Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Samaritan Ministries: a viable Christian alternative to ObamaCare

As healthcare costs continue to skyrocket, families are struggling with the high price of health insurance. With the onset of ObamaCare, other issues with health insurance have come to the forefront as well, such as religious organizations being forced to cover abortion-related drugs in their insurance plans. Is there another alternative to the health insurance industry? Is there another option that fits your family's moral values, doesn't support abortion, and is affordable?

Enter, Samaritan Ministries. 

My wife and I joined Samaritan Ministries at the end of 2012. Samaritan Ministries is a not-for-profit religious organization classified as a health-care sharing ministry, and is not considered to be traditional "health insurance". HCSMs are exempt from the individual mandate in ObamaCare.

Why do Health Care Sharing?

Growing up in a self-employed family, for much of my childhood my family was either uninsured or insured under catastrophic, doomsday plans that were of practically no benefit to us. The times when we did have insurance, we rarely used it (and by rarely, I mean rarely).

Let's fast forward some. My wife and I got married in September 2012, and researched numerous insurance options around that time period. I looked, and looked, and looked and looked. Finding something affordable and usable was practically impossible.

Ultimately, we opted out of the traditional insurance scene, and (as I mentioned previously) joined Samaritan Ministries.

Galatians 6:2 says "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." It is out of this principle that Health-Care Sharing Ministries operate. Applying this principle to health-care expenses results in the Body of Christ operating as it did in the days of the Early Church -- encouraging fellow believers in difficult situations through prayer and sharing the load.

As followers of Jesus Christ, the Biblical focus of Samaritan Ministries appealed to us in a way that traditional health insurance did not. Additionally, HCSMs tend to be more affordable than the premiums and deductibles of insurance.

Who Can Join Samaritan Ministries?

To be a member of Samaritan Ministries, you must be a professing Christian, agree to the Samaritan Ministries Statement of Faith, be a regularly attending member of a church, agree to certain moral standards (dealing with alcohol, tobacco, and sexual activity), and have your pastor or church leader sign a testimonial form. You can view the Application Form here, and the Guidelines here.

How It Works

Members of Samaritan Ministries commit to sending a set "Share" each month (similar to an insurance premium) directly to fellow members with "Needs". Monthly "Shares" are not run through a central administration office, where funds could be diverted to office costs.

Here’s how the Needs Process works in a little more detail:
Samaritan Ministries publishes a monthly newsletter mailing that reports the total Shares and Needs and includes an individualized Share Notice for each member household. The Share Notice tells each household how to pray for a specific member with a Need and what his address is, so the Share can be sent to him. Typically less than 10 percent of the members have a Need in a given month and are receiving Shares.

When a member has a health care “Need” he receives health care treatment from a provider of his choice, collects the bills, and sends them to Samaritan Ministries. Samaritan Ministries verifies that the Need meets the Guidelines. Then, in the monthly newsletter mailing, Samaritan Ministries directs some members to send their Shares to the member with the Need. The member with the need receives the shares to pay his health care bills.
When a member has a medical need, the first $300 of the bill is the member's responsibility (similar to an insurance deductible). After the first $300, any other expense on up to $250,000 can be shared (click here for the Guidelines). Members can join SM's Save To Share program, which involves setting aside funds (ranging from $133 for singles, to $399 for a family) which may be needed from time to time for needs greater than $250,000. There is a $15-per-year administrative cost for S2S.

Members cover the first $300 on three Needs per year; if they have any additional Needs, the entire amount is shared. Members are encouraged to negotiate for bill reductions; any bill reduction is applied to their $300 responsibility amount, making it possible to entirely eliminate that amount.

On rare occasions, if there are more Needs than Shares, Needs are prorated. Explanation from SM's FAQ:
What happens if there are more medical needs than shares in a month?
Sometimes we can overlap needs from two months so that there is enough money for all the needs. However, if all needs cannot be met, we use a prorating method to evenly distribute the burden. For example, if there is only enough share money for 90 percent of the needs submitted for a particular month, only 90 percent of each need would be published in the newsletter for that month. If prorating occurs three months in a row without being reversed, the Board must propose a share increase to the members for a vote.
There is a flip side to "Needs-outnumbering-Shares", which I'll address in the cost section.

What Does It Cost?

Members of Samaritan Ministries agree to share the following amounts per month, based on household size:
  • Singles - $180  8/2016 figure: $220
  • Couples - $360 8/2016 figure: $440
  • Single-Parent Family - $250 8/2016 figure: $305
  • Two-Parent Family - $405 8/2016 figure: $495
When one or both of the heads of household are under 26 years old, there is a discount:
  • Singles - $140 ($40 discount) 8/2016 figure: $180
  • Couples - $280 ($80 discount) 8/2016 figure: $360
  • Single-Parent Family - $200 ($50 discount) 8/2016 figure: $255
  • Two-Parent Family - $355 ($50 discount) 8/2016 figure: $445
Any changes to Share amounts is subject to a vote of the entire membership, and has to have 60% in order to pass.

