Losing our fear of fierce and polished opposition

Losing our fear of fierce and polished opposition

The 2016 General Election is now a mere eight weeks away and campaign season is getting ginned up full tilt.  Having been out knocking doors for a state house candidate, I found most voters on my assigned list had no clue as to who is running for what or what is really going on in the legislature.  I have ample reason to believe however that the relatively affluent precincts I have worked may be an aberration.  After talking to several other state house and senate candidates from all over the state who have been out knocking doors, all confirm a strong undercurrent of anti-incumbency from many voters with whom they have spoken.  It seems that particular sentiment parallels precincts where the misery factor created by the latest negative results of our illustrious state government is having a direct impact on the citizens.  The caveat is not all of those precincts are in current Democratically held districts.

Ballot Box 2016

Election Day is November 8th

Politics, especially local politics is a lot like competitive sports.  State and county party leadership are always looking to recruit quality candidates for legislative and other public offices.  As Oklahoma House Minority Leader Scott Inman so eloquently articulated it using a baseball metaphor at a Tulsa fundraiser a few weeks ago, “I am looking for candidates who can hit a major league fastball.”  Given the inroads the Republican Party has made in Oklahoma since the advent of term limits, finding such a member of the Democratic Party has become a tall order.  Suffering under the results of bad governance has shaken several quality Democratic candidates from the bushes this year.  Many are teachers who passionately care about public education like high school history teacher John Waldron.  Some, like Joe Jennings who is running for my local State House District 70, are motivated by personal crisis caused by bad corporate policy and law.

Jennings for HD 70

 As a follow-up to his statement regarding his search for candidates who can hit a major league fastball, Minority Leader Inman then clarified, “The other side only needs someone who can hit a tee-ball.”  I must say that the opposition has had no problem finding candidates who can hit a tee-ball and just about anything else.  The Oklahoma GOP seems to never have a dearth of office seekers who have impressive resumes.  Allow me to cite a couple of examples.  The GOP opponent of Democrat John Waldron in the Senate District 39 is an old schoolmate of Yours Truly, a fellow alumnus of Will Rogers High School.  He is also a graduate of the University of Tulsa where he was quarterback of the football team.  He also served as that institution’s head football coach from 1988 to 1999, one David Rader.  On a personal level I will vouch for David Rader.  I have known him or members of his immediate family since the seventh grade and they are all motivated, personable and very well rounded individuals.  It is my hope that after this campaign is over that we will all still be friends, partisan differences notwithstanding.  As a candidate, Dave has not revealed any specifics that I am aware of on how to improve the areas of his stated core focus of jobs, education and transportation.  In politics name recognition can carry a candidate far and it has carried David Rader to the GOP nomination of SD 39.

Wild elephant

In Senate District 25 where I resided for six years, the Democratic candidate is a local businessman and product of his district by the name of Robert Founds.  Mr. Founds has clearly articulated his priorities for the next session.  He brings to the table not much in terms of higher education but a great deal with regard to knowledge of the needs of the citizens of his district and a very strong sense of commitment borne by his work ethic.  His opponent has a curriculum vitae that reads like it came from central casting; Georgetown graduate, Navy fighter pilot, combat veteran, weapons expert and career Naval Reserve officer.  I will give credit where credit is due, SD 25 GOP nominee Joe Newhouse is the guy I always aspired to be when I was in high school.  If I as a fellow naval officer were sitting on a promotion selection board or if I were a detailer seeking to fill a command billet of a fighter squadron then Mr. Newhouse would certainly have my vote.  I believe I am safe in saying that Mr. Newhouse might find that the Oklahoma State Senate works a great deal different than the Navy.

Ferocious lion

After five years of all-GOP governance and conservative policy failures, continuing them does not sound like part of a winning game plan.  We can measure things now and it has been established beyond all certainty that cutting or refusing to increase taxes, for whatever reason, does NOT increase revenue.  On Mr. Newhouse’s Issues page on Education Reform, his #1 under “I support” set off an immediate red flag as well it should.  Has anyone been able to increase teacher pay without a commensurate increase in revenue?  I think it is entirely reasonable to be skeptical given the most recent results regardless of specifics.  Looking over some of the other items, it is apparent that Mr. Newhouse’s policy positions serve a given narrative and agenda more than address any issues pertinent to the citizens of Senate District 25.

Politics, especially conservative politics, has a way of attracting overachievers.  If only overachievers could convert their track records to positive results and legislate laws and public policy that served a majority and addressed problems faced by the people I doubt they would have so many challengers this year.  It doesn’t matter how impressive a candidate’s resume may be or what they bring to the table in terms of personal experience.  All those football win-loss records or stellar Georgetown and flight school grade point averages guarantee NOTHING!  If someone is riding a candidacy message of perpetuating failing or failed policies then all that experience does not matter one iota.  They are by any reasonable metric subject to defeat by a good and worthy opponent with a message more palatable than their stale one.  We need to stop being awed and intimidated by class valedictorians.  The best and most wonderful examples of legislators I have known are those who were ordinary people who rose to do extraordinary things, like campaign to represent a constituency that badly needs an average person to do all that is necessary for the average and outstanding citizens alike.  Please remember on Election Day that regime change begins with your vote!

Wet kitty