An Oklahoma primary for Independents?

An Oklahoma primary for Independents?

It has been a busy weekend along the most conservative stretch of Old Route 66, especially for those of the Democratic persuasion.  Friday evening many of the Oklahoma Democratic Party leadership met at the Tower Hotel in Oklahoma City for the annual Carl Albert awards dinner.


After all the awards for Activist of the Year for each of the state’s congressional districts were handed out, the evening’s festivities culminated with a very passionate stump speech by Governor Dan Malloy of Connecticut.


Governor Dannel Malloy (D-CT)

Early on Saturday morning all delegates to the Oklahoma Democratic Party state convention made their way down to the south end of May Avenue in OKC to the campus of Oklahoma City Community College.  The convention venue was a mass of humanity with all things Democratic being represented in the exhibit hall.


Yes, that is who you think it is to the left of center of the above photo.


There were even items of interest for those who have not immediately jumped onto the Hillary Clinton bandwagon:


It was wonderful to be in the company of so many Democrats both Friday evening and all day on Saturday.  After getting all the delegates into their seats in the venue hall, the convention was called to order a few minutes after 10 AM.


Former ODP Chair Jay Parmley was the keynote speaker.  Parmley now resides in Columbia, South Carolina where he is building a solid state Democratic Party.  The take-home message from his speech was that control of state legislatures is an imperative to good governance.  As it turns out, Oklahoma is not the only GOP-controlled state that has fiscal mismanagement problem.  Education, health care and infrastructure are being as badly neglected in several states where purported fiscal conservatives are in control of budget policy.


Jay Parmley

The initial report of the Credentials Committee was 701 delegates and/or proxies were registered.  There were over 500 present, so not a bad showing.  Even still there were some eight counties without delegate representation.  After all the committee reports and lunch, the convention then began its main focus:  the election of new party officers.  Oklahoma City attorney and long time Oklahoma Democrat Mark Hammons faced off against the incumbent party vice-chair Dana Orwig.  Hammons ran a very diligent campaign reaching out to active party members in all 77 counties of the state.  Orwig also ran a thorough campaign, reaching out to all available party members and delegates.  After a painstaking vote count by county, a tedious process during which I actually admit to losing consciousness for a short time, a winner was finally declared.  In the end, Hammons won going away by a vote count of 306 to 216 to become the next ODP Chairman.


ODP Chairman-elect Mark Hammons and family

Election of vice-chair was not nearly as difficult.  With the election of Hammons, an unexpected nomination by Kalyn Free of Laurie Uhl Phillips was made to oppose former State Senator Connie Johnson.  For someone who did not have time to mount a campaign, Laurie made a good case for her candidacy having been a long time activist and Democratic Party member in Tulsa.  It was duly noted that she is quite adept at organizational skills.


Laurie Uhl Phillips

Connie Johnson, who ran her campaign in partnership with Mark Hammons, managed to keep her support base intact and won election to vice-chair soundly.


Vice-Chair elect Connie Johnson

The incumbents of the offices of ODP Secretary and Treasurer, David Ratcliffe and Donna Russell respectively, were both unopposed for reelection.

Four candidates were elected to serve on the State Central Committee as Affirmative Action members.  They are Earl Mitchell of Stillwater, Victor Gorin of Oklahoma City, Teresa Hill and Giovanni Perry both also of Oklahoma City.

Sadly, the main issue I was hoping would come to the floor had to be tabled until another day because time ran out.  We had to vacate the convention venue by 6 PM and we made it with only a few seconds to spare.


Heretofore, Oklahoma has been a closed primary state.  That means that primary elections are closed to all but registered members of the two major recognized parties, either Democratic or Republican.  A change to the ODP by-laws was passed out of the Resolutions Committee to be voted on by a quorum of delegates.  This must now wait for another time to be determined.  Judging by my own straw poll, this issue has enough support to pass.  Speaking as a former Independent myself, I support such a change.  The one major argument against it is that of infiltration by non-party supporters.  There is no way to ensure party registration guarantees that isn’t already happening.  I do wonder however if the current Tea Party backed Congressman from the OK 1st CD could have unseated an entrenched incumbent on the strength of a 12.1% voter participation if the GOP had an open primary.  I don’t see how opening a party primary to Independents can be a negative.  I do hope this passes when it is brought to the floor for a vote.  To my knowledge the Oklahoma GOP has no plans or intentions to open their primaries to Independent voters.

It has been a fun and tiring weekend.  Now that is it all over with all I have left to say to my fellow Red State Democrats is FORWARD!