The flip side of "Needs-outnumbering-Shares" is that if Shares outnumber Needs (like they have for the past two months!), the share figure for the month is temporarily reduced. For example, in October, the amount of dollars "shared" outnumbered the dollars in "needs", so there was a 10% reduction in October's Share amount. Instead of us sending $280 to a member in need, we sent $252. The same thing happened in November -- we had a 5% share reduction ($266 instead of the usual $280).

More Information

Currently, there are over 125,000 individuals participating in Samaritan Ministries. For more information about why they do, visit You can view videos, testimonials, Frequently Asked Questions, the Guidelines, the Application Form, and much more.

If you are interested in joining, I'd be more than happy to talk with you. You can call me at (918) 869-6000, or email me at When a member refers someone who then becomes a member, Samaritan Ministries gives the referring member a credit. Obviously, that's some incentive, but regardless of that, Samaritan Ministries is a great organization.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Lankford to headline 2nd District GOP's Christmas Dinner

U.S. Senator-elect James Lankford will be the guest speaker at the 2nd District GOP's upcoming Christmas Dinner.

The dinner is scheduled for Friday, December 5th, at 7:00pm, and will be held at the Okmulgee Community Center (7th and Kern - map) in Okmulgee.

Dinner tickets are $20 per person. To RSVP, email or call 918-869-0978.

Lankford was first elected to represent the 5th Congressional District in 2010, and just won the U.S. Senate race to finish out Tom Coburn's term earlier this month.

History made: Republicans surpass Democrats in registration

Andrew W. Griffin | November 20, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY  - For the first time in Oklahoma history, registered Republican voters outnumber registered Democrat voters, on a report released today by the Oklahoma State Election Board.

As of Thursday morning, there were 884,136 registered Republicans and 883,876 registered Democrats. Also included were 258,651 independent voters and eight Americans Elect voters.

Political junkies have been predicting that sometime during the fall of 2014 that the flip would occur.

For the county-by-county breakdown, go here.

Note: Back in January 2013, I correctly guessed the OKGOP would pass the ODP in 2014.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Op-Ed: A GOP for America's future

A GOP for America's future

Note: This piece was co-authored by seven philosophically and geographically diverse conservatives who believe the GOP must lead in 2015. Our proposals outline a path that will accomplish this goal for the betterment of America.

On Election Day, the GOP won the Senate, held the House, and made solid gains in several states. The party can rightly claim a mandate from voters.

But what is that mandate? Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have promised that Congress would move on tax reform, the national debt, and repealing the Affordable Care Act. We hope that they follow through -- but given the GOP's tendency to overpromise and under-deliver, we have our doubts.

If the world were run by scientific and mathematical reality, Republicans would pass a constitutional amendment recognizing the scientific fact that we are human beings at conception. They would enact aggressive Social Security and Medicare reform, and revamp the tax code. And they would repeal the Affordable Care Act, eliminate corporate welfare and food stamps, and drastically expand domestic energy access.

However, these goals are not politically possible with President Obama in the White House and a GOP that tends to flinch in the face of tough decisions. So what can be accomplished that would help the nation and convince its conservative base that the party can be trusted?

McConnell and Boehner have outlined good steps. But we, a geographically and philosophically diverse group of conservatives, think they can do better.

First, pass legislation that could garner bipartisan support. Greater transparency and efficiency among the executive and legislative branches should be a top priority. Medicare, Medicaid, and the Defense Department alone face tremendous fraud and improper payments, and the federal government as a whole loses hundreds of billions of dollars annually to mismanagement and duplication.

Expanding drilling opportunities, something supported by many Democrats, would provide more jobs and more tax revenue, reduce environmental harm, and -- over time -- allow the U.S. to reduce its funding of Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and other nations that abuse human rights and/or provide fertile ground for terrorists.

The GOP should also renounce its relationship with Big Business by refusing to renew tens of billions in special-interest tax preferences at the end of the year, and end nearly $100 billion in federal corporate subsidies. Whether for oil companies, wind farms, NASCAR, or Goldman Sachs, policies that take from middle America to help the wealthy are immoral and fiscally insane.

These savings should be used to lower taxes for all Americans -- unless President Obama wants to defend giving approximately $150 billion in taxpayer dollars each year to wealthy special interests while the average American struggles to find work.

Now comes the hard stuff. We are pleased to have seen McConnell say in a press conference that the party will conduct investigations and oversight of the Executive Branch. Republicans should also allow only qualified judges to garner Senate approval, and should stop an executive amnesty cold.

Fiscally speaking, the nation is in serious trouble. Social Security and Medicare have become increasingly more expensive. They are the primary drivers of our debt. While extensive reforms are unlikely to pass, Republicans should promote means-testing of both programs and force Obama to defend giving Bill Gates and Warren Buffett retirement money.

