Who Will Oppose Coburn?

Image of U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn

Will a major candidate step up on the Democratic side to oppose U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn in the 2010 election? The question is an important one now that we’re only about 10 months away from the general election and even less from the primary.

Yes, Coburn, a Republican from Muskogee, will be a formidable opponent. He’s tapped into the anti-Obama, teabagger sentiment in the state, and, as an incumbent, he will probably raise more money than any of his opponents. His political stunts have given him massive name recognition here and elsewhere.

But that doesn’t mean Democrats should just concede the seat. There are two approaches here. Democrats could run a well-known candidate and try to out raise Coburn in campaign money or run a lesser-known candidate, who can try to chip away at Coburn’s dismal record when it comes to supporting Oklahoma families and children. Even if the candidate loses, more Oklahomans might see through Coburn’s antics.

What will the economy be like in November 2010? Will there still be high unemployment here because of the terrible recession President Barack Obama inherited from the Bush administration? Will anything “stick” to Coburn if a candidate tried to educate Oklahomans about his record and, say, the Ensign spectacle? Will an independent run for the position and perhaps draw votes away from Coburn? The answers to these questions could determine the election’s outcome.

Let’s speculate. Here are five well-known Democratic Oklahomans, who might or might not consider the race: (1) Gov. Brad Henry, who has said he’s not interested in running, (2) Former Gov. David Walters, (3) Vince Orza, a former gubernatorial candidate and current dean of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University, (4) State School Superintendent Sandy Garrett, and (5) State Treasurer Scott Meacham.

Could any of these potential candidates beat Coburn with a specific campaign and decent funding?

Is there a state Democratic Senator not up for re-election this year who could run while not jeopardizing their current position? Are there any term-limited Democrats in the House? What about a former legislator or someone outside of politics altogether?

Obviously, it takes a lot of energy, people and time to get a major campaign up and going. Someone needs to step up quickly.


Can We Get A Divorce, Sally?

Image of Sally Kern

State Rep. Sally Kern, the infamous politician who once compared homosexuality to terrorism, is once again trying to press her worldview on Oklahomans.

This time, the Oklahoma City Republican, pictured right, is proposing legislation that could make it more difficult for many people here to get a divorce. House Bill 2279, if signed into law, would allow only certain Oklahomans to get a divorce based on incompatibility.

Here’s the key section of the bill:

Provided, however, that the court shall not grant a divorce on the ground of incompatibility if:
1. There are living minor children of the marriage;
2. The parties have been married ten (10) years or longer; or
3. Either party files a written objection to the granting of a divorce.

In other words, if the bill passes many people could have to stay in a marriage legally even if they didn’t want to. This could lead to protracted legal fights and more conflict between two people, who simply want to amicably end their marriage. It would also allow one person in the marriage to essentially hold their spouse hostage. Ending no-fault divorce would increase marriage problems, not solve them.

(Read TheOkie’s take on the issue on Blue Oklahoma.)

State Rep. Al McAffrey, an Oklahoma City Democrat, spoke out against Kern’s bill. In a prepared statement, McAffrey said, "As a leader of the Oklahoma Republican party, Sally Kern will stop at nothing in her misguided effort to embarrass our great state. Rep. Kern's bill limits Oklahomans' rights and restricts freedom to an entirely new level."

McAffrey added:

Frankly, I don't know when Rep. Kern finds the time to dream up this bizarre legislation. Our state is facing a budget crisis and several other significant challenges. Given the state of our economy, we need steady leaders in the legislature that are ready to create serious solutions, not political side shows."

Kern’s bill undoubtedly reflects her worldview. In the past, she has also tried to pass legislation that would allow more religious activities in the state’s public schools. She was also the author of the Oklahoma Citizens Proclamation for Morality, which drew media attention. Here’s the last part of the proclamation:

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that we the undersigned elected officials of the people of Oklahoma, religious leaders and citizens of the State of Oklahoma, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world, solemnly declare that the HOPE of the great State of Oklahoma and of these United States, rests upon the Principles of Religion and Morality as put forth in the HOLY BIBLE; and

BE IT RESOLVED that we, the undersigned, believers in the One True God and His only Son, call upon all to join with us in recognizing that "Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord," and humbly implore all who love Truth and Virtue to live above reproach in the sight of God and man with a firm reliance on the leadership and protection of Almighty God; and

BE IT RESOLVED that we, the undersigned, humbly call upon Holy God, our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer, to have mercy on this nation, to stay His hand of judgment, and grant a national awakening of righteousness and Christian renewal as we repent of our great sin.

Kern’s divorce bill is obviously a part of her continuing agenda to enforce her own ideology on the rest of us. Legislators should kill the bill in committee or vote against it if it makes it to the floor. If it passes, Gov. Brad Henry should not hesitate to veto it.


Architects of Crisis

Image of Picasso painting

Conservative political ideology and recent tax cuts that have primarily benefited Oklahoma’s wealthiest citizens are the architects of the state’s current financial crisis, but don’t count on any real public discussion of this issue.

Do you want at least a partial solution to the massive budget crisis facing Oklahoma? Simply rollback some of the income tax cuts given to the state’s richest citizens in recent years. But this idea is not even part of the discussion as state employees face furloughs, vital human and health services are cut and the public’s safety remains threatened. The state’s public schools, which have also suffered from a decline in a dedicated revenue source, are facing financial disaster.

Right now, officials are predicting a massive $802 million shortfall for this fiscal year in an overall budget of $7.2 billion. Next year, officials predict the state’s budget will be $5.3 billion, a staggering decrease of $1.3 billion. Oklahoma’s current shortfall is the largest in the nation among states on a percentage basis.

There’s no other way to put it: This crisis could do serious, long-term damage to the state. Any foundational gains the state has made in recent years in its education and health systems will be wiped out, and Oklahoma will continue to project a national image as a poor, unhealthy state increasingly enslaved to weird ideological misguidance.

The Oklahoma Policy Institute has been the most intelligent and reasonable public voice during the budget crisis. The think tank has diligently presented proposals the state’s leadership should seriously consider as programs are slashed.

In a recent issue brief, OK Policy argues that “Oklahoma is currently in the midst of its worst fiscal crisis since the oil bust of the 1980’s.” The brief states:

This situation leaves legislative leaders and the Governor facing tough choices on the appropriate strategies to keep the budget into balance while attempting to avert catastrophic cuts to essential public services in the areas of education, health care, human services, and public safety.

Unfortunately, the state’s fiscal recovery is likely to be slow and difficult.

OK Policy recommends the state do four things: (1) Improve budget forecasting. (2) Increase its reserve funds. (3) Put multi-year revenue commitments on hold. (4) Suspend and cap some tax expenditures.

Ok Policy argues:

… at a time when budget cuts are threatening public health and safety, to claim that the priorities we’ve chosen to fund through the appropriations process can be slashed while the priorities we’ve embedded in the tax code are untouchable simply does not make sense.

All these neutral proposals make logical sense and should be implemented immediately. The state has talented people in both the private and public sectors who could improve the budget process and make the state less vulnerable to downturns in the oil and gas markets.

Unfortunately, some Republicans actually see the budget crisis as an opportunity.

Writing recently in the Tulsa World, Randy Krehbiel notes:

In addition, some Republican legislators have said that they view the revenue failure as an opportunity to make deep, permanent cuts in state government, although none has said exactly what should be eliminated.

As long as voters here continue to elect politicians who see basic human suffering and underfunded educational systems as an “opportunity” instead of a crisis, the state will never overcome its systemic problems.