It’s probably an understatement to argue that this has not been a great year for progressive Oklahoma Democrats so far.
No viable Democratic candidate has emerged to challenge U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn. Both Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Lt. Gov. Jari Askins and Attorney General Drew Edmondson, trail U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin in polling. The Republican-dominated legislature continued its destructive, ideological spree at the state Capitol pretty much unabated and sometimes helped by conservative Democrats.
So it was fantastic news for progressives to learn that state Sen. Jim Wilson, a Democrat from Tahlequah, has announced he will challenge Blue Dog U.S. Rep. Dan Boren in the Second District Congressional Democratic primary.
Even more fantastic is this: Wilson, in the words of one blogger, Howie Klein, who interviewed him, won’t be running as “another Republican-lite reactionary.” This means he could challenge Boren on his Republican-like stances on issues such as health care reform and taxation during the campaign. Wilson is a viable candidate who could make Boren respond to criticism that his conservative votes have not always been in the best interests of his constituents.
This is what Wilson had to say in a recent press release about the relationship between medical record management systems and health care reform:
For years, the debate on true health care reform has not been fact-based. It has been fear-based, driven by the greed of those who profit most from a broken system. As a result, hundreds of thousands of working Oklahomans have not been able to afford insurance. Even those fortunate enough to have it often find that after years of faithfully paying premiums, the companies will do everything in their power to avoid providing the care patients need. With proper reform, there will be no additional cost to Oklahoma, but the benefits will be innumerable.
Boren, of course, voted against the recent federal health care bill, arguing it costs too much money. Wilson argued the federal government was forced to step in to do something about health care and that any costs to Oklahomans “could be easily offset by eliminating waste, fraud and utilizing better management of medical records.”
Wilson, a Vietnam War veteran who served in the Marine Corps, is going to draw a sharp distinction between himself and Boren on the campaign trail. This alone is good news for progressives.
The Second District encompasses 24 counties in the eastern part of Oklahoma. Some of the major cities in the district are Durant, McAlester, Muskogee, Tahlequah, Claremore and Miami. It includes the Little Dixie region in southeastern Oklahoma.
There’s little doubt that Wilson faces a real battle to win against an incumbent with huge family name recognition. Boren is the son of University of Oklahoma President David Boren, who is a former Oklahoma Governor and U.S. Senator. His grandfather, Lyle Boren, was a former U.S. Representative as well.
But with enough financial support and a good ground campaign, Wilson can win, and he can win without siding with the fear mongering and corporate worship that defines the current GOP and conservative Democrats, such as Boren. Wilson also has his own Oklahoma credentials and following in his Senate district and surrounding areas. He has also served in the Oklahoma House.
You can contribute to Wilson’s campaign by going to the Bad Dogs page on ActBlue.
Senate and House Democrats are threatening to hold up a budget agreement unless Republicans agree to a provider fee for hospitals that could bring the state millions of dollars in new Medicaid money.
The provider fee is a pragmatic, sensible proposal that deserves bipartisan support. It’s unfortunate some budget negotiators apparently don’t see it that way.
State Sen. Andrew Rice, an Oklahoma City Democrat, and state Rep. Scott Inman, a Del City Democrat, have led the public charge with the proposal, which is supported by the Oklahoma Hospital Association.
In a statement this week about the proposal, Rice, pictured right, said the hospital fee would be a “300 percent” return on an investment. The federal government matches the fee on a 3-1 basis in Medicaid dollars. It would bring in millions of new dollars to the state, Rice said.
It makes sense to take advantage of the available federal money, especially when the state faces a massive budget crisis.
Rice said state Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, an Oklahoma City Republican, doesn’t favor the proposal.
The legislative session ends in about two weeks. Will there be a budget deal soon? The state faces a budget shortfall some estimate at $600 to $850 million. It’s time to put aside ideology and find political compromises to prevent human suffering and permanent institutional damage.
Democrats should be commended for taking a stand and bringing this issue to the public forefront.
It’s a given that President Barack Obama is not popular in Oklahoma, but is it possible his approval ratings could go up here as the economy improves and elements of the national health care plan take effect?
If the answer is yes, then this could be the real wild card in the 2010 elections. Right now, many Republicans here seem confident they will handily sweep the elections.
Some political pundits will argue that it’s impossible for Obama to gain significant popularity here no matter what for a variety of reasons. Oklahoma was the only state in the nation in which every county went for U.S. Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential election, and this was before the Tea Party movement really got going and the health care reform battle. A recent Gallup poll showed Obama’s approval rating here at 48 percent.
But when people start to realize they can become insured even with a preexisting condition and if the job picture improves drastically in coming months, the political climate could change here and become more favorable for Democrats and even Obama.
In a recent email to supporters, Obama outlined some of the health reform benefits that go into effect this year:
Small businesses will receive significant tax cuts, this year, to help them afford health coverage for all their employees.
Seniors will receive a rebate to reduce drug costs not yet covered under Medicare.
Young people will be allowed coverage under their parents' plan until the age of 26.
Early retirees will receive help to reduce premium costs.
Children will be protected against discrimination on the basis of medical history.
Uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions can join a special high-risk pool to get the coverage they need, starting in just 90 days.
Insured Americans will be protected from seeing their insurance revoked when they get sick, or facing restrictive annual limits on the care they receive.
All Americans will benefit from significant new investments to train primary care doctors, nurses, and public health professionals, and the creation of state-level consumer assistance programs to help all patients understand and defend our new rights.
There are also signs the job market is improving. Oklahoma already has a lower unemployment rate, 6.7 percent, than the national average of 9.7 percent. If this trend continues, then any further improvement in the job market here will likely help Democrats in the polls.
It might be wishful thinking that Obama could improve his popularity here and thus actually help some state Democrats in the 2010 election, but his eventual success with the health care reform bill shows he has a long-view strategy when it comes to political battles. Pundits and Republicans argued the bill would never pass, but it did.
Will Obama’s decisions about the economy eventually reveal the same, long-term tenacity going into the 2010 elections? Will it eventually become apparent the economy has improved, and Obama and the Democrats brought this country back from the brink of financial disaster after the botched performance of former President George W. Bush?