Likewise, Republicans should demand that the president uphold his promise that all Americans be able to keep their health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and overturn the unconstitutional HHS Mandate. They should also eliminate Congress's Obamacare subsidies for themselves.

Finally, it is important that the federal government stop its funding of abortion, be it at home or abroad. In 2009 and 2014, polls found that the American people do not support federal abortion funding. Republicans should force President Obama to explain why the average American should pay for the destruction of a million unborn children each year.

The plan we have laid out is considered radical inside the Beltway. We can hear it already -- "Obama will never sign it, and getting 60 votes in the Senate will be impossible." However, this is only part of the story. In December, a government funding bill must be passed; Republicans should include some of our measures in that legislation. Likewise, each and every funding bill and debt ceiling bill should include our very reasonable recommendations.

Two weeks ago, the GOP was given a golden opportunity to prove that it is better than the other guys, a duty it has shirked for at least 15 years. This is a chance for Republicans not only to show the American people they are just as tired of Beltway politics as voters, but also to swing the pendulum just a little bit away from fiscal and cultural destruction, and toward a brighter future.


Dustin Siggins is the D.C. correspondent for and a public relations consultant. Drew Belsky is the deputy editor for the online political journal American Thinker. Oklahoma State Representative George Faught is a small business owner who was elected to a fourth term on November 4. Christopher Arndt is the chairman of the Michigan Young Republicans. John Hawkins is the founder of and a contributor to Jamison Faught is a conservative activist from Oklahoma who blogs at Win Martin is an openly gay Washington State resident and formerly a political blogger.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the co-authors.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Bridenstine comments on Speaker vote

Congressman Jim Bridenstine Comments on the Vote for Speaker of the House

(Washington, DC, November 14, 2014)  I explained my reasoning on the vote for the Republican Conference nominee for Speaker of the House in an op-ed to be published in the Tulsa World on Friday.  I feel it is important to communicate with my constituents on this issue, and the Tulsa World is the largest newspaper in my District.  The following is the text of the op-ed:

The Speaker Vote
Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Yesterday, the Republican nominee for Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives was selected in a meeting of all the Republican Members elected to serve in the 114th Congress.  The debate and vote was in a Members-only meeting to allow open discussion and build consensus for the Republican nominee who will face off against the Democrat nominee in a vote on the floor of the House in early January.

John Boehner was selected as the Republican nominee. While he is well liked by many within the Republican conference, I continue to believe that Speaker Boehner has not been sufficiently strong in challenging the President -- the most ideologically liberal and obstinate in our nation’s history.  Additionally, there are issues on which the Speaker and I continue to disagree.

An effort to replace Speaker Boehner would require several steps, each offering very little chance of success.  The first step would be to rally enough Republican dissenting votes to block a 50% + 1 vote on the floor.  The Republicans have a historically high 60-seat majority in the newly elected 114th Congress, possibly higher as midterm election vote counts continue.  With this large of a majority, the probability of securing enough dissenting votes is remote, especially after a private nomination meeting.

If 30 or more Republicans voted for someone else and Speaker Boehner did not get a 50% + 1 vote, a second private meeting of the Republican Conference would occur.  At that meeting the dissenting Members would have to withstand pressure from the balance of the Republican Conference.  The minority of Republicans would have to offer an alternative candidate who the majority of Republicans would accept.  The probability that there would be 30 or more dissenters is virtually zero, and likewise the chance that the majority of Republicans would capitulate to the minority is near zero.

If the minority of the Conference somehow prevailed, there would be another vote on the floor, again requiring a 50% + 1 majority.  This time, members of the original majority would vote against the new Republican nominee to block the minority.  The process would be in shambles, the public would be outraged, and Democrats would be strengthened.  If this impossible scenario happened, it would be the worst outcome for those of us who have been fighting for the conservative movement.

My goal has always been to do what is right for our country, regardless of the political consequences.  In my first term, with a smaller Republican majority, I voted against Speaker Boehner on the floor believing that we could deny him a 50% + 1 majority.  However, Rep. Boehner was elected as several potential dissenters succumbed to pressure.  While that effort may have been the right move under a smaller Republican majority, it is not the right move under a larger majority.

As the Speaker attempts to balance diverse political viewpoints within the Republican Conference, conservatives must encourage him to lead the Conference in repealing Obamacare, securing the southern border, balancing the budget, and blocking a bad deal with Iran that would endanger Israel and our partners in the Middle East.  I intend to send Speaker Boehner a letter letting him know that I will vote for him on the floor, but that I expect a bold stance on these issues.  Without Harry Reid as a roadblock in the Senate, there is no excuse for the House to underperform.

The midterm elections proved the vitality of the conservative movement.  We are strong and growing stronger.  As more conservatives join our ranks in a larger Republican Conference, we must continue doing all we can to advance conservative principles which enable economic growth and keep us morally grounded and militarily strong. As always, I will fiercely guard my independence, continuing to strive for what is right for our country.

