal appeals go to the Court of Criminal Appeals, but no further; civil appeals go to a panel of the Court of Civil Appeals, from which a decision may be appealed to the State Supreme Court.) Winchester also joined Taylor in correctly labelling SQ 779 as logrolling in violation of Article XXIV, Section 1, of the Constitution of Oklahoma and in approving the clear ballot titles written by the Attorney General for SQ 780 and 781. Justice Combs was on the wrong side of these decisions. In my browsing through recent decisions, I found that often Winchester stood with Taylor on the right, but minority, side of an issue.

But Justice Winchester was the lone dissenter (without explanation) from a decision that affirmed that a county assessor could hire legal representation of his choosing in the pursuit of his duties.

Tony Lauinger of Oklahomans for Life notes the Supreme Court justices' hostility to pro-life laws, interpreting the "right" to an abortion much more expansively than the federal courts:

Regarding the Retention Ballot for Oklahoma Supreme Court justices, please note that the members of the Oklahoma Supreme Court - including those on the Retention Ballot - have repeatedly, arbitrarily, relentlessly handed down pro-abortion rulings. They even killed a pro-life law which would have promoted ultrasounds, even though a federal appeals court upheld a very similar law from Texas. A mother who sees an ultrasound of her baby is much less likely to have an abortion. Babies are dying every day in Oklahoma because the state Supreme Court struck down this law.

Our state Supreme Court is so notoriously pro-abortion that when the abortion industry challenges a pro-life law, they file suit in state court rather than federal court, because our Oklahoma Supreme Court is more pro-abortion than the federal courts.

The unanimous 9-0 decision by the court to block SQ 782, a proposed amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution banning abortion, created a chicken-and-egg problem. The state supremes cited Planned Parenthood v. Casey, saying that the U. S. Supreme Court's ruling is definitive until they overturn it. But SCOTUS won't overturn a ruling until a case reaches it, and that can't happen until a state passes a law in contradiction to it, the state enforces it, someone sues, and the case percolates up the Federal court hierarchy. Burns v. Cline, 2016 OK 99, is another example of the problem. Treating SCOTUS, and not the Constitution itself, sovereign is reason enough to boot out every single state justice.

Among the appellate judges up for retention, Judge Tom Thornbrugh was "called up" on the SQ 779 logrolling case to fill the shoes of a Supreme Court justice who had to recuse. Thornbrugh took the wrong position, voting with the majority that turned a blind eye to the proposition's obvious violation of the single-subject rule.

Of the judges on the retention ballot, Winchester was appointed by Rep. Gov. Frank Keating; Combs, Smith, and Fischer were appointed by Dem. Gov. Brad Henry; Joplin was appointed by Dem. Gov. David Walters; and Thornbrugh and Hudson were appointed by Rep. Gov. Mary Fallin. (See the Oklahoma Supreme Court handbook for 2015 for further biographical information.

Recently on Talk Radio 1170 KFAQ, Pat Campbell hosted a discussion on Oklahoma State Questions 780 and 781 with former State House Speaker Kris Steele, a proponent of the propositions, and Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, who opposes them.

The more I listened to Steele's arguments in favor, the more confirmed I became in my opposition to Oklahoma State Question 780. To hear Steele talk, you'd think that drug addiction is something you get because the barista at Charbux forgot to wash his hands after sneezing. But common sense says that there's a volitional aspect to drug use and addiction, and penalties for possession may deter people from seeking to self-medicate in ways that are hard to cure.

Kunzweiler pointed out that sometimes drug possession is the only charge for which enough direct evidence exists to convict a suspected drug dealer. Prosecutors are happy to send addicts through drug court to help them deal with their problem instead of going to jail, but they need the statutory tools to go after the pushers. Making every instance of possession of every kind of controlled substance a misdemeanor takes a very effective tool away from prosecutors.

In a November 1, 2016, speech to pastors in Tulsa, U. S. Senator James Lankford likened Article II, Section 5, of the Oklahoma Constitution to a latent computer virus. Lankford warned that unless Oklahomans repeal that section by passing SQ 790, anti-religion litigants will be able to use the provision to block any partnership between state and local government and faith-based organizations in areas like foster care, adoption services, hospitals, and care for the homeless.

While I could take issue with the details of his recounting of the history of the Blaine Amendment and similar provisions in state constitutions, it is true that many of the enabling acts for new states required such provisions to be included in state constitutions, and it's also true that anti-Catholic-immigrant fear motivated the effort.

More importantly, Lankford's warning about the future in Oklahoma is spot on. The language in Article II, Section 5, prohibits even an indirect benefit to a sectarian institution from use of state funds or assets. While there are now a couple of precedents, one very recent -- Murrow Indian Orphans Home v. Childers (1946 OK 187) and Oliver v. Hofmeister (2016 OK 15) -- that seem to allow state payments to a religious institution if the state is being relieved of some financial obligation in return, there were grounds in the plain meaning of the words of Article II, Section 5, to rule the other way.

Oklahoma citizens benefit when organizations, driven by faith in the God who created us for good works, care for the needy. It reduces the burden on taxpayers when staff and clergy funded by church members join with volunteers to meet these needs. But the only way to ensure that this beneficial relationship can survive a future court challenge is to pass SQ 790 to eliminate an overly broad and inconsistently interpreted provision in our State Constitution.

Sen. Lankford is up for re-election, and if you appreciate the foresight and eloquence he applied to this issue, you'll want to join me in voting to send him back to Washington for a full six-year term.

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For your convenience, here is a summary of my recommendations for the seven state questions on the 2016 Oklahoma general election ballot. The descriptions are not meant to make my entire argument in three words; they simply serve as a reminder of the topic of the question. The right-hand column contains a couple of words to describe the type of question: Whether the question affects the Constitution or state statutes, and whether it was initiated by the legislature or by initiative petition. Links lead to the article in which I discuss the question at length:

SQ 776 YES Death penalty protection Constitutional, legislative
SQ 777 NO "Right to Farm" amendment Constitutional, legislative
SQ 779 NO Permanent sales tax for schools, colleges, career tech Constitutional, initiative
SQ 780 NO Drug possession always a misdemeanor Statutory, initiative
SQ 781 NO SQ 780 "savings" fund Statutory, initiative
SQ 790 YES Repeal anti-1st Amendment language in Oklahoma constitution Constitutional, legislative
SQ 792 NO Replace bad alcohol laws with worse alcohol laws Constitutional, legislative

Oklahoma State Question 792 is a legislative referendum to amend the State Constitution. It would repeal almost all of Article XXVIII (all but the section that repealed article XXVII) and replace it with a new and much longer Article XXVIII A. Click the link to read the complete text of the new amendment. See for yourself how ridiculously complicated it is. It goes into great detail about the permitted relationships between wholesalers and retailers. It writes into the state constitution provisions that properly belong, in statute if anywhere. Some who have analyzed the bill say that it unduly favors out-of-state supermarket chains at the expense of locally-owned businesses and large breweries at the expense of small.

I would love to see our state's liquor laws simplified and made rational. It has never made sense to me that you can buy shots of tequila at a bar at 1:30 a.m. (to be followed by a shaky drive home), but you cannot, at that same hour, buy a bottle of wine to drink safely at home. It doesn't make sense that there has to be a middleman -- a wholesale distributor -- in between the makers of beer, wine, and spirits and the retailer or consumer. I like Fat Tire beer and would love to be able to buy it in Oklahoma. If liquor stores can import beer from Belgium and Japan in Oklahoma, why can't retailers import Yuengling from Pennsylvania?

If you take nothing else from this article, realize that the changes won't go into effect until October 1, 2018. You will have to wait almost two years to buy strong beer and wine at QT.

You may as well wait a few weeks more to get the right kind of change -- a change that would clear away the existing constitutional amendment and replace it with the minimum necessary language to set the extent to which the state, counties, and municipalities can regulate the sale of alcohol. Leave the rest to statute. (Even things like drinking age and hours of operation.) If SQ 792 fails, we can vote on a cleaner question in November of 2018 and have it go into immediate effect. In the meantime, the legislature can cue up any statutory language that we'd want to have in place when the old amendment is cleared away.

I urge you to vote NO -- AGAINST SQ 792.

Oklahoma SQ 781 is a companion to SQ 780, proposed by the same people. It will not go into effect unless SQ 780 is passed. Like SQ 780, SQ 781 is statutory.

The proposal creates new law in Title 57. It establishes a revolving fund called the County Community Safety Investment Fund, directs the Office of Management and Enterprise Services to calculate the money saved by implementation of SQ 780, requires that that amount of money be added to the fund each year, and allows that money to be spent "for the sole purpose of providing funds to counties to provide community rehabilitative programming, including but not limited to mental health and substance abuse services. Funds shall be disbursed in proportion to county population, as reported in the most recent census."

Even if you decide to vote for SQ 780, I urge you to vote NO, AGAINST SQ 781. We already have too many earmarked funds and revenue streams, which means that certain state and local institutions are on the gravy train while others live on bread and water. If SQ 780 passes and manages to save money, the legislature should have the discretion to distribute it as needed. SQ 781 looks suspiciously like a lobbyist-inspired effort to put money in pockets of companies ready to provide the services on which the fund created by SQ 781 must be exclusively expended.

UPDATED 2016/11/02: Having completed my analysis of all 23 sections of the SQ 780 legislation, I have revised the introductory text below to provide a better summary of the affect of passing the state question.

Oklahoma State Question 780 began life as an initiative petition.

Unlike most state questions, its passage will not modify the Constitution. If it passes, SQ 780 will be like the legislature passing a bill. The constitutional power of initiative gives citizens of Oklahoma or any of its political subdivisions the power to legislate in the same way as the corresponding legislative body. City of Tulsa voters could modify the zoning code by putting an initiative petition on the ballot and voting to approve it. State voters can pass state statutes by approving an initiative petition at the polls. I don't know if this has ever happened, but I suppose residents of a school board district could use the initiative power to fire a superintendent or take any other action the school board is empowered to make. The power of initiative exists in recognition that good legislation can at times get clogged up in the politics of the legislature, that legislators can sometimes see themselves (and their lobbyist pals) as an "us" and their constituents as "them." An initiative petition provides a bypass to the obstruction.

In this case, the initiative petition provided a spur to action to the legislature. As you'll see in the section-by-section analysis after the jump, twelve of the 19 sections of statute affected by SQ 780 were modified this year by HB 2751, which passed both houses by wide margins and was signed into law while the SQ 780 petition was being circulated. The bill, like SQ 790, modified the value threshold at which a crime involving theft, fraud, embezzlement, and the like is considered a felony. You can read HB 2751 and see what was added and deleted.

Signature thresholds for statutory initiatives are much lower than for proposed constitutional amendments. Eight percent (8%) of the vote total in the last governor's election (65,987) is enough to put a statutory initiative on the ballot. (15% is required for constitutional initiatives.)

SQ 780 amends 19 different sections in three separate titles of Oklahoma law, affecting penalties and definitions for crimes involving controlled substances, larceny, embezzlement, forgery, and counterfeiting, and affecting penalties for second and subsequent offences. The link, which leads to the Secretary of State's file on SQ 780, shows the text of those sections of the Oklahoma statutes as they would be if SQ 780 passes, and also contains the record of the dispute over the wording of the ballot title for this complex piece of legislation.

When you eliminate the minor differences between HB 2751, which is now in effect, and SQ 780, what's left is one very big, very contentious issue, which hasn't received the attention it deserves -- how should we should deal with drug possession. SQ 780 should have been challenged for violating the single-subject rule -- logrolling popular common-sense ideas like raising the threshold for considering a property crime as a felony with more controversial and divisive issues. When the legislature approved HB 2751, they cleared away the fog and effectively reduced SQ 780 to this question: Should all drug possession crimes be classified as misdemeanors, regardless of the type of drug involve and regardless of the proximity to schools and children?

While there may be a case for lightening penalties, particularly for first offenses, I believe this proposal goes too far. I recommend voting NO -- AGAINST SQ 780.

Now for the details.

Sections 1 and 2 of the proposition sets out the rationale and gives the proposal a name, but it wouldn't be codified into law:

SECTION 1: The people of the state of Oklahoma find the fact that Oklahoma has the second-highest overall incarceration rate in the country, and the highest incarceration rate for women, is inconsistent with Oklahoma values, and drains resources away from investments that can do more to promote public safety. Therefore, the people intend, in enacting this initiative measure, to implement criminal justice reforms that: (l) stop wasting taxpayer money keeping people who commit low-level offenses behind bars for years; and (2) saddle fewer people who commit low-level offenses with felony convictions that will follow them through life and prevent them from getting an education or a job.

