Tulsa Election 2008: November 2008 Archives

My election day

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In case you were wondering:

6:00 am -- Up after a night of tossing and turning, during which I dream of total on-air collapse: I don't get my database stuff finished, I can't keep up with the precincts as they come in, I have nothing coherent to say.

6:20 am -- I call in to the KRMG Morning News for a preview of election night coverage. Not one of my better interviews. As soon as I hang up, I notice that I'm sitting slumped over -- not good. I guess I've lost the knack of being "up" and "on," as I used to have to be every Tuesday morning on KFAQ.

8:00 am -- I deliver my daughter to school. I scratch my neck and discover that, although I put on Lectric Shave before I left, I had forgotten to shave. I head home to get my electric razor, use it, and take it with me for a touch up in the late afternoon.

8:15 am -- Work. Try, try, try to focus, focus, focus. Fail.

12:50 pm -- I take the afternoon off, leave work, and head to my precinct to vote.

1:05 pm -- No line at the polls as such. Three people are already voting, another one or two come in behind me. My two ballots are counted as numbers 1085 and 1086, cast just after the midpoint of election day.

1:20 pm -- Drop off watch at the On the Spot shop in Promenade; have lunch in the food court while they put in a new battery. For the first time since I used to sing with Coventry Chorale, I have to think: What can I eat that will (1) not come back to haunt me five hours from now, (2) not gum up my voice, and (3) give me enough energy to get through the day? I opt for kung pao and bourbon chicken over noodles.

2:00 pm -- At the Coffee House on Cherry Street, I'm working as fast as I can to finish up the Microsoft Access entry form, queries, and reports that I'll use to help me compare precinct results to previous elections. I've already imported results from the 2004 elections, the 2006 Mayor's race, the 2006 Third Penny, and the 2007 River Tax vote. I have three hours to learn and use some unfamiliar Access features. I've used Access plenty in the past to create and query databases, but I usually export the data and parse it through Perl or manipulate it in Excel to see percentages and do comparisons. Tonight I won't have the time for that, so I need reports that will instantly tell me what I need to know.

As I'm testing my queries, it becomes clear that Sen. Tom Coburn's 2004 election will be the clearest benchmark for Sally Bell's chances. Coburn lost County Commission District 2, but not by much, largely because of crossover voters in the Midtown Money Belt, who tend to prefer a Democrat who's one of their own (Brad Carson lived in Maple Ridge before moving to Claremore to run for Congress) over a populist Republican. Bell would need to outperform Coburn, holding on to Republicans outside of Midtown and picking up enough anti-tax Democrats to make up for the loss of the Money Belt Republicans to Karen Keith.

5:30 pm -- A quick stop at the 11th and Utica QT for a bottle of Coke Zero and a couple of pepperoni and sausage stuffed breadsticks, which I fail to notice are behind the "Still cooking" sign. (Ewwww.) My wife happens to be at one of the gas pumps, filling up before she picks up our daughter from her piano lesson. I say hi to her and the two boys. They'll go to the Republican watch party for a couple of hours while I'm broadcasting. (Later in the evening, I'll get a text message from my wife saying that the kids are pretty upset over the election results. The 12-year-old has become a Mark Levin fan -- he downloads his free podcasts to his iPod every night.)

5:45 pm -- After choking down two slightly doughy and lukewarm breadsticks, I arrive in the News on 6 lot. I'm let in along with the Mazzio's delivery guys, which means the breadsticks were totally unnecessary. I find my spot, unpack my laptop, and begin to get situated. Steve Schroeder, the news operations manager for KOTV, gets me set up with their result tracking software and looks for some headphones so I can hear the feed from KRMG. I grab a couple of pieces of pizza.

6:00 pm -- KRMG coverage begins. I open the chatroom. Still no headphones, so I try to listen online. I keep an eye on a couple of news sites for early results from the East Coast.

6:31 pm -- I'm all wired up and ready to go. Spend the rest of the hour in the chat room and watching early returns. I see Terry Hood and Scott Thompson zip by in my peripheral vision as they go to and from the studio to do their local segments.

7:16 pm -- The first batch of precinct results are handed to me. News on 6 staff are taking calls from runners in the field, writing down results on paper, then entering them into the tracking system. Once they're in the tracking system, however, you can't get the individual precinct data back out, and that's what I need. So Gary Kruse collects the processed precinct sheets and brings them to me, where I enter them into my Access database. Last Friday, when I came by to check things out, I got a copy of the precinct sheet from Steve, so I laid out the entry form identically to the sheet to make it easy to enter and doublecheck the data.