Are House and Senate Republicans bringing back Earmarks?

This morning, Erick Erickson of posted concerns about the possible return of earmarking under the new Republican majority in Congress. I recently was speaking with a top Senate aide who said almost the exact same thing. We definitely need to keep pressure on Congressional Republicans to maintain the earmark ban.

Erick Erickson,

Sources in both the House and Senate are expressing grave concern to me that Republicans are about to legalize bribery. If you will recall, several years ago after a host of arrests of members of Congress, indictments, and bridges to nowhere, public outrage caused Congress to ban earmarks.

The earmarks were serving as bribery. Politicians would get earmarks sent to state and local public institutions and congressional leaders would grant and withhold earmarks as bribes to get congressmen to vote particular ways.

Senate Republicans are dragging their feet and there are, according to Senate sources, strong signals the GOP intends to end the Senate earmarks ban. Just yesterday, Senate Republicans refused to approve the earmarks ban.

On the House side, Congressman Mike Rogers (R-AL) is introducing an amendment to House rules that would allow an exception to the earmarks ban for “State, locality (including county and city governments), or a public utility or other public entity.” A House source tells me Speaker Boehner has been firmly committed to keeping the earmarks ban, but worries other Republicans may latch on to Rogers’ exception.

It is worth noting that virtually all earmarks go to “State[s], localit[ies] (including county and city governments), [and] public utilit[ies].”

With Senators Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint out of the picture, the Senate seems more likely than the House to move forward on this issue. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) referred to earmarks at “the gateway drug” for big spending. The earmarks themselves were often relatively small, but they were given by leadership to members of Congress as a form of bribery to induce those members to vote for much larger spending packages.

It would be a shame for either the House or Senate to give up on the earmarks ban — particularly when outrage over Republican behavior related, in part, to corruption induced through earmarks led to their devastating losses in 2006.

You can connect to your member of Congress through the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and express your support for continuing the earmarks ban.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

'Operation Secret Ballot': the 1966 GOP Election Reform Project

Operation Secret Ballot: The 1966 GOP Election Reform Project
by Paul Hollrah (h/t to Mike McCarville at the McCarville Report)

On Tuesday evening, September 10, 1963, I attended my first meeting of the Tulsa County Young Republicans.   It was the first political meeting I’d ever attended, and as a result of attending that one meeting, and the things I learned there, my life was changed forever.

The guest speaker that evening was a man named Walter Hall, the Ballot Security Officer for the Oklahoma Republican State Committee.  In his speech Hall described in shocking detail the widespread election fraud practiced by Oklahoma Democrats in every election.  He began by saying that forty-four of Oklahoma’s seventy-seven counties had not provided a secret ballot for voters since statehood in 1907, and that local Democrats regularly used every conceivable illegal device to intimidate voters and to fraudulently control the outcome of elections.

Although state law required that one of the three election officials in every precinct must be a member of the minority party, Oklahoma Democrats systematically appointed bogus Republicans to the minority positions.  Consequently, in many precincts in those forty-four counties, all of the election officials were, in fact, Democrats.

When voters entered the polls on Election Day they found three Democrats seated behind a table.  After signing the entry log they were handed a paper ballot and a pencil, and since there were no facilities for marking ballots in secret, they were obliged to place their ballot on the table and to mark their ballot while the three election officials looked on.  If the election officials saw a voter mark his ballot for even a single Republican candidate, a number of things could happen. In many Oklahoma counties the welfare rolls were divided up by precincts and kept on the tables in the polling places on Election Day.  If a welfare recipient was so unwise as to vote for a Republican, his/her name was removed from the welfare rolls the instant the pencil marked the ballot.  If the errant voter was a state or county employee, he ran the risk of being unemployed the same day.  And if he was a property owner, he often found his property tax assessment doubled or tripled overnight.

In some counties the election officials were so brazen as to keep a trash can next to the ballot box, and any ballot with a Republican vote on it went directly into the trash can.  The only ballots in the ballot box were straight Democratic tickets.In some counties they were a bit more subtle and used a technique that Walter Hall referred to as the “lead-under-the-thumbnail” trick.  That technique involved breaking the lead from a pencil and tucking it lengthwise under a thumbnail.When the election official took a completed ballot from a voter, and the ballot contained a vote for a Republican candidate, the official merely scraped the lead across the face of the ballot, folded the ballot in the normal fashion, and placed it in the ballot box.

When the ballot boxes were opened and the ballots were removed, state law required that all ballots with “extraneous” markings be classified as “mutilated” ballots and not counted in the final tally.In other counties, election officials would allow a thumbnail to grow very long over a period of months preceding an election.  On the day of the election they would file a sharp edge on the thumbnail so that, when they took a ballot containing a Republican vote from a voter and prepared to fold it, they merely flicked the sharp nail through the edge of the paper.  Ballots with small rips and tears were considered to be “mutilated” and were discarded along with those having extraneous markings.