SECTION 2. This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Oklahoma Smart Justice
Reform Act."

The next 18 sections are amendatory. If you've looked at Oklahoma legislation online, you know that amended law is always shown as a markup -- deleted text stricken through, added text underlined. It makes it easy to see exactly what is changing. It would have been nice for the voters if that had been done by the proponents, but since it wasn't, I will do that here, but after the jump to keep clutter off of the home page. (If you'd like to show your appreciation for my diligent effort, which took me about eight hours to complete, there are a variety of ways you can do so.)

Section 21 repeals 21 O. S. 51.3, which reads:

Every person who, having been convicted of petit larceny, or of an attempt to commit an offense which if perpetrated, would be punishable by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary, commits any crime after such conviction, is punishable as follows:

1. If such subsequent offense is such that upon a first conviction the offender would be punishable by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary for life, such person is punishable by imprisonment in such prison for life.

2. If such subsequent offense is such that upon first conviction the offender would be punishable by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary for any term less than for life, such person is punishable by imprisonment in such prison for the longest term prescribed upon a conviction for such first offense.

3. If such subsequent conviction is for petit larceny, or for any attempt to commit an offense, which, if perpetrated, would be punishable by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary, then such person is punishable by imprisonment in such prison for a term not exceeding five (5) years.

Section 22 is a severability clause, allowing the remainder of the legislation to go into effect even if part of it is overturned in court. Section 23 sets an effective date of July 1, 2017.

Details after the jump.

Oklahoma State Question 790 is a legislative referendum which would remove a discriminatory and inconsistently applied provision in the Constitution of Oklahoma that deals with the relationship of religion and government. Its passage would allow the People of Oklahoma through our elected representatives to weigh and balance a variety of public concerns in the development and administration of our laws. Passing SQ 790 would place these questions solely in the context of the well-developed body of Federal jurisprudence concerning the free exercise and establishment clauses of the First Amendment, and would eliminate the added burden of a state provision, the meaning and interpretation of which has shifted over the 109 years since statehood, and which the State Supreme Court has inconsistently applied even within the last two years. Passing SQ 790 would eliminate a provision which discriminates against religious organizations by denying the possibility of even an indirect benefit from an action taken in pursuit of secular state aims.

SQ 790 would delete Article II, Section 5, which reads:

No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.

The proposed amendment was placed on the ballot by Senate Joint Resolution 72, which was approved by a 39-5 vote in the State Senate and a 65-7 vote in the State House. (All five no votes in the Senate and all seven nay votes in the House were from Democrats, as were 2 of the 4 Senate abstentions and 17 of the 24 House abstentions.) The House Rules Committee passed it with a unanimous 9-0 vote. The Senate Rules Committee voted 13-2 in favor.

At the time of its passage, the Oklahoma Constitution was the longest governing document in the world, regulating the price of railroad tickets, regulating who could receive free railroad tickets (and including a special exemption for ministers of religion and YMCA traveling secretaries), decreeing the flash point of kerosene, and defining the term "colored" (although the legal impediments connected with the word were left to legislation -- the "Jim Crow" law passed as the Legislature's first act).

Over its 109-year history, Article II, Section 5, has been cited in about a dozen Oklahoma State Supreme Court cases, involving everything from discounted streetcar fares for parochial school students (OK), to letting private school students ride the public school bus (not OK), to chapel services at a state orphanage (OK), to a cross on the State Fairgrounds (OK), to, most recently, school vouchers for special-needs students (OK) and the Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the State Capitol (not OK). The rulings have been woefully inconsistent.

The most recent two rulings illustrate the problem:

In Prescott v. Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission (2015 OK 54), the State Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the Ten Commandments monument "operates for the use, benefit or support of a sect or system of religion." Stretching the definition of words to the breaking point, the majority opinion claimed that Judeo-Christianity was a system of religion and that the text of the Ten Commandments was sectarian because it followed the translation that was common to all English-speaking Protestant denominations for over three centuries. (The monument also includes the text of the Ten Commandments in ancient, pre-exilic Hebrew script.) Justice Combs, on this year's retention ballot, wrote a dissent in this case. Justice Winchester, also on the ballot went along with the majority's decision.

Oklahoma Ten Commandments Monument, highlighting the section with the Ten Commandments in ancient Hebrew script

A year later, in Oliver v. Hofmeister (26 OK 15), the Court ruled unanimously that it did not violate Article II, Section 5, for the state to provide funding that parents of special-needs children could use to pay for private school education. The majority argued that the Lindsay Nicole Henry Scholarship is constitutional, because the program is voluntary, because the parents choose the school and may select from religious or non-religious schools, and because the State benefits in that acceptance of the scholarship "relieves the school district of its obligation to the student to provide special education services mandated by the state and federal governments."

It is easy to see how the two decisions might have been reversed: The Ten Commandments are not unique to one Christian denomination or even to Christianity. They are held in respect and reverence by the three great monotheistic religions, so they can hardly be called "sectarian" as understood by the framers of our state's constitution. There is no such thing as a "Judeo-Christian system of religion." It would be more accurate to say that Judeo-Christian is a broad classification that embraces a group of different religions with some common features. The church-affiliated schools that receive state funding in the form of tuition vouchers are benefitting indirectly from state expenditure. The constitutional provision makes no allowance for offsetting state benefit.

The problem comes down to two words, one of which -- "indirectly" -- is overly broad, and the other -- "sectarian" -- has changed meanings since 1907.

Of all the private organizations in Oklahoma, only organizations which are religious in nature must be screened off from even an indirect benefit from government expenditure. Interpreted literally, the provision is absurd. Churches, religious schools, convents, and monasteries benefit indirectly from government spending on law enforcement, street resurfacing, sidewalks, and water and sewer service. A government that is banned from doing anything that might indirectly benefit a sectarian institution will be doing nothing at all.

But what does "sectarian" mean? Is anything religious necessarily sectarian, or did the framers of the Oklahoma Constitution understand a distinction between those two terms?

The same Constitutional Convention that adopted Article II, Section 5, saw no conflict with opening its proceedings with prayer or giving religious ministers a special exemption for free railroad tickets. The Constitution of the proposed State of Sequoyah, which was drafted by many of the same leaders who created the Oklahoma Constitution, had a provision similar to Article II, Section 5, but it also designated Sunday as a "perpetual day of rest" and banned atheists from holding public office.

The Oklahoma public schools that my parents and grandparents attended included prayers and Bible reading. At Catoosa Elementary School in 1970, Mrs. Paul's 2nd grade class opened each day with the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord's Prayer.

For the first six decades or so of our state's history, the idea that the Ten Commandments were sectarian would have seemed ridiculous. What could be less sectarian than a document held in esteem by all the denominations of Judaism -- orthodox, conservative, and Reform alike -- dozens of Protestant denominations, Roman Catholicism, Greek and Russian and Syrian Orthodoxy, and even modern religions like Mormonism and Christian Science?

What was considered sectarian? Whether infants should be baptized, whether communion was a symbolic memorial or involved the transubstantiation of bread and wine into flesh and blood, whether the church should be governed by bishops, elders, or the membership of the congregation. Promotion by public schools or city governments of a civic religion of generic Protestantism was not seen as a violation of this constitutional provision by the men who put it there.

To the framers of the Oklahoma Constitution, "sectarian" was a code word for Catholic. While Article II, Section 5, is not identical to the unsuccessful Blaine Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, it is in the same vein and shares the same motivation. In the late 19th century, America experienced an influx of immigrants from Ireland and southern Europe. These immigrants were happy to become Americans, but they did not want their children to become Protestants, and they reacted to the public schools' generic Protestantism by setting up their own parochial schools. In reaction to this, politicians who wanted immigrants to assimilate passed provisions like the Blaine Amendment and Article II, Section 5, to ensure that choosing to avoid the prescribed path of religious assimilation would always carry an extra financial burden.

In one case dealing with this constitutional provision, the State Supreme Court noted that a chapel on the grounds of the State's Whitaker Orphanage near Pryor would be used for "non-sectarian, non-denominational religious worship" -- a juxtaposition that would have made perfect sense to the framers of Oklahoma's Constitution but apparently baffles seven of the nine members of our current State Supreme Court.

A few weeks ago I debated in support of SQ 790 against Jim Huff, one of the plaintiffs in the Ten Commandments monument case. Mr. Huff repeatedly made the claim that approval of SQ 790 and repeal of Article II, Section 5, would leave a hole in the law regarding the relationship of religion and government. He claims that its passage will lead to more lawsuits.

On the contrary. The "hole" would be filled by a well-defined body of jurisprudence regarding the First Amendment's "establishment" and "free exercise" clauses. If SQ 790 passes, state, local, and school officials in Oklahoma will have the guidance of dozens of First Amendment cases across the entire country. The two lawsuits mentioned above could have been avoided if Article II, Section 5, were repealed, because precedents in other states already established the constitutionality of the legislature's actions.

If SQ 790 fails, Oklahoma officials will only be able to guess, based on a dozen inconsistent rulings, whether their actions will be regarded as constitutional when the inevitable lawsuit is brought to the State Supreme Court.

Because of the clarity that repeal of Article II, Section 5, will bring to the interaction of government and religion in Oklahoma, I am voting YES, to APPROVE SQ 790.

MORE comments -- a couple of further thoughts I've posted elsewhere that may help summarize the case:

Regarding their Ten Commandments monument, Texas officials could make decisions based on dozens of 1st Amendment establishment and free-exercise precedents from cases across the US. Oklahoma officials are burdened with an overly broad ("indirectly") provision with few precedents (about a dozen) and shifting definitions ("sectarian"). But the existence of Article II, Section 5 is no excuse for our State Supreme Court. The seven justices who ruled against the monument should be blamed for wrongly claiming that there is a "Judeo-Christian system of religion" (Judeo-Christian is a label for a broad grouping of religions with some common elements; if it's a system, where's its hierarchy, where are its rituals set down?) and that the monument is "sectarian" (its text is revered by all denominations or sects of Judaism and Christianity, and is even regarded as holy scripture by Islam).

When Article II, Section 5, was placed in the Oklahoma Constitution, and similar "Blaine Amendment"-type provisions were added to other state constitutions, the framers wanted to encourage children to be indoctrinated in the state religion of the day (generic protestantism) and make it harder for families who wanted to educate their children in their own religion. The motivation for those who want to keep it today hasn't changed, but the state religion has been changed (by the U. S. Supreme Court in the 1960s) to atheism and materialism.

MORE: After the jump, a summary of the Oklahoma State Supreme court cases citing Article II, Section 5.

Oklahoma State Question 779, an initiative petition promoted by University of Oklahoma President (and former Oklahoma governor and senator) David Boren, would amend the Oklahoma Constitution, establishing a permanent 1 cent on the dollar sales tax (a permanent increase in the state sales tax rate from 4.5 cents per dollar to 5.5 -- a 22% increase) to be used for funding K-12 schools, Career Tech, and higher education. Complex language is intended to ensure that this permanent sales tax is in addition to and not in place of existing state funding.

Here is the text of the proposed new Article XIII-C, which would be added to the Oklahoma Constitution if SQ 779 is approved:

CONSTITUTION OF OKLAHOMA, ARTICLE XIII-C - OKLAHOMA EDUCATION IMPROVEMENT FUND

§ 1. CREATION OF OKLAHOMA EDUCATION IMPROVEMENT FUND

There is hereby created in the State Treasury a limited purpose fund to be known as the "Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund." The fund shall consist of the proceeds of the sales tax levy and the use tax levy provided in Section 2 of this Article XIII-C, and any monies or assets contributed to the fund from any other source, public or private.

§ 2. LEVY OF ONE CENT SALES TAX AND USE TAX FOR OKLAHOMA EDUCATION IMPROVEMENT FUND

There is hereby levied upon all sales, not otherwise exempted in the Oklahoma Sales Tax Code, an additional excise tax of one percent (1.0%) of the gross receipts or gross proceeds of each sale of tangible personal property, or of other goods and services subject to the sales tax as provided in the Oklahoma Sales Tax Code. Except as otherwise provided herein, this tax shall be collected, reported, and remitted or paid in accordance with the Oklahoma Sales Tax Code. There is hereby levied and there shall be paid by every person storing, using, or otherwise consuming within this state, tangible personal property purchased or brought into this state, an additional excise tax on the storage, use, or other consumption in this state of such property at the rate of one percent (1.0%) of the purchase price of such property. Said tax shall be levied on the storage, use or consumption of personal property as provided in the Oklahoma Use Tax Code. Except as otherwise provided herein, this tax shall be collected, reported, and remitted or paid in accordance with the Oklahoma Use Tax Code. This sales tax levy shall be in addition to, and shall not supplant, the general sales tax levied in the Oklahoma Sales Tax Code or any other sales tax authorized by Oklahoma law and this use tax levy shall be in addition to, and shall not supplant, the general use tax levied in the Oklahoma Use Tax Code or any other use tax authorized by Oklahoma law. All revenue from the sales tax and the use tax levied pursuant to this Article XIII-C, and penalties and interest thereon, collected by the Oklahoma Tax Commission shall be paid to the State Treasurer and deposited into the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund.

