U.S. Reps. Mary Fallin and Tom Cole said they are contemplating running for governor in 2010.
The Republicans, pictured right, join Democrats Drew Edmondson, Oklahoma Attorney General, and Jari Askins, Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor, in publicly announcing they may run for the position. Current Gov. Grad Henry finishes his second and last term in 2010.
All four potential candidates have solid name recognition throughout the state and could run competitive races depending on the particular political circumstances in 2010.
If Republicans capture the governor’s seat and maintain their majorities in the Oklahoma House and Senate, the state will obviously become even more conservative in its politics. This could isolate the state even more from the national political scene and further damage its image. This, in turn, could hurt economic development.
The Republican fiscal ideology of the last eight years--many would say the last three decades--has been soundly repudiated and rejected, but this won't stop conservatives here from clinging to failed ideas.
The best chance for Democrats to maintain some political balance in the state could be winning the governor’s race in 2010 rather than individual legislative races. This doesn’t mean Democrats should concede any given race, of course, but it does mean they absolutely must win the governor’s position to check the GOP’s radical agenda.
The economy may well be the major issue in 2010, but the state’s biased, corporate media, including The Oklahoman, which serves as a propaganda ministry for the GOP, will spin events and facts to favor conservative candidates. Watch the media here, for example, try to rewrite the disastrous Bush presidency as the months go on and as President Barack Obama attempts to revive the economy and restore the country’s world stature.
The larger questions loom: How can Democrats stop the continuing conservative juggernaut in Oklahoma? Is it even possible given the state’s low college education levels, its right-wing religious folks and ultra-conservative corporate media? If it’s not possible, then what are the best strategies for Democrats to make a difference in their Oklahoma communities? How does the state’s continuing brain drain affect the political situation?
(Update: State Sen. Randy Brodgon, also a Republican, has said he may run for governor as well.)
What type of place will Oklahoma become and how much will its national image suffer after the Republican-controlled legislature goes on its expected ideological rampage in 2009?
This is the hidden story among Oklahoma’s ultra conservative corporate media, and it surely has crossed the minds of the state’s economic developers, who must deal with the state’s image issues on a regular basis.
The Republicans now have majorities in both the House and Senate. As the country turned toward the left and center in the November elections, a majority of Oklahoma voters continued to embrace the failed and dissipating neoconservative moment. The state is now considered the reddest of red states throughout the country and world. This makes the state seem as if inhabited by extremists. Will the upcoming legislative session further validate this view?
The GOP has already introduced the Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act, sponsored by controversial state Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City), who was once caught on tape claiming gay people were a worst threat to the country than terrorists. Kern’s bill is simply an attempt to bring religion into our public schools. I have written about it here.
The Republicans have also introduced a senseless voter id bill, sponsored by state Sen. John Ford (R-Bartlesville) that will make it more difficult for some people to vote. The bill, if passed, would require voter to show photo id before they can vote. Let me repeat this: There is not a problem with voting fraud in Oklahoma or the nation This is a bill aimed at marginalizing certain groups, such as minorities, who are more likely to vote Democratic.
There is speculation among political insiders that state Rep. Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie) will reintroduced a bill that would allow college students to carry concealed weapons in classrooms. The bill was vetoed last year. This bill, if passed, would probably increase the chances for violence on campus while driving away qualified professors from Oklahoma universities. The bill sanctions a backwoods, wild west mentality. It poses numerous law enforcement and safety problems, but that doesn’t mean it won’t get passed.
Republicans are also expected to introduce a corporate and physician amnesty bill that would cap lawsuit damages. These amnesty bills, sponsored by the GOP throughout the country, are simply attempts to take away the rights of individuals. The GOP focuses its arguments on the mythology of frivolous lawsuits. In fact, the vast majority of lawsuits are justified. Suing for damages is a basic American right and a major part of any Democratic government. The GOP wants to limit individual rights in order to enrich a small, powerful corporate oligarchy in the state.