I was absolutely appalled at the speaker’s endless recounting of official corruption in the state’s electoral process.  It was hard for me to believe that such corrupt practices could be standard practice in the greatest democracy on Earth, in the twentieth century, but there was no reason to doubt the truth of what he said.Having been an interested observer of the Democratic Party for many years, and having learned much more about it through many friendly debates with my in-laws, I was all but convinced that the party was just another large-scale criminal conspiracy, masquerading as a political party.  After hearing Walter Hall’s presentation that evening I was absolutely certain of it.

Read the rest of this fascinating story below the jump...

Election Board says 'No' to CD2 special election


Board declines to hold special election in Oklahoma 2nd Congressional District 

No new election is needed in a Nov. 4 congressional race featuring a landslide victory by the Republican incumbent two days after his Democratic challenger died in a car wreck, the Oklahoma Election Board decided Wednesday.

Relying on advice from the Oklahoma attorney general’s office, the board voted 3-0 to certify the results of this and all general election contests, with the exception of a judge’s race in which a recount is to be held.
The Oklahoma Democratic Party has called for a special election in the district, which covers most of rural eastern Oklahoma. Wallace Collins, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said the party would consider a lawsuit to challenge the board’s decision.

“We will pursue our legal options to this issue because we don’t think it’s being handled correctly,” Collins said. “I understand what they’re doing but I think they’ve been given bad advice.”

Collins said he thought Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a Republican, “was predisposed to giving the opinion that was given today.”
The attorney general’s office found that federal law applying to congressional races trumps a state law that allows for a special election in a case in which a candidate dies shortly before election day.

Federal law says the general election for U.S. representatives shall be on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November — or Nov. 4 this year. Therefore, to hold a special election on a different date, as envisioned in the state law, would be impermissible in this contest, the attorney general’s office said.

Federal law does allow a state to hold a special election for a congressional office on another date in the case of the death of the winner of the election, but in this case the person who died also lost the election.

Read the full article here.

2014 Election Results Map: 2nd Congressional District

(click image to view larger)

Continuing with my Elections Results Maps, here is the 2nd Congressional District race.

Mullin's "worst" showing was in Hughes County, where he got 59.51% to deceased Democrat Earl Everett's 34.96% (his best showing). There were four counties where less than 20% of the vote went to the Democrat (Adair, Delaware, Nowata and Rogers), with Everett receiving just 15.57% in Rogers County.

If a special election is called, things look pretty dire for State Sen. Jerry Ellis, the Democrats' substitution pick. Mullin got about 72% of the vote in the area comprising his state senate district.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

2014 Election Results Map: Inhofe vs. Lankford

(click image to view larger)

In this installment of my Election Results Maps series, we take a look at the U.S. Senate race. Jim Inhofe won reelection with 68% of the vote, and James Lankford took outgoing Senator Tom Coburn's spot with 67.85%. Since both had massive victories (but neither were the top percentage on Tuesday night), I decided to take a different look at things.

This map compares Inhofe and Lankford's percentages to each other. Interestingly enough, more votes were cast in Senator-elect Lankford's race (820,890) than in senior Senator Inhofe's race (820,733).

Inhofe had a higher percentage in 56 counties, while Lankford was higher in 21 counties. In four counties, Lankford received more votes than Inhofe but with a lower overall percentage. Inhofe's biggest margin was 9.06% in Coal County, while Lankford's was 4.56% in Major County. Inhofe edged out Lankford statewide by 1,164 votes.

Pretty amazing performance for Lankford, considering this was his first time on the ballot statewide, while this was Inhofe's sixth time in a statewide general election.

2014 Election Results Map: Labor Commissioner

(click image to view larger)

Continuing with my Election Results Maps series, we now come to the race for Labor Commissioner. Incumbent Republican Mark Costello defeated Democrat Mike Workman by an overwhelming 62.8% to 37.2%, a margin of just over 25%. That is just a little less than his 64.2% performance in 2010 against incumbent Democrat Lloyd Fields. Like Fields, Workman beat Costello in four counties, three of which were the same (Cherokee, Coal and Latimer).

If Costello's margins had remained the same as 2010 in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, he would have had almost the exact same percentage as four years ago.

Democrats pick Jerry Ellis for CD2 Special Election

The Oklahoma Democratic Party appears to have selected outgoing state senator Jerry Ellis as their candidate for the possible special election in the 2nd Congressional District. Ellis was one of three individuals the party picked as finalists for the spot.

From the AP:
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins says an outgoing state senator from Valliant has been selected by the party as its candidate in a possible special election for the 2nd Congressional District seat in eastern Oklahoma.

Collins said Democratic state Sen. Jerry Ellis was picked Monday from a list of three candidates selected during a meeting of the party's central committee over the weekend. The 67-year-old Ellis served 12 years in the Oklahoma House and Senate.

