Welcome registered Independents!

Welcome registered Independents!

Welcome_Delegates

An election is a numbers game.  That was the issue on which debate was postponed on May 30th when time expired on the Oklahoma Democratic Party Convention.  The ODP reconvened its convention yesterday, July 25th at the Oklahoma City Community College Student Union.  Yours truly was an official delegate from Tulsa County.

OK_Democratic_Convention_Delegate

It was a beautiful Saturday to motor on down Old Route 66 to OKC and join the other 282 delegates present.  There were some 93 proxy holders for a total forum of 376 members.  I was even asked by the Sergeant-at-Arms, a member of the ODP Veteran’s Committee, to bear a hand with the Color Guard.  Yes, I carried the National Ensign for the convention’s opening ceremony.

Vet

 After Party Chairman Mark Hammons called the Convention to order, we delegates were graced with the presence of two former Democratic Oklahoma governors.  First to speak was former Governor David Walters who held that office from 1991 to 1995.

David_Walters

Following Governor Walters’ comments, former Governor George Nigh spoke.  Governor Nigh served in office as an interim chief executive in January 1963 and was elected to two terms from 1979 to 1987.  He in fact preempted a sentiment at the forefront of my mind as he reached the end of his remarks.  Mr. Nigh expressed his displeasure of being reminded by most Oklahomans he meets about being the speaker at their high school commencement.  Indeed, then Lt. Governor Nigh was the keynote speaker at my own high school commencement on June 2nd, 1977.  I remember thinking then that he must be looking out at 580-odd newly or soon-to-be registered voters.  Yes, Governor George Nigh was the quintessential Oklahoma politician, well liked in all 77 counties of the state which he won twice and by all accounts did all the right things for all Oklahomans.

George_Nigh

Letters from two former Democratic governors of Oklahoma who could not be present, one from David Hall and one from Brad Henry, were read to the Convention by Chairman Hammons.  One common thread from both former governors present and the two who were not was a strong opinion in favor of allowing registered Independent voters to vote in state Democratic Party primary elections.

After the Credentials Committee report and Constitution and By-Laws report, debate commenced on the primary focus of the Convention: to allow or continue to bar registered Independents from voting in Democratic Primary elections.  Sixteen minutes were allotted for each side per Robert’s Rules of Parliamentary Procedure.  Both sides provided speakers delivering convincing arguments.  One of the proponents for the resolution and rules change was the current representative of House District 44 (Norman) Emily Virgin.  Ms. Virgin convincingly made the case that allowing Independents to vote in party primary elections will appeal to an up and coming demographic of voters, the Millenials.

Rep. Emily Virgin (HD 44)

Rep. Emily Virgin (HD 44)

Among those opposing this resolution and rules change was former state Senator Debbie Leftwich.  Ms. Leftwich articulated the argument I heard from many against this measure.  She, like a lot of others, have been lifelong Democrats and feel as if they are a fixture in the Party and have “paid their dues” so to speak.  This is how Ms. Leftwich came across to me.  I understand how it must feel to be part of not just a party but a movement that has evolved over decades and must change with the times in order to appeal to new voters with new issues.  A fellow delegate seated next to me stated it beautifully, “Those against sound just like Republicans.”  They indeed did, to me as well as my neighbor.

There were a few of my fellow delegates who were on the fence with this issue all the way until time to vote.  When asked, I imparted my views to them and I hope that was helpful in the decision making process for some. My views on the issue are deeply rooted in my own personal history of being a conservative leaning Independent from my 18th birthday until I was soundly knocked off the fence in June 2004 by the excesses and incompetence of the Bush 43 Administration and the public indignation of an evangelical Christian which was directed at me in my workplace.  During my active duty days in the Navy when the Cold War was not yet decided and even in the era of Navy downsizing following its end, I supported candidates like Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush in 1988 and Bob Dole in 1996 with my vote.  During all of that I could never bring myself to actually join the Republican Party.  The 138 members of the Reagan Administration who were indicted, convicted or otherwise had to resign their office amid ethics investigations I am sure had something to do with that.  One thing that I vividly recall while I was stationed at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton was receiving my 1988 general election absentee ballot from the Tulsa County Election Board.  The ballot was four pages long and yes, had the Presidential candidates listed at the top.  I however knew little about the Congressional candidates and even less about the state house and state senate candidates.  I also knew absolutely nothing about the state questions and referendums and there were several on the ballot.  We did not have the Internet in 1988 and despite trying to be as well informed as possible I needed input from some in-state source in order to cast and educated ballot.  I spent the money and called the Tulsa County GOP Headquarters and asked for guidance.  Nobody, I mean NOBODY at Tulsa County GOP HQ could help me with a simple query regarding the candidates or the referendum issues.  That 3 1/2 minute phone call that left me where I started in terms of information left a lasting impression.  I remember feeling disappointed but at the same time glad I never sought to become a member of that party!  In hindsight, if I as an Independent could have voted in any primary it may have given me encouragement to find out more about party membership.  My yellow dog Democrat dad always gigged me for not registering as a Democrat because I could not vote in the primaries.  My comeback was always, “You can only vote in one party’s primary anyway!”  If my dad were still around it would not even be an issue now, but I digress.

By a vote of 314 to 137 the resolution was passed and subsequently the rule change passed.  A few other items of party business were addressed and settled and the convention was adjourned before 5 PM.  It is true what Will Rogers said about a Democrat, “He would rather make a speech than a dollar.”  Many exemplified this sentiment today.  The take-home message is that the Oklahoma Democratic Party is indeed the big tent political organization in the Sooner State.  To expound on another of Will Rogers’ quotes, “It takes nerve to be a Democrat, but it takes money to be a Republican.”  It also takes support of the voting public to win.  It is my hope along with all the rest who supported this ODP rule change that this translates into success at the polls going forward.

Oklahoma_Democrats

2 Comments

  1. Jack Boyte
    Jul 28, 2015

    Well done, Stan.

    I sure hope the ODP doesn’t use the same GOTV tactics on the Indies as it uses on Democrats.

  2. Suzanne Teehee
    Jul 26, 2015

    Very well written and a true account of the convention. I hope it will get some young progressive people involved. Sure could use some help getting Matthew Nowlin elected.