Every half hour, after the national segment with ABC Radio, Joe Kelley does a brief segment each with me, Elaine Dodd at the Democratic watch party at the TWU hall, and Don Burdick at the Republican watch party at the Crowne Plaza. I'm impressed with both Don and Elaine, who manage to say something interesting and new during each break. Joe does a great job of directing traffic and keeping the broadcast moving. Never a dull moment.

(I'm still amused to hear Elaine talking up Karen Keith, when you know that Karen will put another county tax on the ballot of the sort Elaine and I have joined together to fight in the past. And if I hear Elaine say that Oklahoma is "ruby red" one more time....)

There's no music in the background at the Democratic party, but when Joe cuts to Don, you can hear the Rockin' Acoustic Circus playing their blend of bluegrass, country, and western swing.

My Access reports work as hoped. Early on I can see that Sally Bell is lagging Coburn's 2004 performance by 5 to 6 percent -- not a good sign. Good numbers for her in Jenks and Glenpool and some Sand Springs precincts, but not good enough. The street tax report shows me that both taxes are passing in every City Council district, a clear sign that both measures will win big. If a tax is passing by a slim margin in east and north Tulsa, it's passing with at least 60% citywide. I'm also watching the result tracking program for the statewide and legislative races.

When I'm not on the air, I'm entering data as fast as I can, using a numeric keypad I bought last week. Sheets are piling up, but I sort them to get the precincts in CCD 2, Senate 37, and the City of Tulsa entered first. (It's quickly apparent that Dan Newberry has blown Nancy Riley clean out of the water.)

At one point (about 9?) the control room calls to ask if I have data on the Rogers County races. There's nothing in the results tracking software, so I call and let them know. A few minutes later I find some results and call back, but I missed the window -- they've gone back to national coverage. I post the results in the chat room -- a good thing, because, when I finally get the chance to talk about the results, I can't find the original webpage among all the tabs I had open, so I have to resort to what I posted. It was my only real bobble of the night, thankfully.

I am rooted to my chair from about 6:30 until about 10:40, either chatting online, entering data, or talking on air. My final slot comes around 10:30, delayed because of McCain's concession speech. I keep entering data while I'm waiting for my turn. The final slot is a chance to mention any story that we've overlooked, so I congratulate Dana Murphy for an apparent and long-overdue victory in her race for Corporation Commission.

Thus ends my first paid radio gig. I stuck around a bit longer to finish entering the last few sheets as I listened to Obama's victory speech. In the end, the KRMG/KOTV team's runners had fetched results from 215 of 267 precincts in Tulsa County -- pretty impressive. I close out the message board -- "Everyone out of the pool!"

11:05 pm -- I'm packed up, and ready to head out the door. I head over to the Crowne Plaza to meet up with the remnants of the Republican watch party. I hang out for a couple of hours, as we rehash the results, swap campaign stories, toast the humiliating defeat of Georgetown Georgianna, and watch anxiously to see if Minnesota really is crazy enough to elect Stuart Smalley to the U. S. Senate.

1:00 am -- Off to the house. Everyone is asleep. I spend another hour checking e-mail and doing a little websurfing. In bed a bit after 2:00 am.

The national outcome and the county commission race were disappointing, but not entirely unexpected. The state results were encouraging. From a personal perspective, as a lifelong news junkie and radio wannabe, I thoroughly enjoyed spending election night in a newsroom with a stack of results to analyze and a chance to talk politics on the radio.

The Karen Keith campaign submitted a lengthy rebuttal in UTW to my column endorsing Sally Bell for Tulsa County District 2 Commissioner. Here's my reply:

(1) Karen Keith doesn't seem to get the difference between one's philosophy of government and one's conduct as an elected official. I wrote:

"Although Randi Miller is gone, her philosophy of county government is still in the race. The Karen Keith platform is nothing more than the Randi Miller approach to county government with a more appealing fa├žade."

To those who think this is unfair, please give an example of a policy decision that Randi Miller made as a county commissioner that Karen Keith would have made differently. It's noteworthy that nowhere in her response does Keith note any policy differences with Miller.

Keith sets up a straw man with her subpoints, all of which have to do with conduct, not philosophy or policy.

(2) She says that she was "part of the team working for the passage of Vision 2025." Her part was to serve as a spokesperson during the campaign. She debated on behalf of the vote yes campaign at the TulsaNow debate at Harwelden and on KWHB 47. I know because I was there debating on the other side. She also made speeches to civic groups and neighborhoods on behalf of the tax. She debated against Jack Gordon and Jim Hewgley on Fox 23. She may have also been doing work behind the scenes, but her visible role was as someone who spoke on behalf of passing the tax.