Republican U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin received 70 percent of the vote in last week's general election, but the Democratic nominee, Earl Everett, died two days before the election.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt is studying the issue and is expected to brief the Oklahoma State Election Board on Wednesday, before the election results are certified.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Dems pick three potential CD2 special election candidates

The Oklahoma Democratic Party's Central Committee met Saturday to select a replacement candidate for the likely special election in the 2nd Congressional District. Yesterday, state chairman Wallace Collins announced they had narrowed down the field to three individuals.

The ODP has selected State Rep. Ben Sherrer (D-Choteau), outgoing State Sen. Jerry Ellis (D-Valliant), and Tahequah attorney Paul Shiefelbein.

Sherrer is an attorney who represents HD8, which covers portions of Mayes, Rogers, and Wagoner counties. He is in his final term as a state representative.

Ellis represents SD5, which covers Choctaw, McCurtain, Pushmataha, and portions of Atoka and LeFlore counties in far southeast Oklahoma. Ellis formerly served in the State House, but ran for SD5 two years ago, prompting a special election this year due to term limits cutting his senate term in half. Ironically, Ellis' district just went Republican.

I know nothing about Shiefelbein other than he is an attorney from Tahlequah.

Whomever the ODP ultimately selects as their replacement candidate will go up against Republican Congressman Markwayn Mullin and Indepedent Jon Douthitt, assuming a special election is called (which according to my reading of the statute is inevitable).

Friday, November 07, 2014

Dilemma: who will Dems pick for possible CD2 special election?

With the prospect of a 2nd Congressional District special election looming, and the need to select a substitute candidate, the Oklahoma Democratic Party is in a pickle.

Their Party is in electoral shambles. They have not won a statewide race since 2006, and lost their lone congressional district to the GOP in 2012 after Dan Boren did not seek reelection. They are down to a mere eight seats in the 48-seat State Senate, and outnumbered 72-29 in the State House.

What's a Party to do in such a circumstance?

ODP Chairman Wallace Collins has told the media that they are considering "10 to 12" candidates to substitute for deceased nominee Earl Everett in a hypothetical (but likely) special election. Their new nominee would go up against GOP incumbent Markwayne Mullin and Independent Jon Douthitt, who received 70% and 5.4% in the November 4th election, respectively.

So, who would might they be considering? I'll take some guesses, and throw out some possibilities (some more realistic than others). I'll rate them on Likelihood of being selected, and Competitiveness in a 2nd District election.

Listed in order of my "competitiveness" rating, we start with...

Likelihood: 0-0.5
Competitiveness: 10
Review: Brad Henry would probably be the most viable candidate the Democrats could put forward, and since residence in the district is not a requirement for federal offices, that wouldn't be a hindrance for a Henry candidacy. Henry is easily the most popular Democrat in Oklahoma, and won the 2nd District counties by huge margins in his gubernatorial races. However, the likelihood of Henry going for it is practically nil, so Republicans can breath a sigh of relief.

Likelihood: 2
Competitiveness: 8
Review: Drew Edmondson is an intriguing option for the Democrats. Edmonson has deep ties to the 2nd District; his father Ed was 2nd District congressman from 1953 to 1973 (the U.S. Courthouse in Muskogee is name after him), and his brother James is on the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Drew was the Muskogee County DA from 1983 to 1995. Drew would probably be pretty competitive, but at 68 years old, it's doubtful he'd want to re-enter the political world.

Likelihood: 1
Competitiveness: 7
Review: Carson held the seat from 2000 to 2004, before losing the U.S. Senate race to his 2nd District predecessor, Tom Coburn. He expressed interest in the seat again when Boren made his announcement in June 2011, but changed his mind later in the month, and was appointed Under Secretary of the Army in September 2011. Would he be interested in leaving his Army post for a tough Congressional race? I doubt it.

Likelihood: 4
Competitiveness: 6
Review: Dorman lives in the 4th District, but was just on the ballot for Governor and as such has high name recognition. He got around 43% of the gubernatorial vote in the 2nd District, which was slightly higher than he got statewide, and won four of the six counties he won are in the 2nd District. I could see the ODP trying to get Dorman to step in here.

Likelihood: 7
Competitiveness: 4
Review: Ellis termed out of the State Senate this year, and has put his name in with the ODP Central Committee. I view Ellis as the most likely pick for the Democrats. However, I don't see him as all that competitive, for several reasons. His old seat went Republican on Tuesday, Mullin has a significant bank account still and will far outraise any Democrat, and Ellis has practically no base outside of his old far-southeastern district. 

Likelihood: 1
Competitiveness: 4
Review: Regan was chief-of-staff for Dan Boren, lost to Jari Askins in the 2006 Lt. Governor primary, but was appointed by Gov. Fallin to the Transportation Commission, surprising many Republicans. He could be a fairly competitive candidate, in large part due to ties to political money.