§ 3. ALLOCATION OF MONIES IN OKLAHOMA EDUCATION IMPROVEMENT FUND - PURPOSES - USES - ETC.

A. Monies in the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund shall be apportioned by the State Treasurer, appropriated by the Legislature, and distributed monthly for the educational purposes established herein, as follows:

1. Common Education: Sixty-nine and one-half percent (69.5%) of said monies shall be apportioned among and between all the several common school districts of the State in proportion to the school population of the several districts, on the basis of the state aid formula for common education then in effect.

(a) Monies from the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund shall be specifically identified and segregated from other monies appropriated and apportioned among the several common school districts of the State on the basis of said state aid formula.

(b) The common school districts shall use eighty-six and one-third percent (86.33%) of the additional funds provided to them under this Article XIII-C to increase teacher salaries as required by Section 4 of this Article, and to otherwise address and prevent teacher and certified instructional staff shortages in the manner most suited to local district circumstances and needs, including but not limited to differentiated compensation methods or performance pay.

(c) The common school districts shall use thirteen and two-thirds percent (13.67%) of the additional funds provided to them under this Article XIII-C to adopt or to expand programs, opportunities, or reforms to improve reading in the early grades, to improve high school graduation rates, and to increase college and career readiness. The common school districts may use the amount apportioned to them under this Section 3(A)(1)(c) only to adopt or to expand said programs, opportunities or reforms, and may not use the amount apportioned to them under this Section 3(A)(I)(c) to maintain programs, opportunities or reforms established prior to the effective date of this Article XIII-C.

(d) The State Auditor and Inspector shall approve auditors who shall annually audit the use made of the monies distributed to the school districts under this Article XIII-C to ensure that it is used only for the purposes specified in this Article XIII-C..

2. Higher Education: Nineteen and one-quarter percent (19.25%) of said monies shall be paid to the education and general operating budgets of the institutions under the authority of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, for use in improving college affordability, or otherwise in the improvement of higher education.

3. Career and Technology Education: Three and one-quarter percent (3.25%) of said monies shall be paid to the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, for use in the improvement of career and technology education.

4. Early Childhood Education: Eight percent (8%) of said monies shall be paid to the State Department of Education, for use in increasing access to and enhancing the quality of voluntary early learning opportunities for low-income and at-risk children prior to entry into the common education system.

B. Monies expended or distributed from the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund as provided herein shall be used only for the purposes specified in this Article XIII-C, Section 3.c. None of these monies distributed from the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund to common school districts may be used to add superintendent .positions or increase superintendents' salaries.

§ 4. INCREASE IN TEACHER SALARIES

Each common school district of the State of Oklahoma shall pay each teacher employed by such district a salary at a rate that is at least $5,000 greater than the salary schedule transmitted by such district in the most recent year prior to the adoption of this Article XIII-C.

§ 5. FUNDS NOT TO SUPPLANT OTHER EDUCATION FUNDING

A. Monies expended or distributed from the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund shall supplement, and shall not be used to supplant or replace, other state funds supporting common education, early childhood education, higher education, or career and technology education, including but not limited to the Permanent School Fund, the Oklahoma Education Lottery Trust Fund, the Education Reform Revolving Fund, the Common Education Technology Revolving Fund, the Higher Education Capital Revolving Fund, the Oklahoma Tuition Scholarship Revolving Fund, the Common School Fund, appropriations from the Legislature as provided in Article XIII, Section 1a of the Constitution, and any other appropriations from the Legislature used for educational purposes.

B. The Legislature shall appropriate the monies from the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund solely to supplement other funds supporting common education, early childhood education, higher education, or career and technology education. The Legislature shall not appropriate such monies to supplant or replace any other state funds supporting common education, early childhood education, higher educ.ation, or career and technology education.

C. In order to ensure that the monies from the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund are used to enhance and not supplant funding for education, the State Board of Equalization shall examine and investigate appropriations from the Fund each year. At the meeting of the State Board of Equalization held within five (5) days after the monthly apportionment in February of each year, the State Board of Equalization shall issue a finding and report that shall state whether appropriations from the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund were .used to enhance or supplant education funding. If the State Board of Equalization finds that education funding was supplanted by monies from the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund, the State Board of Equalization shall specify the amount by which education funding was supplanted. In this event, the Legislature shall not make any appropriations for the ensuing fiscal year until an appropriation in that amount is made to replenish the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund.

§ 6. EFFECTIVE DATE, CONSTRUCTION

A. This Article XIII-C shall become effective on July 1 immediately following its passage.

B. Nothing in this Article XIII-C shall be construed as conflicting with Article X, Section 23 of the Constitution.

§ 7. SEVERABILITY

The provisions hereof are severable, and if any part or provision hereof shall be void, invalid, or unconstitutional, the decision of the court so holding shall not affect or impair any of the remaining parts or provisions hereof, and the remaining provisions hereof shall continue in full force and effect.

Article X, Section 23, is the balanced-budget requirement in the Constitution of Oklahoma.

Before you even get to the question of whether common schools should get more state funding or teachers should get raises, there are numerous reasons to defeat this proposition:

1. This is a logrolled proposition, in violation of the Oklahoma Constitution's single-subject rule. The essence of logrolling is to link unpopular provisions, which could not pass on their own, with provisions that enjoy public support. Boren has framed this issue so that you have to give him more money for OU if you want to give more money to K-12 schools. That's selfish and greedy on his part. The lavishly funded Tulsa Technology Center will get more money too, even though they can barely figure out how to spend the money they take in through their dedicated property tax levy. The high priests of the Oklahoma Supreme Court pretended not to see the obvious logrolling, so it's left to the voters to punish logrolling by defeating it at the polls, along with the unjust judges who approved it (including Supreme Court justice Combs and Civil Appeals Court judge Thornbrugh, on the ballot for retention in November).

2. There's no mechanism for reducing the tax rate if the tax generates more revenue than is needed. We will have the same problem we already have with dedicated property tax levies for TCC, Tulsa Technology Center, the library, and the health department. Taxpayers lose, money gets wasted, other needs go unfunded.

3. Our cities and towns will have some of the highest combined sales tax rates in the nation. This will hurt border communities, as shoppers cross the state line to avoid the higher tax rate. This will hurt Oklahoma's poorest citizens, as the regressive tax on food, clothing, and other necessities hits even harder.

4. Sales tax is a highly volatile revenue source. Just ask your city's finance director.

5. The degree of detail, the specificity of the earmarks, and the severability clause all indicate that this is really statutory language, not constitutional language.

Any additional funding for post-secondary education should be tied to a College Realignment and Closure Commission, modeled after the military's successful efforts to cut costs by reducing duplication, consolidating commands, and closing inefficient bases. There is considerable overlap between our comprehensive universities, regional universities, community colleges, and career tech schools. (For example, if you want to learn computer programming, any one of those four types of taxpayer-funded, post-secondary institutions will offer what you need.) Colleges are often located based on political considerations of the turn of the 20th century, rather than the population distribution of the early 21st century. And Oklahoma colleges don't need any more taxpayer money for subsidizing culturally corrosive garbage or persecuting dissenters from the official left-wing ideology.

Funding for common schools needs to go back to a local model -- local funding, raised locally, spent locally, under local control. In FY2016, local and county funds accounted for 28% of school funding, while state sources (including earmarked funds and appropriations) amounted to 61%. That ratio needs to be reversed. Property-rich districts like Union and Tulsa shouldn't be receiving state aid at all, beyond targeted assistance for special needs. District taxpayers should have the option of voting in a higher permanent support levy. Rural county assessors should suffer a penalty for failing to assign true market value to local property, as their sloth results in lower property taxes and lower levels of local support. Under the current system, the state steps in and subsidizes that behavior by supplementing lower property tax collection with state funds. The system hurts well-managed counties that are paying their fare share of taxes in favor of poorly-managed counties that aren't. Making local districts more responsible for their own funding would have the natural consequence of encouraging various types of consolidation and efficiency, including administrative consolidation, campus consolidation, and distance learning. If kids on a Queensland cattle station can learn math over the radio from a teacher 200 miles away, surely rural Oklahoma children can learn math over the internet.

SQ 779 is a rotten apple. I plan to throw it out on November 8 by voting no, against SQ 779.

MORE: Here are the opening paragraphs and a few other key passages from Justice Taylor's dissent, which was joined by Kauger and Winchester:

¶1 I respectfully dissent to the Court's decision finding no constitutional infirmity with Initiative Petition No. 403. The Court is presented with a clear example of logrolling--what Article XXIV, Section 1 of the Oklahoma Constitution intends to prevent. An extremely popular one-time pay raise for a group of state employees paired with other less popular tangentially related questions is repulsive to this constitutional provision. The plain language of Article XXIV, Section 1 requires each proposition in an initiative petition to be of one general subject. This proposed constitutional article to provide a pay raise for a small group of state employees, paired with an increase in funding for common education and higher education, a 1% sales tax, and the enhancement of the Board of Equalization's power is a perfect example of what Article XXIV, Section 1 was written to prevent. Even if logrolling were not the determinative issue, the proposed initiative petition impacts several other constitutional provisions in which allocations for salaries are delegated to the Legislature, and only the Legislature.1

¶2 The Respondents admitted during oral argument that amending our founding document to give a pay raise to one group of state employees is unprecedented. Unprecedented may undersell this point. Stop and think about this proposal for a moment--our Constitution will be amended to grant a onetime pay raise to a group of state employees. Is constitutional amendment to become the new vehicle for pay raises for state employees going into the future? It is evident that this unprecedented constitutional pay raise is being proposed because it is the popular subject in this collection of independent and unrelated provisions. Without the pay raise provision, Initiative Petition No. 403 would likely stand no chance with the voters.

¶3 It is the duty of this Court to follow the rule of law and the Oklahoma Constitution. This case is not simply an approval or disapproval of increasing pay for common education teachers of this state. If that were the case, it would sail through these challenges and be adopted by the people. I would send Initiative Petition No. 403 back to the Respondents and require the questions of a public-school-teacher pay raise, an increase in the state sales tax, the marriage of common education and higher education, and an increase in the Board of Equalization's powers to be presented to the voters as separate conditional propositions....

¶18 In a future budget year, where failure of revenue will require the Legislature to make cuts across the board to all agencies, the Legislature will cut common education and higher education at its own peril due to the powers now given to the Board of Equalization. If the Board of Equalization does not approve of the Legislature's decisions on education appropriations, then the Board of Equalization can shut down the entire legislative branch of government until it follows the command of an executive branch entity. We may very well see the Legislature grind to a halt as the Board of Equalization test-drives its new power.

¶19 There is a reason that a state employee pay raise through constitutional amendment has never been utilized before. The Oklahoma Constitution sets forth precise appropriations procedures for the Legislature to utilize, and the Legislature only. This proposed provision thwarts a core function of the Legislature and clashes with other constitutional provisions which control the appropriations process. See Okla. Const. art. 5, §§ 55-56;4 Okla. Const. art. 13A, § 3; 5 Okla. Const. art. 13, § 1A.6 In essence, Initiative Petition No. 403 contains internal logrolling and causes external logrolling of other relevant constitutional provisions...

¶24 Public support for a public-school-teacher pay raise is very high in this state. I could not agree more that it is a noble goal and purpose. Yet this Court has an obligation to follow the rule of law and the Constitution. And when such a well-supported measure is used as a Trojan horse to add provisions into the Constitution which are only tangentially related to public-school-teacher pay raises, the Constitution and the Court become the gatekeepers. The voters should decide these issues, but they should not be forced to support public-school-teacher raises along with an increase in the sales tax, the marriage of common education and higher education, and an increase in the power of the Board of Equalization all in one vote. I respectfully dissent.

