Oklahoma Republicans Elect Leaders and Adopt Platform
Both of Oklahoma’s U.S. Senators, Jim Inhofe and James Lankford, addressed the assembled delegates. Three of Oklahoma’s four Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives addressed the convention including Congressmen Kevin Hern, Markwayne Mullin, and Tom Cole. Congressman Mullin drew the most enthusiastic response from the delegates as he told of battling the new Democrat majority over abortion, the Second Amendment, and ObamaCare. Governor Kevin Stitt, who addressed the convention Gala Dinner the night before, was not present at the convention on Saturday, but Lt. Governor Matt Pinell did speak. State Attorney General Mike Hunter and Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony also appeared before the delegates.
The state party adopted its first new platform since the 2015 convention. While the party is supposed to adopt a platform document every two years, that task has often failed. Historically, consideration of the platform has been scheduled after the election of officers, which is a critical task for the off-year conventions. But, opponents of conservative planks in the platform often work to delay adoption by submitting a constant string of amendments as the number of delegates dwindle. Then, they ask for a quorum call and upon finding an insufficient number of delegates present, the convention adjourns without adopting a platform. This happened at the 2017 convention.
This year, the platform committee began with the unadopted 2017 platform and met two full days to hammer out the proposed platform. Carolyn McLarty, National Committeewoman for the state party, led the platform committee and presented the document to the convention. She told the delegates that the 33-page statement of principles regarding state and national issues was “the voice of the grass roots.”
This year the proposed rules for the convention placed consideration of the platform ahead of the election of party officers, but to ensure that the election of officers would occur in a timely manner, the rules stated that the election of officers must commence no later that 2:00 PM. However, due to the ubiquitous tardiness of the credentials committee, the credentials report was behind schedule and pushed lunch back to nearly 1:00 PM. By the time that the convention reconvened, and the rules were being considered for adoption, the 2:00 PM deadline had already passed. The delegates then adopted an amendment to delay the officer elections until 3:30 PM. But, an amendment was also proposed to consider the platform a section at a time, which likely would have run out the clock for adoption before the deadline. That amendment failed and the rules were adopted with the 3:30 PM deadline. Following debate, the full platform was adopted and the convention proceeded with the election of officers ahead of the deadline.
Earlier this year, Pam Pollard announced that she would not seek another term as State Chair of the party. Pollard was selected chairman by the Republican State Committee in October of 2015 to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Randy Brogdon who had been elected at the Republican State Convention in April of 2015. She was elected to a full term at the 2017 convention.
There were three candidates running to succeed Pollard. David McLain, is the past Chairman of the Tulsa County Republican Party. Daren Ward, is the former chairman of the Oklahoma County Republican Party. And, Darren Gantz, is the chairman of the Tulsa County Republican Men’s Club. McLain was elected on the first ballot with 69.86% of the vote, defeating Ward (21.64%) and Gantz (8.5%).
McLain, 48, owns a small construction business. He is a resident of Skiatook and a veteran of the U.S. Navy. He is also the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Skiatook. Prior to serving as Chairman of the Tulsa County Republican Party, he volunteered for many Republican campaigns over the years and ran for a State Senate seat.
DeWayne McAnally was selected to serve as Vice-Chairman following the resignation of Estella Hernandez who was elected at the state convention in 2015. He was elected to a full term at the 2017 convention, but chose not to run for reelection this year.
Three candidates ran to replace McAnally. Former State Rep. Mike Turner (R-Edmond) served one term in the Oklahoma House before running for the fifth district seat to the U.S. House of Representatives. Kyletta Ray has been a longtime employee at the state GOP headquarters, serving under the last several state chairmen. Most recently she served as County Liaison for the state party. John Roberts is the former Oklahoma Young Republicans chairman.
On the first ballot for Vice-Chairman, Turner finished first with 42.03% of the vote, Ray came in second with 31.67%, and Roberts received 26.3%. Since none of the candidates received more than 50% of the vote, Turner and Ray were on the runoff ballot. Turner ended up the winner, defeating Ray 52.96% to 47.04%.
Turner, 32, was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2012. Instead of seeking reelection in 2014, he unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for Oklahoma’s 5th congressional district seat which was being vacated by Republican Congressman James Lankford, who ran for the U.S. Senate. Turner was one of six candidates for the Republican nomination, and Steve Russell was finally elected to the congressional seat. During the time Turner served in the Oklahoma House, he received a cumulative average of 85% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index, ranking him as one of the top conservatives in the Oklahoma Legislature.
With the election of McLain and Turner, along with passage of a conservative platform, it appears that conservatives may have regained control of the state Republican Party. But, it will be interesting to see if the party establishment will again try to sabotage the new leaders as has happened many times in the past.
The Oklahoma Democratic Party State Convention will be a three day event this year. They will convene at the Renaissance Oklahoma City Convention Center & Hotel, in Oklahoma City, June 7 through June 9th.