Likelihood: 4
Competitiveness: 3
Review: Kenneth Corn was mentioned as a possible candidate in 2012, but declined to make the run. A former state senator, he lost the Lt. Governor race pretty badly against Todd Lamb in 2010, winning just two counties. Lamb had a 40%+ margin of victory in 13 of the 26 counties in the 2nd District, so I just don't see Corn as a very viable candidate.

Likelihood: 5
Competitiveness: 3
Review: Wilson ran against Boren in 2010, and lost badly. Term-limited from the state senate in 2010, he's probably the most liberal individual on this list, and as such would be easy to beat.

Likelihood: 4
Competitiveness: 3
Review: Herriman lost in the 2012 runoff to Rob Wallace, but might be open to another run. Could he do better than Rob Wallace? I don't think so.

Likelihood: 1
Competitiveness: 3
Review: State Senator from Muskogee, Garrison will be term-limited in 2014. Garrison isn't a particularly charismatic candidate, and his district base just isn't enough to make him that competitive.

Likelihood: 2
Competitiveness: 3
Review: Wallace got 38.34% in 2012 against Mullin. I doubt another attempt would be more successful, or that Wallace would be interested.

Likelihood: 2
Competitiveness: 3
Review: State Representative from Tahlequah, Brown is serving his final term. Would he be interested, since he'll be out of office soon anyway?

Likelihood: 2
Competitiveness: 3
Review: Like Brown, McPeak will also be term-limited from the House in 2016. With so few elected officials left in eastern Oklahoma, will the ODP ask McPeak? 

Likelihood: 6
Competitiveness: 1
Review: Harris-Till lost with 37% to Earl Everett in the primary this year, even though Everett suffered a stroke two months before the primary. He has publicly stated that he is interested. He wouldn't have a chance at winning.

Special election a distinct possibility in CD2

In the flurry of activity before the election this past Tuesday, an event occurred that could have significant ramifications. Earl Everett, the Democratic nominee for Congress in the 2nd District, died Sunday from injuries sustained in a car wreck two days before. Incumbent Republican Congressman Markwayne Mullin went on to win with 70% of the vote, while Everett received 24.6% and Independent candidate Jon Douthitt got 5.4%. That seemed to be simply a tragic footnote in an otherwise unremarkable and lopsided race.

However, the Oklahoma Democratic Party and state chairman Wallace Collins appear to be pushing for a special election, given the fact that their nominee was no longer living at the time of the election. The ODP Central Committee is meeting tomorrow (Saturday) to pick a replacement candidate in the event a special election is called.

State statute does spell out how these situations are handled.
§26-1-105.  Substitute candidates.
A. In the event of the death of a political party's nominee for office prior to the date of the General Election, a substitute candidate will be permitted to have his name placed on the General Election ballot as follows:
3. If said death should occur five (5) days or more following the Runoff Primary Election date, a special General Election shall be called by the Governor and shall be conducted according to the laws governing such elections, Section 12-101 et seq. of this title, except that there shall be no filing period or special Primary Election and the candidates in the special General Election shall be the substitute candidate named by the central committee and the nominee of other political parties elected in the Primary or Runoff Primary, and any previously filed independent candidates.
From my reading, I would say we're headed for a special election.

Dave Weston, chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, is objecting to the ODP's call for a special election, saying it would "disenfranchise" voters' selection on Tuesday, and be a waste of taxpayer resources.

I understand where Weston is coming from. Mullin got 70% of the vote; will a special election really be much different? In all likelihood it won't. But, I think the state statute is abundantly clear and precise (Governor Fallin and the State Election Board have asked Attorney General Scott Pruitt to review and advise on how to proceed).

We'll see how this shakes out. Several names have already surfaced as possible replacement candidates for the Democrats, which I will address in a following post.

2014 Election Results Map: State Superintendent

The latest addition to the Election Results Maps series is the 2014 State Superintendent race.

(click image to view larger)

Joy Hofmeister won 56 counties to John Cox's 21, the best performance for any Democratic candidate on Tuesday. Several of the counties were within one percentage point -- in fact, Cox won Jefferson County by one vote (616 to 615).

Still, Hofmeister's margins in the Tulsa metro and western Oklahoma were more than enough to carry her to victory. Hofmeister received 61.95% in Tulsa County, compared to her 52.36% in Oklahoma County.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

2014 Election Results Map: Lt. Governor (and Lamb's historic win)

The latest in my Election Results Maps series: the 2014 Lieutenant Governor race.

(click image to view larger)

As you can see, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb carried every county in the state. In fact, his margins were so massive I had to change the percentages covered by the different colors. In 10 counties, Lamb had over 85% of the vote. In Cimarron County, he took 91.15%!

Lamb's "worst" county? Coal County, where he got 54.73% to Cathy Cummings' 45.27% - a 9.47% margin of victory.

