John T. Lewis, candidate for OKGOP Vice-Chair
Delegates to the Oklahoma Republican Party's State Convention on Saturday will be choosing between three candidates for State Chair, and at least two candidates for Vice-Chair -- Estela Hernandez and John T. Lewis. Like I did in 2013, I sent each of the individuals a survey that I hope will help delegates be more informed for the convention. You can read the chair candidate surveys here: Randy Brogdon, Pam Pollard, Dave Weston.
First up of the vice-chair candidates, we have John T. Lewis.
1. Tell us a little bit about your personal side (i.e. family, church, occupational background, etc.)
I have two wonderful grown children who are married and I am hoping I will have a grandchild on the way someday soon! I was a full time Minister for many years and a graduate of a Theology school. My wife and I live in Ardmore, Oklahoma and we believe that trying our best to live Jesus’ words of loving God and our fellow man are the greatest good we can do for government and society. I have spent time in territory sales and until recently I owned a construction and remodeling company. I have a B.S. degree in Business.
2. What involvement have you had in the past with the Republican Party (from precinct-level to RNC)? If possible, include approximate dates.
My public political involvement goes back about a year and a half ago when I decided to attend a county committee meeting. I was soon appointed to precinct vice chair and then chair after the chair vacated that position. I worked closely with the county Republican Party when I ran for Carter County Treasurer in 2014. Early this year I was elected to precinct 31 chair and I attend and participate in the monthly meetings of the party. I believe my greatest contribution to the county party has been with my chairmanship of the Oklahoma Legislative Review. Once a month during the Oklahoma legislative session, we look at bills as they move through the political process. We ask questions like, “Does this bill limit government or does it grow government?” We want to know if it takes (by governmental force) money from one group and gives it to another or if it somehow reduces personal liberty. I believe this has sparked interest in many folks here in Carter County. They feel empowered to make a difference when they see how legislation and legislators really work.
3. Do you currently hold any Republican Party office?
Yes, I am currently Republican chairman of precinct 31 in Carter County Oklahoma.
4. What political involvement have you had outside of the Republican Party (i.e. campaigns, elected office, political groups, etc.)? If possible, include approximate dates.
In 2014 I launched a campaign to run for Carter County Treasurer. I was the first Republican in the county to ever run for this office. Although I came up a little short, it taught me so much about politics, about working with people, and about how to do the right thing regardless of pressure from others. I have never held an elected public office.
5. There have been seven state conventions in the last decade ('05, '07', '08, '09, '11, '12, '13); how many have you attended, and which (if any) did you not attend?
I am excited about attending my very first State GOP convention in 2015! I became publicly involved in politics in early 2014. The history of the conventions indicates I missed out on some important things, but I look forward to participating in this one and many more to come.6. What prompted you to run for this office?
Leadership within the Republican Party, from the RNC to the State GOP, has given us candidates and elected leaders which most don’t actually prefer in Oklahoma. They are the moderates and the middle of the road Republicans who make our stomach turn when we think that they are no different than middle of the road Democrats. These are the wishy-washy candidates the Republican leadership in DC has given us, yet State GOP leadership has proven that they wish to push only these same candidates of moderation just like their counterparts on the national level. Folks around these parts lean toward those who are truly conservative; ones who are actively seeking ways to slash the size of government and who wish only to let people be free to enjoy their lives without more and more government oversight and regulation.
This is why I decided to throw my name in the hat. I believe leadership needs to listen to the Republican people of this State (from the bottom up) rather than trying to manipulate the system so that we will nominate their kind of candidates every single time. When I saw the progress of SB233, which might have changed the presidential primary date in Oklahoma, this motivated me further. It would have discouraged voters even more than they already are. I stood opposed to this bill all along. My opponent, however, would not take a stand on SB233 when asked about it in public forum at Canadian County, Oklahoma. This left me and several other listeners with the impression that she would not share her opinion because she currently works with State Chairman Dave Weston who pushed the bill. Unfortunately, therefore, my opponent is a part of this same establishment which will push only candidates of moderation in the future and not give others the fair chance they deserve to be heard and voted upon by the people of our State.
7. What are your top priorities if elected as Vice-Chair?
I believe any elected leader should represent the people of the Party not the wishes of the higher-ups who sometimes seek to grow the party in their own way to the exclusion of those with differing views. My emphasis and top priority will be to ensure that the conservative voice gets a fair shake before the people of Oklahoma. Since a great percentage of our State leans in the conservative direction, we should offer that voice the opportunity to have the spotlight in our State party. Another priority I have is for the general public to be more informed to the way current state legislators vote so that they can make better voting decisions themselves. Let the chips fall where they may, but allowing people to know how their legislators perform and what they do can only produce a government more focused on limiting government, maximizing liberty, and promoting personal responsibility.
8. What do you view as your top duties as Vice-Chair?
In addition to attending the necessary meetings and fighting for a conservative voice at the table, the Vice Chair should use the position as a way which will help strengthen the party for the future. While I believe growing the party is of utter importance, increasing knowledge of what legislators do is even more important. An educated party will naturally grow the party on its own. Thus, as Vice Chair I feel my duty will be to tour the state and help Republicans on the local level to understand what conservative politics is all about and to examine how some elected leaders don’t live up to the campaign promises they make. If a bill grows government or violates a principle of liberty, then I believe it is the responsibility of party leadership to inform voters of this so that they are in a better position to vote based upon real facts and real knowledge.
9. List some of the individuals who are publicly supporting your candidacy that delegates might recognize.
This one is difficult for me because I am not a political insider. I have political friends all over the state but have not talked with most of them about whether they specifically support my candidacy or not. My friend Howard Houchen in Hugo supports my run as does Larry Cotton of Lawton but most of my support comes from my home area of Carter County where folks may not be well known, but they are dedicated nonetheless. My hope, of course, is that voters look at where I stand and not who I know when they vote.
10. Here's your closing statement - cover whatever you want to talk about (250 words or less).
I was asked not long ago in public forum about if I believe the Republican Party is facing an identity crisis. I believe it is. The reason for this is because there is a disconnect between party leadership on the national and state level and the Republican people of our state. Leadership often promotes candidates who don’t look much different than their Democrat counterparts, while the people of our State are seeking more conservative leaders. I intend to bring to the table an attitude which allows all candidates to have a chance at leadership. It is high time for us to elect not just Republicans but also the right kind of Republicans. We are the party of limited government and less government intrusion. If I am elected Vice Chair, I will make it my aim to deliver the kind of conservative candidates the people of our state desire.Thanks for participating, John!
I hope to post the survey from the other vice-chair candidate, Estela Hernandez, in the next day or so. In the meantime, you can view the Chair candidates' surveys at these links: Randy Brogdon, Pam Pollard, Dave Weston.