The GOP is also expected to lead the fight in stopping any increases in educational funding.
So what will the state be like after the next legislative session, which begins in February? Will our public schools be hotbeds of religious conflict or stifling Christian enclaves that won’t teach basic science principles? Will some people here be denied the right to vote? Will our college students be armed? Will Oklahomans lose their basic rights to recover damages in a lawsuit? Will education once again be slighted in funding in order to pay for the state’s absurdly large prison population?
There is no doubt that Republicans, with majorities in the House and Senate, will want to flaunt their power, but this could come at great expense to the state’s quality of life and national image. Forward-thinking people and parents of school-aged children should pay close attention to the carnage left by the Republicans after the 2009 legislative session.
(What about the taxing rhetoric over bringing the Supersonics to town? Are we all tax consumers or do some groups get more tax breaks than others? Read DocHoc's commentary about it this week in the Oklahoma Gazette, the state's finest alternative weekly.)
The Oklahoma Republican Party announced a bland, public legislative agenda for 2008 this week, but its hidden agenda—passing another anti-illegal immigration bill forcing even more Hispanic people to leave the state and promoting Christian fundamentalism in public schools—defines where the state party really stands during this national election year.
Obviously, the GOP presented a non-controversial, public agenda because polls show the Republican Party, at least nationally, is in deep trouble with swing voters and moderates in both major parties. At this point, all indications point to a Democratic Party sweep on the national level in 2008. Will this potential sweep have coattails for state Democrats? It remains to be seen.
According to a news report, the GOP said it wants to establish an office to conduct regular audits of state agencies, spend more motor vehicle money on roadwork, keep more violent criminals in prison and try to lower the income tax rate to 5.25 despite slow budget growth.
It is a yawner for sure. Everyone wants accountability of government spending. Everyone wants better roads and highways. Everyone wants habitual and violent criminals in jail. The question is how do we go about doing these things appropriately and wisely? These proposals certainly do not solely define the Republican Party. The tax cut, which was scheduled for 2009, has been delayed by law because of stagnant growth in the state budget. Right now, it looks like it would be irresponsible to push for this cut immediately if its projected revenue is not replaced elsewhere. Still, it is certainly no wedge issue.
Meanwhile, the hidden agenda—the one the GOP is not touting openly because it is an election year—is state Rep. Randy Terrill’s proposed “Son of 1804” legislation, which he says will clamp down even further on illegal immigration in the state. Terrill, a Republican from Moore, wants another law that will enable law enforcement agencies to seize the property of those involved with illegal immigration. Are you involved with illegal immigration and do not even know it? Do you know an illegal immigrant? Every Oklahoma citizen must ask themselves this now. Last year, Terrill sponsored House Bill 1804, which gave the state the nation’s strictest anti-illegal immigration law. Now, he wants to go even further. The current law has produced much well-documented hardship in the state among the Hispanic community and certain businesses. Ultimately, it is difficult not to see the proposed law as particularly mean and racist.
Also, state Reps. Sally Kern and Mike Reynolds, two Oklahoma City Republicans, are pushing legislation that would apparently prohibit public school teachers from penalizing students who refused to submit regular work but instead only offered their religious beliefs (i.e. Christian beliefs) in papers or on tests.
These two issues—unabashed support for racism and theocracy—define the Republican Party in Oklahoma and elsewhere these days. Of course, it is true many state Democratic legislators will be afraid to vote against these measures because they fear voter backlash. Yet this is in an election year in which two of the top three Democratic candidates for president are a woman and an African American. This shows the overall difference between the two parties, and it shows why young people are shunning the GOP these days.
Add all this to the national GOP’s recent corruption scandals and hypocrisy (remember Jack Abramoff and the wide bathroom stance of Republican U.S. Sen. Larry Craig?), throw in the botched Iraq occupation (nine American soldiers were killed in Iraq in the last two days and this is “victory” for the GOP and The Daily Oklahoman), and you get the full picture of what has become of the so-called “conservative” party in American politics.