Oklahoma General Election 2008
By: Constitution Staff
In the non-presidential election years, the governor's seat and a host of secondary statewide offices are up for election. This is the year of the short election ballot in Oklahoma. In addition to President, the only statewide offices on the ballot is one of the U.S. Senate seats, and spots for the Corporation Commission.
Oklahoma will likely be the only state to have only two candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, on the presidential ballot this year. The Libertarian Party candidate, Bob Barr, failed to gather a sufficient number of signatures to obtain a place on the ballot. The Libertarian Party will be on the ballot in 45 other states. Candidates of other minor parties did not even attempt to gather signatures. Ralf Nader, running as a candidate of the Independent Party, made it to the ballot in 46 states. The conservative Constitution Party will be on the ballot in 37 states, and the Green Party in 32 states. Oklahoma has been accused of having the toughest ballot access laws in the country.
While most Americans are focused on the presidential campaign, so much of our lives are affected to a greater degree by the decisions made by the Congress. Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse, including the power to set tax rates and spend taxpayer money. The president can propose treaties, but the Senate must approve. Many conservatives have cited judicial appointments as a reason to hold their nose and vote for Republican nominee John McCain, because it is the United States Senate that determines the ultimate fate of those appointments.
With Democrat Barack Obama a real threat to be elected president, as the most left-wing nominee of a major political party in U.S. history, and the Democrats likely to hold control of both houses of the Congress, conservatives must pin their hopes on the ability of forty Republican U.S. senators to filibuster the socialistic agenda of a potential Obama presidency.
Oklahomans are blessed with Senator Jim Inhofe, arguably the most reliably conservative member of the Senate. While some may have argued instead for fellow Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn for that distinction, the recent vote on the massive government bailout of Wall Street certainly gives a boost to Inhofe, not Coburn. Inhofe courageously stood for the taxpayers and voted NO to the bailout, while Coburn buckled and voted for the pork-laden bailout of over $700 billion.
Inhofe is conservative across the board, on taxes, spending, abortion, gun control, and a host of other issues. He has taken the point against the liberal hoax of human-caused global warming, personally taking on former Vice President Al Gore in a Senate hearing, exposing Gore's weak arguments.
Inhofe has won three U.S. Senate elections, besting former Governor David Walters, Congressman David McCurdy, and a relative of former U.S. Senator David Boren. This time he faces perhaps his most liberal opponent, State Senator Andrew Rice of Oklahoma City.
Rice has managed a mere 22% score on the Oklahoma Conservative Index, while an Oklahoma state senator. During the time Rice has been in the Oklahoma Senate, Oklahomans for Life reports that, on the eight key votes used,"Rice has compiled a 100% pro-abortion voting record." In stark contrast, Inhofe has compiled "a 100% pro-life voting record through his 22 years in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate."
In the effort to make English the official language of government in Oklahoma, sponsors of the official English language contend that Rice was one of 25 senators who voted for a watered-down version of official English, instead of an actual official English.
It is worthy of note that Rice won the Democrat primary with less than 60 percent of the vote against a perennial candidate, Jim Rogers. The fact that Rice ran an aggressive primary campaign against a token opponent who spent virtually no money and campaigned little, and still lost over 40 percent of the vote, does not bode well for Rice.
Stephen P. Wallace of Tulsa is also running for the Senate, as an Independent.
Incumbents are heavily favored to retain their seats, keeping the state's House delegation at four Republicans and one Democrat.
In the first congressional district, Republican John Sullivan faces liberal Democrat Georgiana Oliver, a former an aide to Congressman Bill Brewster. Oliver is the founder of EverGreen Solutions which has offices Washington, D.C. , and opened an office in Tulsa after her move to Oklahoma.
Prior to his election to Congress, Sullivan served seven years in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He has been particularly active in the battle over illegal immigration and tax reform. The first district is in the Tulsa area.
Dan Boren, the state's lone Democrat, faces Republican Raymond J. Wickson, in the second district, which is eastern Oklahoma, covering much of the traditionally Democrat areas of Oklahoma. Like his father, the former governor and senator, Boren is often portrayed as one of the more conservative Democrats in Congress. But, Boren is often at odds with the conservative Republicans in the Oklahoma delegation.