Oklahoma State Question 777 proposes an amendment to the Constitution of Oklahoma. It would add a new Section 38 to Article 2, which would read:

Section 38. To protect agriculture as a vital sector of Oklahoma's economy, which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security and is the foundation and stabilizing force of Oklahoma's economy, the rights of farmers and ranchers citizens and lawful residents of Oklahoma to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state. The Legislature shall pass no law which abridges the right of citizens and lawful residents of Oklahoma to employ agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices without a compelling state interest.

Nothing in this section shall be construed to modify any provision of common law or statutes relating to trespass, eminent domain, dominance of mineral interests, easements, rights of way or any other property rights. Nothing in this section shall be construed to modify or affect any statute or ordinance enacted by the Legislature or any political subdivision prior to December 31, 2014.

shallwegather-webimage2.jpgThis proposed amendment began life as HJR 1012 during the 2015 legislative session. The House approved it 90-6; the Senate approved a different version 39-6; then the House adopted the Senate version by an 85-7 vote.

The markup above shows the changes from the original House version to the version finally approved by both Senate and House. The original House version said "farmers and ranchers" instead of "citizens and lawful residents of Oklahoma"; the change was made on the House floor. The Senate version added "dominance of mineral interests, easements, rights of way" before "or any other property rights." The Senate version also added the final sentence grandfathering any laws enacted in 2014 (the session prior to passage of this resolution) or earlier.

There are active, evidently well-funded campaigns on each side of the issue. The "yes" website is http://www.oklahomarighttofarm.com/, the "no" website is http://www.votenoon777.com/.

There seems to be a good deal of propaganda on each side of the issue, aiming to provoke an emotional response rather than argue the pros and cons.

While SQ 776 aims to disarm judicial activists, SQ 777 hands them a loaded howitzer. On the Oklahoma Right to Farm FAQ page, the vote yes folks say, "Oklahoma's courts will ultimately determine the scope of Right to Farm." How about we determine the scope before we approve it?

Two other states have approved a similar constitutional provision. North Dakota passed such a bill by a 2-to-1 margin in 2012; Missouri by a very slim margin in 2014. On the other hand, this year, North Dakota voters reaffirmed the state's ban on corporate farming.

This is a bit of a tangent, but I've seen some people claim that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is behind SQ 777. Today I even saw the claim that "ALEC runs Oklahoma." That's like saying Ree Drummond runs my kitchen because we use some of her recipes. ALEC is an organization where limited-government, free-market legislators can exchange ideas and share solutions. (It's analogous to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), which serves legislators who are looking for solutions involving bigger government. The main difference is that ALEC is privately funded, and NCSL receives tax dollars.) Some of those solutions involve model legislation, providing a starting point which legislators can adapt to their specific goals and the unique circumstances of each state.

In the case of "Right to Farm," SQ 777 shares a name with ALEC's model right-to-farm legislation, but little else. The ALEC model bill is statutory, not constitutional, and it includes specific definitions that SQ 777 lacks. The ALEC model bill provides a process for handling complaints against farmers; SQ 777 has nothing of the sort.

While I appreciate the concerns of groups like the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association, I don't believe that a constitutional amendment like that proposed in SQ 777 is the right solution. I will be voting NO -- AGAINST SQ 777.

Thanks to the support of generous donors (see the Spotlight sidebar on the home page for a list), here is the first in the BatesLine series on the state questions on the Oklahoma 2016 ballot. We will seek to get behind the ballot titles to the legal substance of the question and try to uncover the history, rationale, and people behind each proposal.

State Question 776 is a legislative referendum that would add a new Section 9A to the Constitution of Oklahoma. This new section would say:

All statutes of this state requiring, authorizing, imposing or relating to the death penalty are in full force and effect, subject to legislative amendment or repeal by statute, initiative or referendum. Any method of execution shall be allowed, unless prohibited by the United States Constitution. Methods of execution may be designated by the Legislature. A sentence of death shall not be reduced on the basis that a method of execution is invalid. In any case in which an execution method is declared invalid, the death sentence shall remain in force until the sentence can be lawfully executed by any valid method. The death penalty provided for under such statutes shall not be deemed to be, or to constitute, the infliction of cruel or unusual punishments, nor shall such punishment be deemed to contravene any other provision of this Constitution.

As Section 9A, it would fall immediately after Section 9, which is identical to the 8th Amendment to the Federal Constitution.

SQ 776 began as Senate Joint Resolution 31, which was was unanimously recommended by Senate and House committees, passed unanimously by the State Senate, and passed by an 80-10 vote in the State House. I have heard people ignorantly claim that the legislature is punting the issue to the voters, but under Article 24, amendments to the Oklahoma Constitution must be ratified by a vote of the people, whether they originate as an initiative petition or as legislation.

Audio of the Senate SJR31 floor presentation and debate is available online. On that page, click the SJR31 link in the left sidebar. This will advance the audio to that point in the session and also bring up the bill summary and history for further exploration. You can also watch video of the House SJR31 floor debate; click the "Agenda" tab and then the SJR31 link. The House Rules Committee discussion is here, which you'll find a more detailed discussion of the rationale behind this proposal.

If you put this amendment in a spray can, the label would read "Judicial Activism Repellent." This is an attempt to defend Oklahoma's use of capital punishment against a number of back-door strategies being employed by death-penalty opponents who know they can't win a direct attempt to delete the death penalty from Oklahoma law.

Activists have been pressuring drug companies to stop making the drugs used for lethal injections. As supplies of drugs needed for reliable and tested combinations have dried up, states have been forced to find new sources and new combinations of drugs in order to carry out the law. Application of these new combinations isn't straightforward, leading to errors as in the case of Clayton Lockett. That in turn leads to public outcry, a positive outcome from the perspective of death-penalty opponents.

During the House Rules committee discussion of the proposal, State Rep. Mike Christian mentioned a concern that the U. S. Supreme Court would ban lethal injection as "cruel and unusual punishment," making it urgent to find an alternative method (nitrogen hypoxia was mentioned as a new possibility in addition to electrocution and firing squad) and clearing a constitutional path to move existing cases to any new method.

old_sparky.jpgOf course, the only reason we are using lethal injection is because these same death-penalty opponents protested electrocution, hanging, and firing squad as inhumane.

The proposed amendment attempts to address problems raised by this situation. While methods of execution would continue to be limited by the "cruel and unusual" clause of the 8th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, state judges would be barred from going beyond federal precedent to find additional methods of execution cruel and unusual under the Oklahoma Constitution.

Under the proposed amendment, a person is sentenced to death and not to a specific method of execution, so that a death-row convict will not be spared just because the expected method is unavailable.

"Shall not be deemed" in the final sentence is a restraint on activism by the State Supreme Court: They aren't allowed to comb the State Constitution for some other pretext for halting executions. If SQ 776 passes, the judges can't disingenuously imagine ambiguity or silence on the issue.

It's sad that this sort of amendment is necessary, but our theocratic method of selecting judges and justices means we wind up with a legal priesthood that selects a Sanhedrin of judges whose values are out of sync with the people they rule. Under the principle of self-government, judges should be of the people -- sharing the views and values of the people, but wiser, more consistent, and capable of reconciling conflicting circumstances. (The evolution of modern America makes more sense when seen as a decades-long process of colonization and proselytizing by a worldview alien to that which framed our Constitution, built the nation, and carried us through the Great Depression and World War II.)

I will vote YES, FOR SQ 776.

David Beaudoin of the Local and Special Elections blog has added last Tuesday's Oklahoma Republican runoff results to his database and has noticed some interesting patterns and a few exceptions to patterns.

The percentage of primary first-place finishers who won the runoff was 78%, a bit higher than the five-cycle average of 73%, while margins of victory, were a bit closer than normal, but only three races were closer than 5%.

The big surprise was the range of variability of the ratio between runoff vote and primary vote. A drop-off is normal, with fewer races on the ballot and less media attention; on average about 70% of primary voters will show up for the runoff.

This year we had the rare event of a runoff with a higher turnout than the primary. 6,864 votes were cast in the three-way Senate District 41 Republican primary between Adam Pugh and Paul Blair; 7,969 votes were cast in the runoff, an increase of 16%. Runoff votes have only exceeded primary votes in one other race in the last decade -- the 2014 Democratic runoff for House District 89 between Mary Sosa and Shane Stone.

The Pugh-Blair SD41 runoff had all the adversarial energy of a general election campaign, and it illustrated the shift of ideological warfare in Oklahoma into the Republican primary. According to the most recent snapshot of campaign funding, Blair raised $61,810.00, received another $1,000.00 in in-kind contributions, and had $5,000.00 in loans, while Pugh raised $92,625.00, had $881.69 in in-kind donations, and $80,000.00 in loans. This is a massive amount of money to spend on 8,000 voters. Blair's funds came mainly from individuals and overwhelmingly from constituents; his only PAC contributions were $2,250 from the Oklahoma Conservative PAC, a grassroots group that holds an endorsement convention and funds candidates who receive a supermajority of support from the membership, and $250 from the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.

Blair's involvement in national social conservative circles brought him endorsements and donations from David Barton of Wallbuilders, Troy Newman of Operation Rescue, and Kelly Shackleford of First Liberty Institute, but it also put a great big target on his back. Pugh's victory may reflect a growing symbiosis between business groups who shun social conservatism because they perceive it as bad for the bottom line and social revolutionaries who rally protests, boycotts, and negative news stories to ensure that standing up for conservative social policy is bad for the bottom line.

I am told that Pugh made a virtue of his lack of outside endorsements, but surely massive contributions and independent expenditures from a variety of PACs ($50,000 in PAC money, by my count) and lobbyists should count as outside support. Pugh was funded to the tune of by PACs connected with the State Chamber, the Tulsa Regional Chamber, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, Chesapeake, Cox Communications, Farmers Insurance, Oklahoma Academy of Ophthalmology, Oklahoma Association of Insurance Agents, Oklahoma City Business Council, Oklahoma Land Title Association, Oklahoma Medical PAC, Oklahoma Pharmacists Association, Oklahoma Society of Anesthesiologists; Behavioral Health Association; Beer Distributors of Oklahoma; Oklahoma Bankers PAC; GOPAC Oklahoma, Renew Oklahoma PAC; Oil Patch PAC; among others. The State Chamber of Oklahoma spent $15,556 on independent expenditures supporting Pugh.

At the other end of the turnout spectrum, the Senate District 39 Republican runoff between Amanda Teegarden and Dave Rader only drew 44.5% of the voters who turned out for the June primary. Teegarden managed to retain 81% of her primary vote total, but that still left her 400 votes short. Rader was the beneficiary of Tulsa Regional Chamber PAC funding and independent expenditures from the Oklahoma State Chamber to add to his high-name recognition, but despite all those advantages, he managed to get only 60% of his primary vote to the polls for the runoff. Supporters of the other two candidates seemed to disappear.

An even worse turnout ratio wasn't on Beaudoin's chart, because it was a county race. The Tulsa County Court Clerk's runoff between Don Newberry and Ron Phillips to replace retiring clerk Sally Howe Smith, was the only county-wide runoff, and it drew only 33% of the voters who had turned out in June. Newberry polled 55% of his primary support; Phillips polled only 41% of his. Neither candidate went negative, and both could point to experience in the Court Clerk's office and endorsements by county-wide elected officials.

Compare that to Oklahoma County, where the runoff in David Hooten's successful effort to unseat five-term County Clerk Carolyn Caudill drew 75% of the vote total of the June primary. Caudill had finished first in June's four-way primary, but with only 32% of the vote. Hooten beat Caudill 65%-35% in the runoff. While Caudill retained 81% of her primary support, the anti-Caudill vote coalesced behind Hooten.

Rick Warren Jr., who became the incumbent Oklahoma County Court Clerk in an April 2016 special election, won renomination to a full term in a rematch of his March special primary, beating longtime Court Clerk employee Linda Amick Dodson. That race also brought 75% of the June primary vote total back for the August runoff.

MORE: Direct links to results and contribution reports:

Polling_Place_Vote_Here.jpg

Originally published on 2016/08/20. Post-dated to remain at the top of the blog through the primary.

These are all open seats in Tulsa County that drew large candidate fields in the primary, and no one candidate received a majority of the vote. Click the links for more detailed information.

Please note that there are NO state questions on today's runoff ballot. All of them will be on the November 8 general election ballot.

State Senate District 39: Amanda Teegarden: On her own dime and her own time, Amanda has been an effective citizen activist, researching issues, understanding the legislative process, informing her fellow citizens and rallying them to get involved, and applying the right amount of pressure at the right time to help good legislation and to block bad legislation. With her children grown and out of the house, she's now available to apply these skills full-time as a citizen legislator. Oklahomans need her intellect and discernment working for us at the State Capitol.

