By: Constitution Staff
Record Candidate Filing
More candidates filed for state, federal and legislative offices in the three-day 2016 candidate filing period that ended April 15 than in any presidential year in recent history, Oklahoma State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said. A total of 417 candidates filed for office, a significant increase from the 275 candidates who filed in 2012 and the 296 who filed in 2008. The highest number of candidates to file in a presidential year in recent history was in 2004, when 412 candidates filed. That was also the first year legislators were subject to term limits, which resulted in an unusually high number of offices with no incumbent candidate.
Interest was especially high in State Senate races, with 99 candidates filing for the 25 State Senate seats on the ballot. All 101 State House of Representative seats are on the ballot, with 285 candidates filing for those offices. Seven candidates filed for the U.S. Senate seat up for election this year. The state's five U.S. House of Representative seats attracted 24 candidates. Two candidates filed for the single Corporation Commission seat on this year's ballot.
The first contest in this election cycle will be the Primary which is the last Tuesday in June, which is June 28 this year. Early voting will be June 23-25. The deadline to register to vote in time to participate in the Primary is June 3. The Primary Election will include those races where there are two or more candidates of the same political party running for the same office. In addition to Republican and Democrat Primary Elections, the Libertarian Party is again an officially recognized party and will have a Primary Election for some offices. Republicans have a closed primary, where only Republicans can vote to select the nominee of their party for an office. Both the Democrats and Libertarians have decided to allow those registered as Independent, which means not a member of a recognized party, to participate in their Primary Elections. For those seats in which no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the Runoff Primary Election will be held on the last Tuesday of August. The date for 2016 will be August 23. The General Election will be November 8.
2016 Oklahoma Conservative Index
We will be publishing the 2016 Oklahoma Conservative Index, rating the members of the Oklahoma Legislature, in our summer edition as we have for the past 37 years. In election years before 2012, our summer edition was in circulation before the Primary Elections. However, due to changes in election dates that took place in 2012, that has not be possible, at least not from our printed edition. Starting in 2012, the deadline to file for office was moved to April, over one month earlier than in previous elections. Oklahoma's Primary Election date is now the last Tuesday in June, instead of the last week in July.
It is not possible to prepare the 2016 Conservative Index in time for our spring edition (the one you are currently reading) since the Legislature does not complete their session until the end of May. Indeed, many of the critical votes do not occur until the closing weeks of the session. We usually allocate about six weeks to prepare the ratings, but hope to condense the time frame this year in order to score the legislators and post the scores on our website prior to the Primary Election. Please check our website before the Primary Election to see if the 2016 Conservative Index is posted. If you sign up for our Twitter feed, we will send out a notice when it has been posted. In the meantime, the ratings for recent years are also available on our website: www.oklahomaconstitution.com
Preparing the Conservative Index
Each year we invite Legislators and other interested parties to recommend bills to be considered for the Oklahoma Conservative Index. After researching the suggested bills, the best prospects are presented to the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC) to vote on the suggested bills. We use those votes to make the final selection of bills. Members of the group, along with guests, meet weekly for lunch in Oklahoma City on Wednesdays, and two of the meetings in June are dedicated to preparing the Oklahoma Conservative Index. The first meeting involves discussion of the merits of the bills presented, with Legislators invited to participate in that discussion. The purpose of the meeting is to verify that the bills being considered merit inclusion in the ratings. Some of the bills being considered are dropped from consideration as a result of that discussion. The second meeting is devoted to debate about which are the best bills to include, and the vote by OCPAC members. Once the final list of ten bills has been selected, the staff of the Oklahoma Constitution compiles the scores and prepares the Oklahoma Conservative Index for publication. We invite our readers to attend the OCPAC lunches and participate in the bill selection process. The two meetings concerning the Oklahoma Conservative Index have tentatively been scheduled for June 15 and June 22. Information about the weekly OCPAC lunches is posted on our website. The group currently meets at Mama Roja Mexican Kitchen, but check our website in case there are any changes in the dates or location.
Ruling on Hospital Admitting Privileges
On February 11, Oklahoma County District Judge Don Andrews ruled that an Oklahoma law requiring abortion providers to have a physician with hospital admitting privileges with a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic does not violate the state constitution. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, whose office defended the law, said that the admitting privilege mandate is similar to those for the state's outpatient surgical centers and birthing centers. The judge decided "that this requirement would advance the state's compelling interest in patient care and safety." The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights will appeal the decision to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Andrews ruled that the temporary injunction approved by the Oklahoma Supreme Court when it blocked the law from going into effect in November 2014 will remain in effect pending the appeal.
The pro-abortion group filed the lawsuit in October 2014 on behalf of Dr. Larry Burns of Norman who performs nearly half of abortions in Oklahoma. The group said Burns would likely have to close his practice since he could not meet the requirement. Burns had applied for admitting privileges at hospitals in the Oklahoma City area but could not get approval from any of the facilities. The law was overwhelmingly approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin in May 2014.