The dean of the Oklahoma delegation is Frank Lucas, a Republican who represents the third district, made up mostly of Oklahoma's western rural counties. Lucas graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1982 with a degree in Agricultural Economics and is a working farmer/rancher. Since his first election to Congress 12 years ago, Lucas has been a central figure in shaping agriculture policy in Congress. Before his election to Congress, Lucus served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He recently received praise from conservatives for his opposition to the Wall Street bailout -- the only Oklahoma member of the U.S. House of Representatives to do so. His Democrat opponent is Frankie Robbins of Medford who is retired from the U.S. Forest Service, while Forrest Michael of Cherokee is making the race as an Independent.
Tom Cole of the fourth congressional district is a Republican incumbent since 2003, who is seeking his fourth term. Raised in Moore, Oklahoma, Cole has served as the District Director for Congressman Mickey Edwards, in the Oklahoma State Senate, and as Oklahoma's first Republican Secretary of State.
From 1989 until his election to Congress, Cole served as the President of Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates, one of the nation's top consulting and research firms. In that capacity Cole was recognized as one of the country's top political strategists. Having served as both the Executive Director as well as the Chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, Cole went on to serve as the Executive Director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, as well as the Chief of Staff at the Republican National Committee. As the only enrolled member of an Indian tribe to serve in Congress, he is widely recognized for his leadership on issues dealing with Native Americans.
Cole's Democrat opponent is Blake Cummings, a self-employed oil and gas consultant from Pauls Valley. His Independent opponent is David Joyce of Wynnewood. The fourth district is made up of counties in south central and southwestern Oklahoma.
Mary Fallin, Republican, represents the central Oklahoma-based fifth congressional district. Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006, she is only the second woman in Oklahoma history to serve in Congress. Fallin is no newcomer to making history, however. In 1994, she was elected the states' first woman and the first Republican Lieutenant Governor, an office she held for three terms. Her opponent on the Democrat ticket is Steven L. Perry, an Oklahoma City attorney.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission regulates oil and gas drilling, electric and gas utilities, trucking, pipelines, and telecommunications in Oklahoma. There are three Corporation Commission seats with six-year staggered terms. Normally, only one seat would be up for election this year. That seat is currently held by Commissioner Jeff Cloud, who is seeking reelection. He will be faced in the general election by former state Rep. Charles Gray, a Democrat.
There is a second Corporation Commission seat up for grabs this year. Denise Bode was elected to the seat in 2004, with the term expiring in 2010. However, she resigned last year and Gov. Henry appointed Oklahoma County Commissioner Jim Roth to fill the seat until this year's election. The winner of this year's election will fill the seat for the remaining two years of Bode's term. Roth, a Democrat, is running to remain in the seat and is being challenged by Dana Murphy who won the Republican primary.
Cloud vs. Gray
Pledging to continue his fight for a more positive economic climate for Oklahoma, Corporation Commission Chairman Jeff Cloud is traveling all over the state in his campaign for a second term on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
Cloud was elected statewide to a six-year term on the Commission in 2002, and assumed the Commission chairmanship in June of 2005. He vows to continue helping to create a regulatory environment where consumers and the environment are protected, where regulated businesses have a chance to prosper and where bureaucratic red tape is cut so that there is an incentive to invest in Oklahoma.
A life-long Oklahoman, Cloud was born in Tulsa and raised in Oklahoma City. He earned a degree in Petroleum Land Management from the University of Oklahoma and a Juris Doctorate from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. Commissioner Cloud and his wife of 20 years, Trish, live in Oklahoma City where they raise their three children. "My family is the reason why I want to remain on the Corporation Commission. They are very supportive of what I do and their support fuels my passion for making Oklahoma a better place to live," Cloud said.
"The OCC directly regulates 60% of Oklahoma's economy and, more importantly, it can have quite a positive influence over the State's business, regulatory, energy, technology and transportation climates. My goal for my second term is to use the influence of the Commission so that Oklahoma's economy is further strengthened," Cloud concluded.
Cloud's opponent, attorney Charles Gray, is a longtime Democrat politician who wants to do away with the very real reforms that have been put in place where it seems his goal is to return the Corporation Commission to liberal cronyism that he enjoyed in his career in the Legislature. When he left the Legislature in 2002 Gray had a Conservative Index rating of 43 percent.
Roth Challenged by Murphy
Democrat Jim Roth is running to keep the Corporation Commission post that he was appointed to by Democrat Governor Brad Henry when Republican Denise Bode abandoned her position. He is being challenged by Republican Dana Murphy.
Roth is the state's first openly gay man to hold a statewide elective office. That fact was celebrated around the country by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) groups. The Dallas LGBT community took special interest in Roth because he is the partner of Dallas real estate developer Worth Ross. The two have been together for over ten years, even though Roth lives in Oklahoma City and Ross lives in Dallas. They commute between the two cities to see each other on weekends. Roth says of Ross, "He attends events and is introduced as my partner. It's been an eye-opening experience for people, but now it's just accepted. It's important for people to see us together and to recognize us as a family."