State Senate District 25: Joe Newhouse: I've had the opportunity to work with Joe on several projects, and I've seen his energy and enthusiasm, his diligence and organizational skills at work firsthand. He's personable and builds good working relationships. From our conversations over the years, I know that Joe Newhouse is strongly committed to his Christian faith, to his family, and to conservative, constitutional principles of government. Joe is a local, going to Broken Arrow Public Schools all the way through. Newhouse flew EA-6B Prowlers in the Iraq War, taught fighter tactics as an instructor at NAS Pensacola, earned a master's degree and certification as a Program Management Professional (PMP), served three years as a field representative for Congressman Jim Bridenstine, and is a Commander in the Navy Reserve, working as a military adviser to NATO.

State House District 67: Scott McEachin: I've known Scott McEachin for a few years now and have always known him to be on the knowledgeable about public policy, principled, friendly, easy to work with, and I believe that District 67 and Oklahoma would be blessed to have him as a member of the legislature. Scott has been endorsed by retired U. S. Sen. Tom Coburn (now a resident of the district) and a number of conservative groups. Coburn writes, "Scott McEachin's experience in oil and gas has given him a critical understanding of the industry that is at the heart of our Oklahoma economy. Scott is uniquely qualified because he has a deep understanding of the issues and will prioritize our government operations to make Oklahoma a state that can lead the nation."

Please note that the opponents of these candidates have been endorsed by a union-backed special interest group that opposes parental choice in education, wants to make quality education less accessible to the poor, and wants more taxpayer money with less accountability for results. Rob Miller, who has become something of a celebrity in the teacher-union blogosphere, recently wrote that Joe "Newhouse will be a willing accomplice" to the "pro parent choice agenda." These people think your children are their property, and it's their right to alienate your children from your values and indoctrinate them in theirs. They want to cut off every avenue of escape from families of modest means. If you want the next generation of Oklahomans to be well-educated, discerning, capable citizens, vote for Teegarden, Newhouse, and McEachin, who will indeed be pro-parent-choice.

Tulsa County Court Clerk: Don Newberry: Newberry currently manages the Title Research department in the County Assessor's office and worked previously in the County Court Clerk's office. Newberry has been endorsed by his boss, County Assessor Ken Yazel, and I am hopeful that, in addition to seeing to the Court Clerk's core responsibilities, Newberry will also be an ally of Yazel's on the Budget Board, fighting for budget transparency in county government.

Other endorsements and questionnaires:

Tulsa 9/12 Project leader Ronda Vuillemont-Smith endorsements
Charlie Biggs at the Tulsa Beacon endorsements
Charlie Meadows, former head of Oklahoma Conservative PAC
Oklahoma Constitution Conservative Index
Oklahomans for Life questionnaire

Official information:

Tulsa County Election Board
Oklahoma State Election Board
Oklahoma Ethics Commission (campaign contribution and expenditure reports)

David Beaudoin of the Local and Special Elections blog has analyzed Oklahoma runoff election results beginning with the 2008 election cycle and has made some interesting findings that set Oklahoma apart.

Among other findings, Beaudoin notes that, unlike other states, Oklahoma incumbents rarely find themselves in runoffs -- none this year, and only one since 2008. Conventional wisdom says that if the first place finisher had 40% or better in the primary, he's a shoo-in for the runoff, but Beaudoin finds that this isn't the case in Oklahoma.

Beaudoin, a CPA and financial analyst, backs up his psephological analysis with a chart (linked from his analysis) showing all runoffs in Oklahoma State Election Board records since 2008 (statewide, federal, and legislative races) alongside the primary results for the same races.

Oklahoma's relative turnout rate -- comparing runoff turnout to primary turnout is comparable to that of other runoff states.

You'll find more analysis and detailed data about Oklahoma runoff elections on the Local and Special Elections blog.

Early voting for Tuesday's runoff continues through 6 pm today at the Tulsa County Election Board headquarters and at the Hardesty Regional Library and will be available again on Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm.

State Senate District 25 candidate Lisa Kramer has declined to participate in a head-to-head debate with conservative Joe Newhouse on KFAQ's Pat Campbell show in advance of the Tuesday, August 23, 2016, Republican runoff election. From KFAQ's website:

Lisa Kramer is running for Oklahoma Senate and is facing a runoff Tuesday August 23rd with the Jim Bridenstine endorsed Joe Newhouse in District 25.

Kramer was offered a chance to come on The Pat Campbell Show and participate in an on-air debate with Newhouse, but refused saying her schedule was "booked solid."

We have invited Mr. Newhouse to come into the studio anyway and tell District voters why they should choose him on Tuesday, and he has agreed to do so.

Campbell has hosted numerous debates over more than eight years as host of KFAQ's morning drive and has a reputation for even-handedness and giving each candidate a fair chance to convey his or her platform to the listening audience.

Newhouse posted the following comment in response to Kramer's decision:

I believe that Government Transparency begins with candidates being candid and forthright about their positions. This includes maintaining websites that contain plans & positions and not just platitudes. It also means making yourself available to the public, not just hiding behind mailers. I was disappointed to receive an accusational mailer from my opponent, who refused participation in the KFAQ debate despite advanced invitation. I realize that campaigns can be stressful, but overreaction and name-calling only serve to turn people off from the political process and destroy unity. As an officer & a gentleman, I am proud of the clean campaign that I have run, which includes not publishing embarrassing episodes from the other debate. As my opponent offers little content on her website (e.g. how she actually intends to pay for things), I am left only with her public statements and survey results with which to draw my distinctions.

The two SD25 candidates debated at the Tulsa Republican Club meeting last month. You can watch the debate online. The "embarrassing episodes" may refer to Kramer's inability to name any positive achievements of the legislature in response to a debate question; Newhouse mentioned a criminal justice reform bill and eliminating End of Instruction tests among a few other items; Kramer concurred with Newhouse but had nothing to add on her own.

Here is the podcast of the SD 25 KFAQ debate that Joe Newhouse attended and Lisa Kramer declined to attend.

According to official election records, Kramer was a registered Democrat until changing her registration to Republican less than three years ago, on September 5th, 2013. Given the recent dominance of the GOP in Oklahoma politics, there would be an incentive to switch parties to have more of an influence over the ultimate result of the election, or even to have a chance at winning election to office in heavily Republican districts like SD 25.

On the Oklahomans for Life survey, Kramer answered "no" and Newhouse answered "yes" to the question, "Upon reversal of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, will you vote for a law that would protect the lives of unborn children and prohibit abortion except to prevent the death of the mother?" (Kramer and Newhouse both said they would support a law that includes exceptions for legally-reported rape and incest.)

Kramer signed the petition to put the Boren sales tax increase on the November ballot and has defended that decision publicly, although she says she will vote against the tax. Newhouse opposes the tax and opposed putting the tax on the ballot.

Kramer has been enthusiastically endorsed by left-wing bloggers and organizations that support the proposed state sales tax increase for schools and oppose measures that expand parental choice in education. Kramer has received funding from PACs affiliated with the Tulsa Regional Chamber and Oklahoma State Chamber and left-wing public-employee labor unions like the Oklahoma Educational Association and Oklahoma Public Employees Association. (Click the link if you need a refresher on why a Chamber endorsement should scare off conservative voters.)

A shadowy group called Oklahomans for a Prosperous Future has spent $15,838.40 on direct mail in support of Kramer, paying that money to Majority Designs Invoicing. Oddly, a mailer received by SD 25 voters yesterday says it was paid for by "Oklahomans for a Responsible Government" -- a group that doesn't show up in the Oklahoma Ethics Commission database for the current or previous campaign cycles. Is this a typo on the part of the direct mail firm, or a deliberate attempt at confusing voters with a name that sounds like that of a now-defunct conservative watchdog group? A group called Oklahomans for Responsible Government (without the indefinite article) was active from 2008-2010, leading the opposition to the ill-conceived, teachers-union-backed SQ 744, which would have constitutionally tied Oklahoma's spending on education to that of other states.

The disclosure report for Oklahomans for a Prosperous Future, Inc., was filed by Clayton Woodrum, 321 S. Boston Ave, Ste 200, Tulsa OK 74103. The organization's IRS Form 990 for 2014 (the only one available on Guidestar.org) misspells its own name ("Oklahoman's for a Prosperous Future, Inc.") and states its mission as "TO PROMOTE SOCIAL WELFARE CONCERNING PUBLIC POLICY RELATED TO HEALTH, EDUCATION, FISCAL AND BUDGET ISSUES." It received $470,000 in contributions and grants in 2014. In that year it spent $361,085 to "ADVOCATE FOR PUBLIC POLICY", another $43,824 on "VOTER REGISTRATION EXPENSES," and $43,693 on "SUPPORT OR OPPOSE CANDIDATES' CAMPAIGN." Devin L. Hughes is listed as President, Karl Semtner as Secretary, and Clayton Woodrum as Treasurer. In 2014, OPF spent $250,000 with Hulsen Media Services LLC on TV ads. Hughes is co-author of the anti-gun-rights blog ArmedWithReason. Semtner contributed to the 2012 and 2014 campaigns of Democrat District 92 State Rep. Richard Morrissette, Woodrum contributed to Heather Nash, Democrat candidate for SD 11. The group's TV ad attacking tax incentives for horizontal drilling drew the ire of State Sen. Cliff Branan, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, who said the group was "incorporated by an individual who has given tens of thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Barack Obama." It seems fair to say that the activities of Oklahomans for a Prosperous Future and its identified supporters points in a strongly leftward direction, which makes its intervention on behalf of Lisa Kramer in a Republican primary revealing, particularly if Kramer chooses not to denounce their involvement on her behalf.

1170 KFAQ's Pat Campbell hosted a SD 39 debate between Amanda Teegarden and Dave Rader. Click to listen to the podcast.

The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund has endorsed Amanda Teegarden in the Republican runoff for Senate District 39. The race will be resolved in a runoff next Tuesday, August 23, 2016. (Early in-person voting began today and continues Friday from 8 am to 6 pm and Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm at the Tulsa County Election Board and Hardesty Regional Library.

The NRA awarded Teegarden an AQ -- an A rating based on her questionnaire, the highest rating available to a candidate who has not yet served in office. Her runoff opponent, Dave Rader, received a B rating.

Meanwhile, this past Monday, August 15, 2016, according to Oklahoma Ethics Committee filings for Friends of Dave Rader 2016, Rader received a $2,000 last-minute contribution from "We Mean Business PAC," an arm of the State Chamber of Oklahoma.

As I wrote back in June, if you're a conservative voting in the Republican primary, a good rule of thumb is to see whom the Chambers are supporting then give your vote to some other candidate.

Let me stipulate that Dave Rader is a good man who ran the University of Tulsa football program with integrity and genuine concern for his players as students. In 2003, he served honorably as Tulsa County GOP vice chairman during a difficult time of transition for the county party. I don't think the State Chamber is backing him as their first choice in the SD 39 race -- Oklahoma BizPAC and BOK Financial PAC backed Alan Staab in the primary, while New Direction Fund PAC backed Rick Poplin, both of whom failed to advance to the runoff. Perhaps it boils down to this: The State Chamber pots know they can't influence Amanda Teegarden, who knows how the legislative process works and has settled principles on the proper role of government, but they hope they might be able to sway Dave Rader, who hasn't been actively involved in public matters for over a decade.

I think it's worth repeating some of the specific reasons why a candidate's funding or endorsement by the State Chamber should be of interest and concern to conservative voters to support a different candidate.

As for the State Chamber of Commerce, they joined with the Tulsa, Oklahoma City chambers and the U. S. Chamber in a lawsuit to block implementation of employment-related provisions of HB 1804, provisions that would have required Oklahoma employers to verify the employment eligibility of the people they hired. In other words, the Chambers at all levels worked to take the teeth out of the law, to disarm the provisions that made it an effective deterrent to illegal immigration.

The State Chamber also pushed hard for Obamacare Medicaid expansion (euphemistically called "rebalancing" this year) and Common Core. The State Chamber targeted a strongly pro-business conservative Republican, State Sen. Josh Brecheen, for defeat because he supported Common Core repeal and opposed a special tax cut for energy producers, preferring instead to give general tax relief to the state's taxpayers.

Back in 2007, economist Stephen Moore wrote:

In Oklahoma the state chamber filed a petition with the state Supreme Court to block eminent domain reform, and vowed to fight a taxpayer-led movement to enact a Colorado-style [taxpayer bill of rights].

