Down in the Weeds: Oklahoma

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

The Oklahoma state GOP voted to name businessman and former head of the Tulsa county GOP David McClain party chairman replacing Pam Pollard.  He joins vice-chairman Mike Turner and there is where the “problem” begins as an apparent rift has opened between the two.  And like troubles in a marriage, it sometimes involves money.  The state party is allegedly about $25,000 in debt after previously posting a surplus.  Turner and others within the state party ranks have described McClain’s leadership as “amateur hour” and have questioned McClain’s trips to RNC events in North Carolina and DC.

Turner is claiming that McClain and executive director Tom Demont lack both the experience and connections to raise the $150,000 annually to keep the state party afloat.  He also accuses McClain of having too close a relationship with “fringe elements” in the party.  Stating that if you have the right message and strategy, people will support it, Turner, in a recent email, complained that donors are shutting him out.

Turner is particularly upset with McClain’s ties to political operative Holly Gerard.  Gerard is tied to several candidates who have challenged Republican incumbents in primary campaigns, and she played a role in the presidential campaign of Ted Cruz in 2016.  Turner has been a stalwart Trump supporter.  McClain has blamed the state party’s financial problems on state ethics rules that limit contributions to state parties.  State and federal campaign finance laws encourage donors to contribute to individual candidates or political action committees rather than state parties.  As it is, the state party is very dependent on the largesse of the Congressional delegation to Washington.  For example, Senator Lankford recently donated $10,000 to the party through a PAC.

However, despite the internecine battles and financial trouble, the Democrats in Oklahoma are not much better.  Alicia Andrews of Tulsa won a less-than-enthusiastic endorsement as state party chair by winning the election by a mere 12 votes.  Over the past 15 years, the Oklahoma Democrat state party has been on the verge of insolvency every year.

Other than the presidential election, the big race come 2020 will be a House seat currently held by Democrat Kendra Horn.  She represents a Congressional district that Trump won by 11 points in 2016, but that she managed to flip in 2018.  Republicans clearly outnumber registered Democrats in the district that is based in Oklahoma City, but also includes the largely rural Seminole and Pottawatomie counties.  Horn is in the sites of the NRCC and lists her as one of 55 vulnerable Democrat incumbents.  Bob Salera, a spokesman for the NRCC, said that Horn won the election in 2018 by “flying under the radar.”

In her campaign, Horn managed to deflect questions about Trump and completely avoided any discussion of contentious issues like abortion or immigration.  The GOP does not intend to let her do the same come 2020.  As Salera said, she was “posing as a moderate in 2018, but that won’t be the case this time.”  They intend to link Horn to every conceivable Leftist agenda item on the Democrat’s checklist.  Republicans believe they have their candidate in state senator Stephanie Bice in a crowded primary field.  First elected to the Oklahoma senate in 2014, she is the party’s floor leader and has built up a fiscally conservative record.  She was instrumental in overhauling the state’s liquor laws which had not been updated since 1959.

Recently, a group named American Action Network has been hammering Kendra Horn with television and digital ads stating that Horn “promised to be different but she’s not.”  Specifically, they refer to Horn’s stances on Trump’s impeachment and her stance against Trump’s immigration policies.  For her part, Horn has resorted to the old tune of criticizing those who criticize her, mainly “dark money” groups.

It is also noteworthy that at the state meeting that chose McClain as party chief, the state GOP also took other actions.  They approved an effort to cut state funding for any school district that supports a teacher walkout.  Their new platform, last updated in 2015, also calls for opposition to the teaching of LGBTQ “lifestyle and history” in public schools and lent support to traditional marriage and pro-life values.  On the latter, Republican leaders in the state senate have tabled legislation on abortion until a later date hoping to avoid a contentious debate in an important election year.

Next: Part 1 of Texas