Abortion-inducing Drugs Ruling
On February 23 the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that a state law restricting the use of abortion-inducing drugs does not violate the state constitution. The state's highest court said the measure passed by the Oklahoma Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin in 2014, does not violate provisions of the constitution prohibiting special laws and the delegation of legislative authority. The law requires doctors to administer abortion-inducing drugs only in accordance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocols. Last year Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish struck down the law ruling that since it applied specifically to abortion-inducing drugs, it amounted to a "special law" prohibited by the constitution. The state's high court overturned that decision. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Reproductive Services, a nonprofit healthcare facility in Tulsa, and the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin and was set to take effect November 1, 2014, but was blocked by the state Supreme Court pending resolution of the lawsuit.
In 2012, the state Supreme Court found a bill banning all drug-induced abortions to be unconstitutional. This later bill was intended to withstand court objections to the earlier measure. It would have required that these drugs be administered only in accordance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration label instructions. State Rep. Randy Grau (R-Oklahoma City) issued a statement in response to the ruling: "I first authored and passed House Bill 1970 in 2011, as a freshman legislator, to protect women in Oklahoma from the off-label use of these dangerous drugs. We passed this legislation by a wide bipartisan margin, but the law was immediately challenged by an out-of-state pro-abortion group and the battle went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. Based upon the previous ruling of the Oklahoma Supreme Court regarding HB1970, I redrafted the legislation to address the concerns of the court, and in 2013, we passed HB2684, again, by a wide bipartisan margin. It was also challenged by the same out-of-state pro-abortion group. Now, the court has upheld the law. I am very pleased with the decision."
Stolen Painting Controversy Resolved
Rep. Paul Wesselhoft (R-Moore) announced that the battle over a painting at the University of Oklahoma is over. The controversial painting at O.U. will be going back to France and to the family from whom it was stolen by the Nazis in World War II. After being looted by the Nazis it was later acquired by the Weitzenhoffer family, and then by the University of Oklahoma . "This is a victory for the Oklahoma legislature who passed a unanimous Resolution last year requesting that the university return the painting to its rightful owner. I wish the university administration had done the right and moral thing a couple of years ago when we pressed them to return the painting. However, today we consider this a significant victory and I want to give thanks for all of those who joined me in this crusade."
On February 22nd,, Lone Meyer, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Oklahoma Foundation reached a settlement agreement for the restitution of the oil on canvas painted by Camille Pissarro in 1886, entitled "La Bergre rentrant des moutons" The painting is currently on display at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art in Norman. Restitution will be accomplished by the University of Oklahoma Foundation transferring title to Lone Meyer after the dismissal of the lawsuits. This summer, it will be transferred to an art institution located in France for public display for five years. Thereafter, it will rotate for public display between the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of art and an art institution location in France. It will be given to an art institution located in France either during her lifetime or through her will.
Oklahoma License Plate Case
In March, the United States Supreme Court decided not to take up a dispute concerning whether an image on Oklahoma's license plates showing an Apache warrior shooting an arrow endorses a polytheistic religion. The justices let stand a ruling last year by 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver which upheld a lower court ruling. The image is a reproduction of a sculpture by Fort Sill Apache artist and sculptor Allan Houser. A version of the sculpture is owned by the Smithsonian Institution. Titled "Sacred Rain Arrow," the piece is based on an ancient Chiricahua Apache legend about a warrior who had his bow and arrow blessed by a medicine man for the purpose of ending a drought. Keith Cressman, pastor of St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Bethany, filed the lawsuit in November 2011 in Oklahoma City federal court. He argued that the image conveyed a religious message that was an affront to his Christian beliefs. On January 14, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Joe Heaton dismissed the lawsuit. "There is nothing about the image that suggests the man is praying or that the arrow he is shooting is sacred," Judge Heaton wrote in his opinion.
Pot Lawsuit Against Colorado
On March 21, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit filed by Oklahoma and Nebraska to sue Colorado over its legalization of marijuana for recreational use. The vote was 6 -- 2 with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissenting. The majority did not give a reason for rejecting the case. However, Justice Thomas wrote in his dissent that there is question whether the U.S. Supreme Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction and Nebraska and Oklahoma should be allowed to file their complaint against Colorado. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt joined with the Nebraska Attorney General in the lawsuit against Colorado in December 2014. States must get permission from the U.S. Supreme Court to sue each other. The Oklahoma AG came under criticism after filing the case from many conservatives.
Outspoken defender of states' rights, Oklahoma state Rep. Mike Ritze (R-Broken Arrow), applauded the Supreme Court's decision. "I am very pleased with the Court's decision. I do not condone the use of marijuana, nor do I support the legalization of it, but we live in a federalist society that was created to protect the sovereignty of the states. Every state should be permitted to govern its citizens as that state's elected officials see fit. We don't want or need the federal government dictating to the states what activities or substances it must criminalize. Unlike the federal government, our states are allowed to experiment with various policies and social structures, which are wanted or which benefit that state's citizens. If a citizen doesn't like the policies or social structures in one state, he or she can freely move to another. This decision today was a victory for those of us who believe in states' rights," said Ritze.