This transcript of a July 2012 State Chamber meeting in Tahlequah quotes the chamber's lobbyist, Chad Warmington, saying, "the legislature spends a lot of time talking about things that just don't matter - I mean, they want to talk about tax cuts and all that stuff."

Also in 2012, then-State Rep. David Dank bemoaned the role "pro-business" lobbyists played in preserving special interest tax credits at the expense of tax relief for all Oklahomans (hat tip to OCPA's Brandon Dutcher):

Sadly, those same lobbyists who secured sweetheart deals for the beneficiaries of tax credits managed to kill most efforts to reform or repeal them during the 2012 session. We did manage to phase out two of the most abused and wasteful tax credits, but dozens of others are being reinstated in July.

In short, the special interests won and the people lost. A primary reason Oklahoma taxpayers will see no income tax relief next year is that a few favored industries will continue to cash in on the public treasury through a still-broken tax credit system.


I would advise any conservative candidate who receives a contribution from a PAC affiliated with the Oklahoma State Chamber, the Oklahoma City Chamber, or the Tulsa Regional Chamber to return the money immediately. You don't want to be tainted.

Oklahomans vote on August 23, 2016, a runoff in a small number of races where no candidate received a majority of the vote in the June primary.

U. S. Representative Jim Bridenstine has made endorsements in two of those Republican runoff primaries for open State Senate seats in Tulsa County.

In Senate District 39, Bridenstine has endorsed Amanda Teegarden, citing her solid base of principle, consistent record of involvement, and her deep understanding of the legislative process:

jim_bridenstine_endorses_amanda_teegarden.jpgI am happy to support and endorse Amanda Teegarden in her run to serve the people of State Senate District 39. Amanda Teegarden is a staunch conservative who has worked for Republican causes for many years. Amanda's knowledge of the State Legislature puts her in a unique position that affords Republicans in District 39 the opportunity to elect a member that will have no need for on the job training.

With Amanda Teegarden, we will be electing a conservative that we can trust to get the job done in Oklahoma City. Please join me on August 23rd in supporting Amanda Teegarden for State Senate!

In Senate District 25, Bridenstine has endorsed Joe Newhouse:

jim_bridenstine_endorses_joe_newhouse.jpgIt is with great pride that I am announcing my endorsement of fellow Navy pilot and true conservative, Commander Joe Newhouse for State Senate in District 25.

As a combat veteran and successful business owner, he is uniquely qualified to lead in the Oklahoma State Senate.

I know him to be a principled conservative, and I believe he will serve our state with the same honor and courage he has displayed while serving our country as a Navy pilot.

I am proud to endorse Commander Joe Newhouse for State Senate and am asking you to join me in voting for him in the runoff election on August 23rd.

Having known both of these candidates personally for many years, I concur with the congressman's endorsements and rationale. If you're a Republican in either SD 25 or SD 39, I urge you to mark your calendar and go vote on Tuesday, August 23, 2016.

(The Oklahoma state senate gerrymander of Tulsa County districts defies description, so here's a map. And no, the Republicans didn't invent gerrymanders -- Democrats did plenty of it when they controlled the legislature.)

Senate_Districts_2011-South_Tulsa.png

Originally published on 2016/05/25. Post-dated to remain at the top of the blog through the primary.

Most of the time I write a series of individual endorsements and then a summary the night before the election. Often I run short of time to cover every race in as much detail as I'd like. Early voters looking for some guidance have expressed their frustration with this situation.

So this time I'm starting with a list and will fill in with details as I'm able. These endorsements come in two categories: Candidates I am supporting because I know them personally (in the case of challengers or candidates for open seats) or because I've seen their record in office (in the case of incumbents) are highlighted in italics. There are other candidates for whom I would vote, but I don't know them well, and they don't have a track record. These are in normal text.

U. S. House, District 1: Jim Bridenstine
U. S. House, District 2: Jarrin Jackson
U. S. House, District 4: James Taylor

State Senate District 23: Kevin Crow
State Senate District 25: Joe Newhouse
State Senate District 29: Julie Daniels
State Senate District 33: Nathan Dahm
State Senate District 37: Dan Newberry
State Senate District 39: Amanda Teegarden
State Senate District 45: Kyle Loveless

State House District 67: Scott McEachin
State House District 70: Ken Walker
State House District 82: Kevin Calvey

State House District 72: Whitney Cole, the lone GOP candidate, was ordered stricken from the ballot by the State Election Board as ineligible for the seat. The open seat in this north and central Tulsa district, previously held by Darrell Gilbert and Seneca Scott, will be decided in today's Democrat primary. Although I disagree with my friend and former City Councilor Maria Barnes on nearly every state and federal issue, I know from experience that she cares about the concerns of ordinary Tulsans in this district and would recommend her over her rival in the Democrat primary, simply because she's someone I've known and worked with on neighborhood issues for many years. I can't think of a conservative-focused reason to support one Democrat over the other.

Tulsa County Clerk: Michael Willis
Tulsa County Sheriff: Luke Sherman
Tulsa County Court Clerk: Don Newberry
Tulsa County Commissioner, District 2: Josh Turley

Wagoner County Clerk: Lori Hendricks

City of Tulsa races are non-partisan, but I'll add them here for simplicity's sake.

Mayor of Tulsa: A vote for Tom McCay is the only way a conservative can avoid throwing away his vote. A vote for Bartlett Jr or Bynum IV is a vote to reward politicians who have betrayed conservatives on fiscal and social issues.

I'd like to see the entire Tulsa City Council replaced because of their unanimous support for higher taxes and the imposition of leftist views of sexuality on Tulsa's landlords, but conservatives weren't ready with challengers. Still, several races offer a chance to vote for someone new to city government. Several candidates who filed have ceased active campaigning for one reason or another. There are three primaries on Tuesday's ballot: Allen Branch, running in District 6 against the current and previous incumbents, is active in grassroots Republican organizations. In my District 4, Josh Starks is running a vigorous campaign against incumbent Blake Ewing, but I can't support either of them. Two inactive candidates are on the ballot, Michael Haskins and Sam Walker. I like what I've gleaned about Sam Walker, the owner of Over the Top Aerial Productions, from his Facebook page, so I'm going to vote for him as a protest. In District 3, Jim Rice withdrew from the race against incumbent David Patrick, but Araceli Tiger is running an active campaign.

Other endorsements and questionnaires:

Tulsa 9/12 Project leader Ronda Vuillemont-Smith endorsements
Charlie Biggs at the Tulsa Beacon endorsements
Charlie Meadows, former head of Oklahoma Conservative PAC
Oklahoma Constitution Conservative Index
Oklahomans for Life questionnaire

Official information:

Tulsa County Election Board
Oklahoma State Election Board

Rue de Pot du Chambre,

Sign in Chinon, France. Photo by Peter Curb. Used under Creative Commons license.

If you're a conservative, the Chamber of Commerce is not your friend. Not the U. S. Chamber of Commerce, not the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce, not the Tulsa Regional Chamber. If you're a conservative voting in the Republican primary, look to see whom the Chambers are supporting then give your vote some other candidate. If the Chambers are attacking a Republican candidate, she's probably worthy of your enthusiastic backing.

This may seem counter-intuitive. Conservative Republicans know that the free market is the engine of prosperity, and we honor and seek to encourage the entrepreneur who starts and builds a business, creating jobs and providing the products and services we need and want. We oppose taxes and regulations that burden businesses and discourage the creation of jobs. Since Chambers of Commerce claim to be the voice of business, shouldn't conservative Republicans heed their advice?

As with many organizations, the claim to speak for a valued segment of the community doesn't reflect the reality of the situation. Chambers of Commerce came into existence to boost business through business cooperation. But Chambers of Commerce are among the many once-noble American institutions that have been co-opted by self-serving special interests and Leftists who are pursuing social transformation and ever-bigger government. There are plenty of other examples: The American Association of Retired Persons, the National Education Association, the YWCA are just a few that come to mind.

It works like this: An organization offers some valuable service to attract members. The AARP offers discounts and insurance, the NEA's state affiliates offer legal coverage (and require membership in the NEA in order to belong to the state association), the YWCA offers access to swimming pools and exercise classes, the local Chamber offers group insurance coverage for small businesses that might not have enough employees to set up something on their own.

These benefits attract members who will be content as long as the services that induced them to join are provided and who aren't likely to get involved in the governance of the organization. These members get a ballot for board members in the mail, and, after a moment's glance, they toss the ballot in the recycle bin.

The broad-based but uninvolved membership gives the organization a credible claim to be the voice of retirees, of teachers, of women, or of business. The leadership, elected by the much smaller body of involved members, can then use that credibility to push an agenda of which the membership may be completely unaware and which they might reject, were they paying attention.

That agenda may reflect the economic benefit of the most influential members, companies that prefer to profit by means of rent-seeking rather than risk-taking. It may reflect the social agenda of the leftists who pursue careers in the not-for-profit sector. The direct approach to social transformation through elections has had mixed results, but the Left has found considerable success in pushing radical ideas by means of organizations with a history and reputation of being non-ideological, evading the defenses citizens put up against political influence.

The two types of influence can work hand in hand. The non-profit employees at Anycity Metro Chamber, as faithful yacht guests, are happy to push for expensive and useless infrastructure projects that benefit the big construction companies who control Anycity Metro Chamber. The big companies are happy to advance leftist social causes as long as they get their way on economic issues. Sometimes interests coincide: For example, Leftists like illegal immigration because it dilutes the votes of those who support the traditional American approach to society and economics; Big Business likes illegal immigration because it dilutes the cost of labor.

Enough theory. Let's get into some examples of how chambers of commerce from the local to the national level are actively working against the interests of conservatives:

On June 3, 2016, Jeff Dunn, chairman of the board of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, described conservative legislators pursuing legislation on issues like abortion and religious liberty as "nut jobs":

The chairman of the Tulsa Regional Chamber complained Friday that "nut jobs on the periphery" wield too much influence in the Oklahoma Legislature.

"We value our relationship with legislators," Chairman Jeff Dunn said during the chamber's annual recap of the legislative session. "(But) I would submit we need some counseling."

The "nut jobs," Dunn said, are preventing the rest of the lawmakers from being as productive as they might be.

Dunn, president and CEO of Mill Creek Lumber, was upset by what he called a "disappointing" legislative session, particularly in regard to education and long-term reform of the state's finances.

Earlier, in opening remarks, Dunn said legislators are too prone to "go off on tangents" instead of concentrating on state government's core missions.

"When we go off on tangents, we look like North Carolina," Dunn said. "And when we look like North Carolina, it's bad for business."

"North Carolina" is an allusion to the swift action taken by that state's legislature to protect the rights of citizens and business owners after the City of Charlotte passed a draconian ordinance that would have, among other effects, required gyms to allow men claiming to be women to use the same changing rooms as actual women. To Dunn, legislation that defends individual liberty and personal conscience, because it runs against the leftist norms enforced by the news media and the entertainment industry, makes a state look backwards and hurts its business prospects.

chamber_of_horrors-1940.jpgEvidently, the leadership and membership of the Tulsa Regional Chamber are just fine with Dunn's insulting and intemperate remarks. He's still listed as Chamber chairman. I find no reports of calls for his resignation or removal, no indication of mass resignations over his remarks. While most Chamber members are likely too busy running their own businesses to pay attention to Chamber politics, Chamber board members share Dunn's culpability if they decline to denounce or distance themselves from his remarks.

Longtime BatesLine readers will recall articles about Tulsa Regional Chamber involvement in wasteful, corporate-welfare-laden sales tax hikes and their attacks on City Councilors (especially conservatives) who sought to subject the Chamber to healthy competition for city contracts, who sought to put the interests of city residents ahead of suburban developers, who sought to ensure that federal community development funds actually went to help Tulsa's neediest neighborhoods. What's new is the Chamber's apparent hostility to conservative concerns about the use of government to impose leftist social views.

In an earlier entry, I mentioned the Tulsa Regional Chamber's diversity initiative, with its surveys that convey the message that sexual orientation and gender identity are inborn, immutable characteristics on par with race and ethnicity, despite all scientific evidence to the contrary. These surveys measure a company's commitment to diversity by whether they give domestic partner benefits, sponsor or participate in gay pride parades, and prioritize giving contracts to LGBT-owned businesses. Why would any conservative remain on the board of an organization that funds this kind of propaganda?

