There are a couple of major takeaways floating around the local political scene after incumbent Dr. Ed Shadid’s huge victory over three opponents in the Oklahoma City Council Ward 2 election Tuesday.
Shadid avoided a runoff election by receiving 2,308 votes or more than 59 percent of the total ballots cast. The second-place finisher, Major Jemison, garnered 823 votes or just over 20 percent of the total. James Cooper received 678 votes or about 16 percent of the vote. The candidate who came in last, John Riley, who didn’t really campaign that much, received just 209 votes or about five percent.
The first takeaway is that Shadid has been vindicated, and that Ward 2 voters definitely want someone on the council that will ask tough questions and provide intelligent insights into major city issues, such as public transportation and how to go about building a new convention center under MAPS 3.
Shadid has been criticized in the muddle of local politics for asking city administrators and others on the council difficult questions. The city has now, for example, scrapped purchasing its originally planned site for the convention center because of its cost, an issue Shadid has raised repeatedly. In essence, Shadid, a soft spoken and prominent surgeon here, is speaking truth to power and getting results.
He is also backed by what one of his supporters described to me as a "loose coalition" of organizations, such as Change Oklahoma and informal, friendship-related and extremely strong connections between powerful advocates of progressive change outside of the state's Democratic Party.
Does this portend a wave of interested voters and citizens getting involved in issues on both the local and state levels by supporting progressives such as Shadid and protesting possible damaging actions, such as the now-withdrawn proposal to frack new oil/gas wells near and under Lake Hefner, one of the city’s main water supplies?
I would like to think this is true. Four more years of Shadid and his supporters speaking truth to power does have the potential to create a new model here for progressive growth and activism, but will it have to be outside typical party politics? This leads to my next point.
The second takeaway is that the Democratic Party has again shown how weak and inept it has become. I write these words out of sadness, not anger. Shadid, an independent, was the real progressive in this election, not the other candidates. City elections are supposedly non-partisan, but party affiliations can always make a difference in how people vote. For example, Oklahoma Mayor Mick Cornett is a well-known Republican.
It seemed to me that Cooper, in particular, was supported and endorsed by the state Democratic Party apparatus. He received endorsements from well-known Democrats, which included 2014 gubernatorial candidate and former state Rep. Joe Dorman, former state Rep. and state Sen. Al McAffrey and Freda Deskin, who lost a Democratic runoff election in her bid recently to become state Schools Superintendent.
Those endorsements didn’t seem to much help Cooper, who came in third in the election. I don’t know how much to read into this given the domination of Republicans in state government now, but it should be noted that even at this very local level Democrats seem to have failed again.
My argument is that Democrats here—and I’m not speaking of Cooper—need to become much more progressive and outspoken about progressive ideas. If you’re going to lose anyway, why not just be truthful? Practice these words: I’m a proud liberal.
Let’s hope four more years of Shadid on the Oklahoma City Council shakes up the local political scene even more. I truly hope his election means something larger for progressives.