Keith is on the record as supporting more local tax dollars for river development, which I consider an amenity, not a necessity. She supported the failed river tax increase last year. She has stated at least by implication that she'd support sending another river tax to the voters:

Keith also said she would not oppose using more public funds for infrastructure projects along the Arkansas River.

[snip]

"We've already made significant public investment in engineering for the river," Keith said, "but more may be needed to make it possible for the private sector to come in and create housing, entertainment and retail that is sensitive to the natural habitat."

After her speech, Keith clarified her remarks by saying residents would have the final say on any tax-increase proposal.

Keith protests at being called a "pro-tax" candidate, but I can't think of any local tax initiative that she's opposed. Someone let me know if I've overlooked one.

Furthermore, would Karen Keith unequivocally commit that she would not send a tax for amenities to the voters? Sally Bell has.

She has danced around this issue, by saying that the final decision belongs to the voters. But the voters can only give a thumbs up or thumbs down on whatever package the County Commissioners choose to send to them. Tax votes are expensive: Expensive for the county election board, expensive for the proponents, and expensive and time consuming for the opponents. Putting a tax on the ballot is not a neutral act. Surely Keith understands that.

At the All Souls debate Keith said that her most important platform plank is "economic development for this region," citing Vision 2025 and Four to Fix the County. Keith appears to believe that government-funded amenities are the key to economic growth.

At the Red Fork debate, Keith blamed the failure of the river tax in part on the delay in announcing that Celine Dion would be performing at the BOK Center.

She also blamed the state of Tulsa's streets on failed tax initiatives. Tulsa has passed every tax initiative for streets since 1980. The only taxes we've turned down have been for amenities. Karen Keith seems to believe money for amenities brings prosperity which brings revenues to pay for streets. In reality, you'd make much more progress on streets if you put the funds directly to that purpose, instead of investing it in amenities and hoping for a marginal improvement in revenues over time.

At the same debate, she said that if the river tax were put back on the ballot, it would be a different package, and it would pass. Who is going to put that tax back on the ballot, if not her?

Over and over again, Keith has cited the Vision 2025 tax package as the model for progress, as the source of our economic growth.

(3) Regarding the Bob Dick endorsement, Keith is either disingenuous or staggeringly unaware of Dick's legacy as a county commissioner. Again, I would challenge her to specify any major decision made by Bob Dick as Commissioner which she would have made differently.

If I were blindly partisan, I would not have been as critical as I have of Dick's record, nor would I have called for someone to step up to challenge Dick for his 2006 re-election bid.

(4) Here Keith contradicts the point she made in item (1)(d). Having the County take over municipal park maintenance is an example of "having the county government act as some sort of metropolitan government service provider."

(5) I stand by my statement. Keith did attack Bell's business record at the Kiwanis debate, and if you listen to what she said (I think you can still find it on the KRMG website), I think you'll agree it was awkward. She stumbled and stammered through it. It was a stark contrast to the smooth way she reads prepared text.

(6) I've written many times about the "Money Belt" phenomenon, for example, in my July 30 column on the Collective Strength survey of 1,000 Tulsans. I was writing about the regional differences on agreement with statements like "City leaders in Tulsa understand my community's needs" and "I do not feel included in the planning process. People like me are always left out."

The gap between Midtown and south Tulsa on the one hand and north, west and east Tulsa is not surprising. Maps of election results showing support for various tax increases, of where appointees to city boards and commissions live, and of those selected to the PLANiTULSA Advisers and Partners reveal a common pattern.

I've labeled it the "Money Belt"--a band of Tulsa's wealthiest neighborhoods running south-southeast from downtown through Maple Ridge, Utica Square, and Southern Hills then fanning out into the gated communities of south Tulsa.

Regarding Keith, I wrote:

Keith and her midtown money belt allies appear to think it was a foolproof recipe for passing funding packages, but as we saw last October, in the failed attempt to pass a countywide sales tax for river projects, its time has come and gone.

That statement doesn't preclude the possibility that she has non-Money Belt allies, but by reason of her geography, mindset, and major contributors, Keith clearly belongs to the Money Belt.

By the way, the Urban Tulsa staff requested copies of both candidates' ethics reports. The Bell campaign supplied her report. The Keith campaign did not even reply to the request.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa Election 2008 category from November 2008.

Tulsa Election 2008: October 2008 is the previous archive.

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