Earlier this year, OCPA President Jonathan Small summed up the Tulsa Regional Chamber as a left-wing echo chamber:

Remember the Tulsa Regional Chamber? Its leadership in 2014 participated in a failed attempt to support U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, who was trying to prevent Republicans from gaining the majority in the U.S. Senate. Imagine if some of the leadership of the Tulsa Regional Chamber had succeeded. Sen. Harry Reid would still be the Senate majority leader. Majority Leader Reid likely would be using the "nuclear option" to ramrod through an extremely left-of-center Supreme Court justice nomination to replace Justice Antonin Scalia.

Once again the Tulsa Regional Chamber is in lock-step with the Obama administration. Obama's administration tried to stifle a very popular school choice program in Louisiana and Washington, D.C. The Tulsa Regional Chamber lobbied against efforts to implement ESAs and is now an accomplice in the death of two bills that would have helped the most vulnerable in Oklahoma.

In fairness, the Tulsa Regional Chamber is consistent. The chamber parrots the funding requests of state agencies, proffers the Medicaid expansion as one of the best economic deals ever offered the state and tries to kill tax relief for all while working for special interest tax breaks. The chamber even tried to cripple the oil and gas industry with exorbitantly high taxes just before the downturn.

Some who have left the Tulsa Regional Chamber or refuse to join will tell you that's because it has become an echo chamber for policies that benefit the growth of big government, with more and more special interests of government involved in the chamber's processes.

Sadly, thousands of Oklahoma's most vulnerable children will lose in part because of the lack of intellectual diversity in the Tulsa Regional Chamber.

In another article, OCPA looked at the presence on the Tulsa and Oklahoma City chamber membership rolls -- and detected a pattern that could explain their support for higher taxes:

In recent years chambers of commerce in this state have done yeoman's work in fighting for important policies such as Right to Work, workers' compensation reform, and lawsuit reform. However, many of these same chambers also lobby strenuously for bigger government, including increased funding for medical welfare programs and for the state's bottomless-pit education monopoly. These chambers lobby against prudent fiscal measures, such as one (not exactly draconian) proposal which would limit the annual growth of state government spending to 9.5 percent. Why is this?

Part of the answer can be found by examining the chambers' membership rosters. In addition to scads of nonprofit organizations (which may or may not receive taxpayer money), one discovers more than a few blatant "'tax eater' entities," to borrow Stephen Moore's phrase.

gardyloo.pngAs for the State Chamber of Commerce, they joined with the Tulsa, Oklahoma City chambers and the U. S. Chamber in a lawsuit to block implementation of employment-related provisions of HB 1804, provisions that would have required Oklahoma employers to verify the employment eligibility of the people they hired. In other words, the Chambers at all levels worked to take the teeth out of the law, to disarm the provisions that made it an effective deterrent to illegal immigration.

The State Chamber also pushed hard for Obamacare Medicaid expansion (euphemistically called "rebalancing" this year) and Common Core. The State Chamber targeted a strongly pro-business conservative Republican, State Sen. Josh Brecheen, for defeat because he supported Common Core repeal and opposed a special tax cut for energy producers, preferring instead to give general tax relief to the state's taxpayers.

Back in 2007, economist Stephen Moore wrote:

In Oklahoma the state chamber filed a petition with the state Supreme Court to block eminent domain reform, and vowed to fight a taxpayer-led movement to enact a Colorado-style [taxpayer bill of rights].

This transcript of a July 2012 State Chamber meeting in Tahlequah quotes the chamber's lobbyist, Chad Warmington, saying, "the legislature spends a lot of time talking about things that just don't matter - I mean, they want to talk about tax cuts and all that stuff."

Also in 2012, then-State Rep. David Dank bemoaned the role "pro-business" lobbyists played in preserving special interest tax credits at the expense of tax relief for all Oklahomans (hat tip to OCPA's Brandon Dutcher):

Sadly, those same lobbyists who secured sweetheart deals for the beneficiaries of tax credits managed to kill most efforts to reform or repeal them during the 2012 session. We did manage to phase out two of the most abused and wasteful tax credits, but dozens of others are being reinstated in July.

In short, the special interests won and the people lost. A primary reason Oklahoma taxpayers will see no income tax relief next year is that a few favored industries will continue to cash in on the public treasury through a still-broken tax credit system.

My rule of thumb is to look for the Chamber label -- who has endorsements and money from Chamber-connected PACs and dark-money groups -- and to vote for someone else. Like many other institutions that started out with nobler purposes, Chambers of Commerce have become a partnership of Leftists who have co-opted the organizations in support of their agenda of bigger, more intrusive government and social transformation and businesses who use the Chambers to put the "pro-business, pro-growth" stamp on measures that transfer taxpayer dollars to their pockets.

MORE:

The problem is not limited to Oklahoma. Chambers of Commerce in other states have lobbied against stricter immigration enforcement, for corporate welfare and eminent domain abuse, and against protections for citizens who believe that there are important distinctions to be drawn between a natural, normal marriage and a "same-sex marriage" and between a real woman and a "transwoman." Here's a sampling of news stories and conservative commentary documenting the hostility of Chambers of Commerce to conservative causes:

Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel has, in his personal capacity, endorsed Donald Newberry for Tulsa County Court Clerk and Josh Turley for Tulsa County Commissioner District 2.

The Court Clerk manages court records and processes marriage licenses. Sally Howe Smith, the longtime incumbent, is not seeking re-election. Yazel is recommending Donald Newberry to replace her:

Don is the most qualified candidate for Tulsa County Court Clerk. He has worked in the Tulsa Assessor's office for the past six years, serving Tulsa County citizens with loyalty and professionalism. During this time Don successfully completed his MBA then and a Masters in Indian Law at Tulsa University.

Don currently manages our Title Research Department and his professionalism has been nothing but exemplary. His ingenuity and business mind combined with his management skills and education is exactly what this County needs in an elected official. While I am sad to lose such a valuable employee, I applaud Don's desire to see local government continue to move towards a system of honesty, transparency and customer service.

The incumbent District 2 County Commissioner is Democrat Karen Keith, who was first elected in 2008 and was re-elected without opposition in 2012. Two candidates are competing for the Republican nomination and the opportunity to run against Keith in November. Yazel has endorsed Josh Turley:

Tulsa County is on the brink of change. As Tulsa County Assessor I am endorsing Josh Turley for Tulsa County Commissioner District 2.

We need real change at the county commissioner level. We need a leader who will stand up for what is right. A leader who will address the needs of our citizens. A leader that will open the Tulsa County budget and financials for all citizens to see. A leader who will answer your phone call. It is time for change, it is time for real leadership. It is time to back Josh Turley for Tulsa County Commissioner.

Turley is a 24-year veteran of the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, serving as a crime scene investigator and then creating the first risk management program for TCSO, which succeeded in reducing car accidents involving deputies and tort claim payouts.

Yazel's mention of the budget is important, and it's why I'm inclined to trust Yazel's guidance in filling these positions. All eight elected county officials (three commissioners, assessor, clerk, court clerk, sheriff, treasurer) serve on the budget board. Yazel has been pushing for years to account for all sources of funding in the county budget process -- not just the revenues generated by the general fund property tax millage, but revenues generated by services, earmarked revenues, and carryover funds. Recognizing that there are different "colors" of money (legal restrictions on how various funds can be spent), if officials and the public have the whole revenue picture, the budget can be more efficiently allocated. If an office or taxing entity already has a significant amount of money from restricted funds and unrestricted carryover to fund its activities, it won't need as much from the general fund, leaving more money to fund projects and programs without asking taxpayers for higher sales taxes or property taxes.

On his website, Turley writes:

I am running for commissioner because I have seen the waste. I have experienced the failures of privatization of the jail. I have seen the dilapidated county buildings. I have watched our overflowing juvenile facility get worse. I have seen our outdated county vehicles. I have watched government fail to address our old levee. I have watched as year after year we struggle to open our pools. I believe we are not spending your money appropriately.

Turley also notes that, despite funding for the juvenile justice center in two separate sales tax packages, the county has yet to break ground on this much-needed facility.

On the strength of Ken Yazel's recommendation, I plan to join him in voting for Donald Newberry and Josh Turley in Tuesday's primary.

MORE:

Conservative activist leader Ronda Vuillemont Smith plans to vote for Newberry but is undecided in the County Commission race:

I am undecided on this race and may just flip a coin to determine who to vote for. I believe either one will serve us well bringing new ideas and vision for Tulsa county. One the one hand, Turley has worked in county government and is familiar with procedure and protocol while having an understanding of the needs of Tulsa County. On the other hand I have known Grable for a number of years and have spent time listening to his thoughts and ideas and I believe he has a future in politics. His experience in having worked at the state capitol would be beneficial to the office of County Commissioner. Full disclosure: I have donated to Grable's campaign.

Americans for Prosperity is encouraging Oklahomans to express their appreciation to legislators that they've named "Champions of Prosperity," including State Rep. Ken Walker (HD 70) and State Sen. Nathan Dahm (SD 33). Here are the accomplishments AfP cites:

  • Fought to protect Oklahomans from President Obama's harmful Clean Power Plan.
  • Fought to provide greater spending transparency for taxpayers.
  • Fought for the rights of Oklahoma students to get the highest quality education to fit their needs.
  • Voted to defeat measures that would have funded the expansion of Medicaid through Obamacare in Oklahoma.
  • Voted to reduce the income tax burden on hardworking Oklahoma citizens.
  • Voted to reform Oklahoma's public employee pension system to make it more competitive and sustainable.

UPDATE 2016/06/24: Bob Jack contacted me this morning, and we spoke a short time ago, taking exception to some of the things I wrote below. I have made some additions based on our conversation which are highlighted below. FURTHER UPDATE 2016/06/25: At my invitation, Bob Jack has sent a reply, which I have appended to the end of this entry.

Oklahoma State Senator Mike Mazzei has reached his term limit. Four Republicans and a Democrat have filed for the open Senate District 25 seat.

Senate District 25 is mainly Bixby and adjacent parts of SE Jenks, western Broken Arrow, and south Tulsa, but there's a periscope that extends north between Sheridan and Memorial to near 31st Street, then veers east and north as far as 21st and US 169. It is part of a blatant gerrymander, divvying up Democrat-trending areas among several districts and transplanting Senate 33 from midtown Tulsa to Broken Arrow. Democrats have no room to complain because they did the exact same thing, if not worse, when they ran the legislature.

Joe Newhouse is my recommendation for Senate 25. I've had the opportunity to work with Joe on several projects, and I've seen his energy and enthusiasm, his diligence and organizational skills at work firsthand. He's personable and builds good working relationships. From our conversations over the years, I know that Joe Newhouse is strongly committed to his Christian faith (he and his family are part of River Oaks Presbyterian Church, part of the conservative Presbyterian Church in America), to his family, and to conservative, constitutional principles of government. Joe is a local, going to Broken Arrow Public Schools all the way through.

Joe_Newhouse-Senate_25-2016.jpg

Newhouse flew EA-6B Prowlers in the Iraq War, taught fighter tactics as an instructor at NAS Pensacola, earned a master's degree and certification as a Program Management Professional (PMP), served three years as a field representative for Congressman Jim Bridenstine, and is a Commander in the Navy Reserve, working as a military adviser to NATO.

Newhouse served in the private sector as a program manager, working with engineers and customers to bring multi-million dollar contracts to successful and timely completion. If elected, Newhouse would join State Rep. Chuck Strohm as a legislator with experience in flight simulation, an underappreciated but significant and growing industry in Oklahoma with potential to diversify our economy beyond oil and gas.

On his issues page, you can see Newhouse's thoughts on education funding and reform, defending against federal encroachment on our 2nd Amendment rights, rebuilding our roads and bridges, and supporting Oklahomans in the military -- active duty, reserve, and veteran.

The other candidates in the race have their fans. Craig Murray can boast of a maximum contribution from actor/comedian Rodney Carrington.

Lisa Kramer's list of donors include a couple of people who led the elitist effort to replace geographically elected councilors with citywide elected councilors: OSU-Tulsa president Howard Barnett and Ben Latham. The left-leaning "Blue Cereal" blog has written enthusiastically about Kramer; in her answers, she appears to oppose school choice.

Bob Jack, former senior VP and now adviser to Manhattan Construction Company, has the backing of individuals and PACs connected with the Tulsa Regional Chamber (which he served as a board member) and State Chamber of Commerce (where he served on the executive board), and he is a client of AH Strategies and Majority Designs.

UPDATE: Bob Jack has informed me that the information on his website about his service as an adviser to Manhattan is out of date. He cut all ties with the company some time ago.

Friends who know him tell me that Jack is a good man, a solid Christian gentleman. Some of the names on his contributor list are people I know through local church circles, and their willingness to support him financially speaks highly of him.