Locally, the Cimarron Alliance, an Oklahoma LGBT political action committee, praised Roth's appointment to the Commission. Roth is a long-time friend of the Cimarron Alliance having served on its board and as vice president. As an Oklahoma County Commissioner, Roth supported having pro-homosexual books accessible to children in Oklahoma County libraries.
The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund recently announced its endorsement of scores of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans gender political candidates, including Roth. The group believes that they can advance the social acceptance of homosexuality through elected officials, like Roth.
Some theorize that Roth's appointment to the Corporation Commission could have been an orchestrated event. They note that Denise Bode resigned to head the American Clean Skies Foundation which is funded by interests in the Natural Gas industry. Some of those same individuals were supporters or major contributors of Roth's reelection as County Commissioner, including Larry Nichols of Devon Energy and Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Energy.
Roth's first major vote on the Commission was to deny increasing electricity production through the Red Rock coal-fired plant advocated by a consortium headed by OG&E and PSO. Roth's vote of rejection ran contrary to the recommendation of an administrative law judge who heard over 100 hours of testimony. The nonbinding recommendation to the corporation commissioners found that new power generation capacity is needed, and a coal-fire plant would likely result in consumer savings and that consumers would be less dependent on the "volatile nature of natural gas prices." Despite evidence that the coal plant was in the best interests of ratepayers, Roth opposed the proposal.
Chesapeake and other natural-gas interests spent large sums of money in television, radio, and newspaper advertising opposing the construction of the coal-fired plant. Roth has expressed pride in his vote on the Corporation Commission. In his Corporation Commission race, Roth has received more than $100,000 in contributions from employees of Chesapeake Energy. Aubrey McClendon has donated the maximum allowed by law to Roth.
Dana Murphy ran for a seat on the Corporation Commission in 2002, but was defeated in the Republican primary by Jeff Cloud, who went on to win the general election. Murphy has nearly six years of experience as an administrative law judge at the Corporation Commission. She has worked as a geologist for more than ten years, and served two terms as Vice Chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party.
Oklahoma's appellate court judges are put to a vote of the people on the question of whether they should be retained in office. While the initial appointments to the Supreme Court, the Court of Civil Appeals, and the Court of Criminal Appeals are made by the governor from a list compiled by the Judicial Nominating Commission, these judges must face the voters every six years. In these "retention ballots," the judges do not run against anyone and cannot overtly campaign. They must simply get more votes for retention than against to keep their seat on the bench.
This system was put into place back in the 1960's after scandals rocked the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Because of bribery scandals and income tax evasion issues, judges were impeached, convicted of crimes, and otherwise removed from office. At that time, judges on the appellate courts were elected and reelected by popular vote, in line with the "progressive" Constitution adopted by Oklahoma's Constitutional Convention in 1907.
Unfortunately, most voters pay little attention to these judges, and no judges have been defeated for reelection since that time. In effect, an unelected body, the Judicial Nominating Commission, usually perpetuates a more liberal judicial philosophy on Oklahoma's appellate courts, whether the governor is a Democrat or a Republican.
The Oklahoma Constitution makes the following recommendations, after conferring with persons who have closely followed the rulings of the judges.
Oklahoma Supreme Court
The state Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal in Oklahoma for both civil and criminal cases, although in practice, the court does not hear criminal appeals, leaving those to the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Justice John F. Reif has been described as Governor Brad Henry's "latest liberal appointment" to the Court. VOTE NO.
Justice Tom Colbert was appointed to the Court of Civil Appeals by Governor Frank Keating, then elevated to the High Court by Governor Brad Henry, where he has generally toed the liberal line. VOTE NO.
Justice Joseph Watt was appointed to the Supreme Court by Governor David Walters. Watt's rulings have been a mixed bag for conservatives. VOTE NO.
Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals
At one time, this was called the Criminal Court of Appeals, until it was decided that the present name sounded better. In practice, it is the highest court of appeals in Oklahoma for criminal cases.
Justice Charles Johnson was appointed to the court by Governor Henry Bellmon. VOTE NO.
Justice Gary Lumpkin has been a mostly good judge, appointed to the court by Governor Henry Bellmon. VOTE YES.
Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals
It is recommended that all four of these judges up for retention, Jerry Goodman, Jane Wiseman, Keith Rapp, and John Fischer, should be replaced. VOTE NO on all four.
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