Watts Named President of Feed The Children
Oklahoma City based Feed the Children named J. C. Watts their president and CEO effective February 1st. Watts, a Republican, was an Oklahoma congressman from 1995 to 2003. Prior to that Watts was a youth minister in Del City and had been elected to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission for a six year term in 1990.Watts graduated from the University of Oklahoma where he was quarterback to the football team. Watts is chairman of Watts Partners and is expected to continue in that role as well as maintain his other business interests. Feed the Children distributes food, educational supplies, and medicine, nationally and internationally.
Jason Doyle on KTOK
Jason Doyle Oden took to the radio airwaves on February 16 as the host of the 5-7 P.M. talk show slot on KTOK-AM 1000 in Oklahoma City. He is an Oklahoma City native who has worked at various radio stations and print publications in the Oklahoma City area, including KTOK, as a news reporter. He is known simply as "Jason Doyle" on the radio. He is a contributing editor for The McCarville Report website started by political consultant Mike McCarville who held the same talk show slot on KTOK for several years. Doyle took over the slot previously held by Rick Roberts who returned to WBAP in Dallas in January.
Slater Leaving Ethics Commission
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission named Ashley Kemp to replace Lee Slater as executive director of the office when he leaves the position on June 30. Kemp has been deputy director for the commission the past three years and was recommended by Slater as his successor. Kemp will earn $150,000 a year. She has previously served as General Counsel to the Oklahoma House of Representatives, Deputy General Counsel to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, and Assistant General Counsel to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. She graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 2004. The Commission, which administers campaign finance reporting and investigates ethics complaints against public officials, approved Kemp by a 4-0 vote.
Slater, 72, is retiring after three years in the leadership position at the Ethics Commission. Before taking the post, Slater had a legal practice focusing on ethics law. Slater, a former newsman, worked at newspapers in Clinton, Mangum and Edmond. He was a political reporter for the Tulsa World in 1971 when he was named secretary of the Oklahoma Election Board. He served 17 years in that post. He earned a law degree during that time and resigned in 1988 to join a law firm. He became Executive Director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission on May 1, 2013.
Brad Carson Drops Pentagon Job
Former Oklahoma congressman Brad Carson asked President Barack Obama to withdraw his nomination for a top Pentagon position and is leaving the Defense Department. He had received heavy criticism from Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with Oklahoma's Sen. Jim Inhofe. The charges included references to sexual harassment. Carson was elected to Oklahoma's second congressional district in 2000 and did not run for reelection in 2004 in order to run for a U.S. Senate seat which he lost to Tom Coburn. Carson, 49, has held key Defense Department posts since late 2011 and was nominated last year to be undersecretary for personnel and readiness.
OCPA Citizenship Award Dinner
Each year the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) holds its annual Citizenship Award Dinner where the conservative think-tank honors an Oklahoman who has served the state with great leadership. The recipient this year will be Larry Nichols, Executive Chairman of Devon Energy Corporation. OCPA says Mr. Nichols' record of promoting free markets, limited government, and individual opportunity is an inspiration. "He has fought to successfully replace Oklahoma's broken workers' compensation system, implement significant income tax cuts in Oklahoma, keep energy taxes low, and protect opportunities for private sector growth." Nichols will receive the award at the Citizenship Award Dinner on Thursday, May 12. There will be a 6:00 Reception and the Dinner and Program will be at 7:00 .M. at National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. The keynote speaker for the event will be Dana Perino who was White House press secretary in the George W. Bush administration. She is currently a host and commentator for the FOX News Channel. For more information check their website at: www.ocpathink.org
Support Your Local Police Speech
The local chapters of The John Birch Society is presenting a program "Support Your Local Police and Keep Them Independent" featuring James Fitzgerald, a former plain-clothes police detective who worked the streets of Newark, N.J. The program will be on Tuesday, May 10, 2016 -- 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM at H&H GUN RANGE, 400 S. Vermont Avenue Ste 110 in Oklahoma City. Tickets for the Buffet & Speech may be ordered in Advance for $20.00. Make Checks Payable to OK Projects (415 W.15th St. Ste. 2 OKC, OK 73013) or Thru PayPal: SYLP.OklahomaFreedom.org
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Inhofe Receives ACU Award
The American Conservative Union (ACU) announced that U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe received a 92 score out of 100 for his strong conservative voting record in the Senate during 2015. Throughout his time in Congress, Inhofe has earned an average ACU score of 96.49 percent. "Senator Inhofe's lifetime rating of 96.49% over 29 years of service is one of the highest any Senator has received over that length of time," said ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp. "It reflects a consistent commitment to conservative principles on a wide variety of issues. As Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Inhofe has led the fight against the job-killing regulations of the EPA while as a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he has fought to keep our defenses strong despite the best efforts of the Obama Administration to weaken them. Jim should even get bonus points for his early denunciation of climate change alarmists." Founded in 1964, the American Conservative Union (ACU) is the nation's original conservative organization. For more than fifty years, ACU has served as an umbrella organization harnessing the collective strength of conservative organizations fighting for Americans who are concerned with liberty, personal responsibility, traditional values, and strong national defense.
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