From the General Manager
Prior to initiating the Oklahoma Conservative Index, many legislators could claim to be a conservative, but there was no objective measure to determine if that was true. We base our ratings on ten key bills that were voted on by the legislators in the last legislative session. We explain the bills and publish how each legislator voted on each of the ten bills. As these legislators run for reelection, or perhaps for a higher office, you can evaluate if they deserve your vote.
In addition to evaluating individual legislators, the Conservative Index is also a useful tool to look at the Legislature in a broader context. At the national level there is no longer any dispute that there is a great chasm between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. But, within Oklahoma, it has been claimed that Oklahoma Democrats are different from the national party. It has often been said that a Democrat here would be called a Republican in another state. That difference in philosophy (conservative versus liberal) can be tested by using the Conservative Index to evaluate the Oklahoma Legislature.
As reported in this year’s ratings, the average Oklahoma Conservative Index score was 63% in the House and 66% in the Senate. So, as a whole, the Oklahoma Legislature is more conservative than it is liberal. But, breaking out the scores by political party shows a vast difference between the Republicans and the Democrats in the Legislature.
The average score for the 82 Republicans in the Oklahoma House was 78%, while the 19 Democrats averaged only 3% percent. Four Republicans (Denise Crosswhite Hader of Yukon, Tom Gann of Inola, Jim Olsen of Roland, and Wendi Stearman of Collinsville) scored a perfect 100 percent, while the lowest score for a Republican in the House was 52% (Preston Stinson of Edmond who missed four of the ten votes). The highest score among the Democrats in the House was 9% (Ajay Pittman of Oklahoma City), while 13 of the 19 Democrats scored zero (Forrest Bennett of Oklahoma City, Meloyde Blancett of Tulsa, Jose Cruz of Oklahoma City, Andy Fugate of Del City, Cyndi Munson of Oklahoma City, Monroe Nichols of Tulsa, Melissa Provenzano of Tulsa, Trish Ranson of Stillwater, Jacob Rosecrants of Norman, Mauree Turneer of Oklahoma City, Emily Virgin of Norman, John Waldron of Tulsa, and Collin Walke of Oklahoma City).
In the Oklahoma Senate, the average score of the 39 Republicans was 80 percent. One Republican (Nathan Dahm of Broken Arrow) scored a perfect 100%, while the lowest score for a Republican in the Senate was 65% (Mark Allen of Spiro, who was absent for half of the votes this year). The average score for the 9 Democrats in the Senate was just 5 percent. The highest score for a Democrat was 33 percent (J.J. Dossett of Sperry), while 5 scored zero (JoAnna Dossett of Tulsa, Senate Minority (Democrat) Leader Kay Floyd of Oklahoma City, Carri Hicks of Oklahoma City, Julia Kirt of Oklahoma City, and George Young of Oklahoma City).
All of the Top Conservatives in the Legislature are Republicans. All of the Top Liberals are Democrats. Part of the reason that there are no moderate Democrats in the Legislature, is that they are Republicans. These are the Republican In Name Only (RINO) members of the majority party. They make up a significant segment of the Republicans in the Legislature. In the past, they would have been registered Democrats. Today, they masquerade as Republicans because they could not get elected otherwise. It is worthy to note that of the 121 Republicans in the Legislature, only 27 made the Top Conservatives list. Still, the lowest rated Republican scored 19 points higher than the highest rated Democrat.
So, no matter how you look at it, there is a big difference between Democrats and Republicans in Oklahoma – at least in the Oklahoma Legislature.
Ron McWhirter is one of the founders of the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper and serves as the General Manager. He may be contacted at the newspaper email: firstname.lastname@example.org