My concern is that because of his connection with Manhattan and the Chambers, Bob Jack will be inclined to see government-funded heavy construction projects (like the BOK Center) as the path to economic development and to look to the Chambers for guidance on taxation and state priorities. In a later entry, I will explain in some detail why the Chamber label on a candidate should be viewed by conservatives as a warning label.

To name one specific issue: Recall that Chambers of Commerce in many states and cities have lobbied to kill protections for citizens who believe that there are important distinctions to be drawn between a natural, normal marriage and a "same-sex marriage" and between a real woman and a "transwoman." While Bob Jack is likely on the right side of such issues personally, his Chamber allies are demanding that everyone jump on the "diversity" bandwagon, issuing surveys that equate sexual orientation and gender identity with race and ethnicity and measure a company's commitment to diversity by whether they give domestic partner benefits, sponsor or participate in gay pride parades, and prioritize giving contracts to LGBT-owned businesses. When Jack was a board member of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, did he support these "diversity" initiatives? Did he raise any objections? UPDATE: Bob Jack assures me that he is on the right side of those issues, informs me that he did indeed raise objections to these sorts of Chamber programs, and says that his service on the board of the Tulsa Regional Chamber was one of the duties of his job with Manhattan and not a matter of personal choice.

Better that we should have a state senator with experience in both the military and small business and without associations that might pull him away from his conservative principles. In that light, I can confidently commend Joe Newhouse to the Republican voters of Senate District 25 in next Tuesday's election.

This has been out for a few weeks, but I thought it deserved to be noted here. Retired U. S. Sen. Tom Coburn, renowned for his adherence to principle and his often-lonely fight for fiscal sanity in Washington, has endorsed Jarrin Jackson, who is challenging incumbent Markwayne Mullin in Coburn's old 2nd Congressional District, and Jim Bridenstine, who is seeking re-election in the 1st Congressional District.

Here is the press release about Coburn's endorsement of Jarrin Jackson:

May 31, 2016 (Oologah, OK) - Today, former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn announced his endorsement of combat veteran Jarrin Jackson who is challenging Congressman Markwayne Mullin in Oklahoma's second district.

Dr. Coburn, who had endorsed Mullin in 2012, said, "I am proud to endorse Jarrin Jackson, a combat veteran who understands and has fought for our Constitution. He will stand up for us in Washington and not go along to get along. He also will honor a six year self imposed term limit."

Coburn's endorsement comes on the heel of recent comments Rep. Mullin made about a similar term limit pledge he made in 2012. Then, when running as a first-time candidate, Mullin pledged to serve no more than three two year terms in Congress. However, when asked recently if this would be the last time he ran for the office, Mullin said he is seeking the Lord's guidance and will instead do what he thinks is best for his family and District.

"Dr. Coburn's endorsement is important," Jackson said, "because it reinforces his reputation for integrity and courage. He not only served us with honor when he held office, but he continues to serve by insisting that other public officials do the same. It takes courage to speak truth to power, no matter the truth, no matter the power. I welcome his support, his example, and the opportunity to build upon his work."

Here is Coburn's endorsement of Bridenstine:

Jim Bridenstine is a man of his word. He faces unrelenting pressure from the political elite in Washington, yet he has never wavered in his commitment to the First District or our country. His courageous voting record is proof that he cares more about the long term health of our nation than his own political career. That kind of moral courage is rare in Washington today. I am proud of the work he does on our behalf and thankful for the sacrifices that he and his family make to serve. I wholeheartedly endorse Jim Bridenstine.

I agree with Tom Coburn. While I was very skeptical of Jim Bridenstine and his motives when he ran in 2012, he has proven to be as principled as he said he would be, working to remove unprincipled and cowardly leadership, fighting to defund Obamacare, Obama's executive amnesty, and Planned Parenthood, and at the same time building a relationship with his colleagues that has allowed him to advance our interests in the 1st District.

Mullin, elected the same year, has followed the opposite path, refusing to buck leadership, refusing to oppose funding for unconstitutional purposes, and now laying the groundwork to revoke his term-limits promise.

Amanda_Teegarden-Senate_39.jpg

District 39 State Sen. Brian Crain has hit his term limit; four Republicans and a Democrat have filed to replace him. I will be voting for Amanda Teegarden, a conservative who has demonstrated her commitment to her principles through her activism. Teegarden has shown herself to be a careful student of legislation and the legislative process and an effective advocate. It's hard for me to think of someone currently out of the legislature who is better prepared to serve in the legislature than Amanda Teegarden.

(Senate District 39 is sword-shaped, extending from I-244 to 81st Street between Harvard and Sheridan, going all the way to 101st Street between Yale and Sheridan, with a hilt between Peoria and Mingo, 21st and 31st, and a grip between Harvard and 89th East Ave., I-244 to 21st, roughly.)

In 2007, Teegarden founded Oklahomans for Sovereignty and Free Enterprise (OK-SAFE) to raise awareness and fight the extension of the NAFTA SuperCorridor (also known as the Trans-Texas Corridor or NAFTA Superhighway) through Oklahoma, a massive exercise in corporate welfare and eminent domain abuse with the added threat to Oklahoma's sovereignty over its own territory. While many legislators appear not to have read the enabling legislation, Teegarden went to the meetings and presentations by the proponents of the supercorridor, read the bills, dug into the implications, and worked tirelessly to present her findings to citizens and legislators. Her persistence paid off. Since that time, she has continued to research, educate, and advocate on behalf of Oklahoma citizens.

The other Republican candidates seem like decent folks. Back in 2003, Dave Rader, the former University of Tulsa football coach, stepped in to serve as county Republican party vice chairman (serving along side Chairman Pam Peterson) at a critical moment. Alan Staab, owner of an oil and gas company, started his campaign early last year, has the support of many of his colleagues in the energy industry, and has put quite a bit of his own money into the race. He was a client of AH Strategies and Majority Designs, but his last two campaign filings seem to show that he is no longer their client (a fact that speaks well of Staab); they appear now to be working for Rick Poplin, an airline pilot who is also running for the seat. Staab has the financial support of Obama bundler George Kaiser and the BOK Financial Corp. PAC.

Notwithstanding the positive qualities of her opponents, Oklahoma needs Amanda Teegarden in the legislature -- someone who will read the legislation put before her, someone who will demand answers, someone who will reject insider deals and corporate welfare. It will be a pleasure to cast my vote for her next Tuesday.

MORE: Dr. Everett Piper, the courageous chief of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, has endorsed Amanda Teegarden:

Amanda Teegarden is an honest and trustworthy conservative. She understands our state's constitution about as well as anyone I know and she has already proven to be a tireless defender of it and the freedoms it promises. My endorsement is unequivocal and without hesitation. Amanda will be an outstanding senator!

CORRECTION: BatesLine incorrectly identified Robert Ford as Creek County Republican Chairman. He is in fact Creek County 1st District Committeeman.

Supporters of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz swept today's Oklahoma 1st Congressional District Republican Convention, winning all three delegate seats and all three alternate slots by wide margins.

Tulsa 9/12 Project leader Ronda Vuillemont-Smith, State Rep. David Brumbaugh, and Wagoner County Assessor Sandy Hodges were elected as delegates, and State Sen. Nathan Dahm, Creek County District Committeeman Robert Ford, and Oklahomans for Life president Tony Lauinger were elected as alternates.

While there was a visible Trump contingent present, led by Paul Nosak, the vote totals indicate it amounted to only about a quarter of the convention. Cruz campaign staffer Hudson Talley had come up from Houston for the convention and was handing out delegate slates to Cruz supporters. There wasn't really a whip operation at work -- no signals or signs -- which shows in the fact that only one of the six positions was filled without a runoff, and that one was only by a slim margin. Cruz (or at least no-Trump) supporters scattered their votes on each initial ballot, but coalesced in each runoff. Nosak, wearing a large Trump button on his lapel, was the distant runner-up in five of the six elections, but lost handily in each runoff. His best result was 31% in the final vote for the 3rd alternate position, after about a third of the delegates had gone home.

Oklahoma Republican State Chairman Pam Pollard spoke at length about the upcoming state convention, the process of electing the 25 at-large delegates, and the matter of binding delegates at the national convention. Pollard emphasized that OK GOP party rules and state law are in alignment and that delegates are bound until their assigned candidate is no longer an officially nominated candidate, alluding to often-discussed rule 40(B), which requires that a candidate have support of a majority of delegates from at least eight states to have his name entered into nomination at the National Convention. Pollard said that if all three candidates who won delegates in the March 1 primary -- Cruz, Trump, and Rubio -- were officially nominated for the 1st ballot, she would simply announce the result from the primary, without polling the delegates. Only if one or more of those three candidates ceased to have the support for nomination would she poll the delegation.

During the morning session, while the credentials committee was tallying registrations, U. S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and U. S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine addressed the convention. Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr led the convention in the Pledge of Allegiance but did not deliver a speech.

All Republican candidates who were present were given an opportunity to speak. While votes were being counted, delegates heard from incumbent Republican National Commiteewoman Carolyn McLarty and her challenger, National Committeeman candidates Steve Curry and Richard Engle (incumbent Steve Fair is not seeking re-election), Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado, recently elected to fill the remaining months of Stanley Glanz's unexpired term, and Luke Sherman, who is competing for the nomination for the next full four-year-term, Amanda Teegarden (Senate 39), Scott McEachin (House 67), Richard Grabel (Tulsa County Commission District 2), Michael Willis (Tulsa County Clerk), Allen Branch (City Council District 6).

Term-limited State Sen. Brian Crain and parliamentarian John Wright (former state representative) did a fine job of running the meeting efficiently and without controversy. The convention convened a little after 9 a.m. and adjourned shortly after 3 p.m.

By the numbers:

235 delegates registered at Tulsa's Renaissance Hotel for today's convention out of 419 allocated votes. Allocations are based on number of votes cast for the top-of-ticket Republican nominee in the last general election. Tulsa County had 181 delegates out of 320 votes allocated, Wagoner County had 34 delegates out of 46 votes allocated, Washington County had 18 delegates out of 38 votes allocated, and the portion of Creek County in CD 1 had 2 delegates out of 4 votes allocated. No one was present to represent the portion of Rogers County in CD 1, which had 11 allocated votes.

Fourteen candidates filed for the three delegate slots, which were filled in separate votes. Ballots were counted by county, reported in a roll call, then weighted based on the ratio of allocated votes to delegates voting for each county and summed. (Weighting is in accordance with long-standing state party rules. For example, each Tulsa County delegate's vote was worth 320 allocated / 181 actual or approximately 1.77 votes. Each Creek County delegate's vote was worth 4 allocated / 2 actual or 2 votes.) If no candidate had a majority of the vote, a runoff was held between the top two candidates, based on the weighted vote.

David Oldham was nominated to the Oklahoma Republican presidential elector slate, winning 48% on the first ballot over George Wiland and Peggy Dau. Wiland withdrew from the runoff because of the margin on the first ballot and in the interest of time. Dau was named Elector Alternate, who would replace Oldham on the ballot in the event of his death or ineligibility.

Delegate results:

1st Delegate: Cruz supporter Ronda Vuillemont-Smith finished first with 44% to 11% for Paul Nosak, who supports Donald Trump for president, with remaining votes scattered among the candidates. In the runoff, Vuillemont-Smith won with 76% to 24% of the weighted vote, 162-47 in the raw total.

2nd Delegate: Brumbaugh, state chairman for the Cruz campaign, received 43% on the first ballot to 17% for Nosak. In the runoff, Brumbaugh prevailed by 73% to 27% weighted, with a raw vote of 147-54.

3rd Delegate: Hodges finished first on the initial ballot with 42% to 20% for Nosak. In the runoff, Hodges won by 74% to 26% or a raw total of 153-50.

Alternate results:

1st Alternate: 1st ballot, Dahm 50.35%, Nosak 15.10%, Lauinger 14.99%. No runoff required. Dahm received 98 raw votes to 28 for Nosak and 28 for Lauinger with 36 scattered among other candidates.

2nd Alternate: 1st ballot, Lauinger 32.5%, Ford 26%, Nosak 22%. Raw vote was Lauinger 62, Ford 49, Nosak 41, other candidates 22. Runoff, Ford 50.22%, Lauinger 49.78%, 89-88 raw vote.

3rd Alternate: 1st ballot, Lauinger 48.3%, Nosak 18.8%, Debra Cook, state committeewoman for Washington County, 17.7%. Runoff, Lauinger 68.61%, Nosak 31.39%, 110-50 raw vote.

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This page is a archive of recent entries in the Oklahoma Election 2016 category.

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