Also of note, Lamb received the most votes of any Republican on the ballot: 561,453. By comparsion, Jim Inhofe got 557,537 and James Lankford had 556,382. Lamb had 101,665 more votes than Mary Fallin.

Granted, Lamb's race didn't have nearly the same attention or money spent, and his opponent was clearly second-tier, but Lamb's performance is still remarkable.

As best as I can tell (and I looked through election results back to 1907), Lamb's 68.5% is the highest percentage any Republican candidate has ever received for a statewide office, excluding U.S. Senate. It's not the first time a Republican not running for U.S. Senate or President has carried every county (Ken Miller did in 2010, for example), but Lamb beat out the previous "high tide" record -- Brenda Reneau's 1998 Labor Commission victory of 68.42%. The only Republican candidate to have a higher percentage was Sen. Tom Coburn, with 70.64% in 2010.

So, let's recap:

  • Only State-Office Republican to carry all 77 counties in 2014 (excluding the U.S. Senate races)
  • Most votes among the 2014 Republican statewide candidates
  • Highest percentage among the 2014 Republican statewide candidates
  • Highest percentage in state history for a Republican State-Office candidate (excluding unopposed incumbents)
  • 2nd highest overall percentage in state history for a statewide Republican candidate

Very impressive, Mr. Lieutenant Governor.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

2014 Election Results Map: Governor

The election is over, and as time allows I will begin working up and posting my latest Election Results Maps. These maps have become a staple/tradition of mine since I first started posting them in 2010.
(click image to view larger)

For comparison, here is the map from the 2010 gubernatorial race.

Dorman won six counties, a slight improvement from Jari Askins' four. Overall, Fallin got 4.63% less votes, which shows in some of these counties being weaker for her than they were four years ago.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Big night for Muskogee County GOP

Not only was tonight's election a big night for the OKGOP, it was a huge night for the Muskogee County GOP.

In House District 14, George Faught defeated Jack Reavis 4,469 votes (56.8%) to 3,399 (43.2%) -- the biggest margin achieved by a Republican in that district. In 2006, Faught became the first Republican to win HD14, holding it for three terms, and Republican Arthur Hulbert held the seat this past term.

In the race for District 1 County Commissioner, Ken Doke defeated Speck Plunkett 3,375 votes (53.0%) to 2,992 (47.0%). As far as is know, Doke becomes the first Republican to hold a seat on the county commission.

State Senator Kim David easily retained SD18, with 68.7% district-wide and 62.3% in the Muskogee County portion of the district.

Roger Thompson took SD8 from the Democrats, with 55.9% district-wide, and 53.9% in the Muskogee County portion.

Statewide Republican candidates had a mixed bag in Muskogee County. Mary Fallin got 47.6% to Joe Dorman's 49.1%, Todd Lamb took 60.5%, Joy Hofmeister received 44.0%, Mark Costello eeked out 50.1%, Jim Inhofe got 60.3%, James Lankford took 59.9%, and Markwayne Mullin received 64.4%.

Big night for OKGOP

Tonight turned out to be an even bigger night for the Oklahoma Republican Party than expected.

Mary Fallin defeated Joe Dorman 55.8% to 41% for a second term as Governor. Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb won reelection with 68.5% of the vote. Joy Hofmeister took a hard-fought 55.8% against John Cox to become the next State Superintendent. Mark Costello dispatched Mike Workman 62.8% to 37.2% for a second term as Labor Commissioner.

Jim Inhofe and James Lankford won their respective U.S. Senate races with nearly-identical percentages (68% and 67.9%, respectively). Congressmen Markwayne Mullin (70%), Frank Lucas (78.7%), and Tom Cole (70.8%) all won reelection. Steve Russell grabbed 60.1% to become the new 5th District congressman.

In the State Senate, the GOP had a big night. In SD5, Joseph Silk upset Dem. Rep. Curtis McDaniel 54.3% to 45.7%, becoming the first Republican to represent the far southeastern corner of the state in the state senate. In SD6, Josh Brecheen staved off a stiff re-election challenge, getting 53.6% of the vote. In SD8, Roger Thompson got 55.9% of the vote, perhaps also becoming the first Republican to represent the Okmulgee/Eufaula area district. That makes no Democrat state senators in the 2nd Congressional District south of I-40. In SD26, Darcy Jech got 56.9%, taking the last Democrat-held seat in western Oklahoma (outside of the Lawton area).

Add to tonight Marty Quinn taking SD2 unopposed after filing, that means the Republicans now hold 40 state senate seats, and the Democrats hold eight. EIGHT.

In the State House, Republicans held their own, despite several tough prospects. In HD45, Aaron Stiles was the only legislative Republican to lose, getting 48.9% to Democrat Claudia Griffith's 51.1%. Joe Dorman's seat went to Republican Scooter Park with 51.8% of the vote. The result of those two races mean the House stays 72 Republicans and 29 Democrats. George Faught got 56.8% in his return to HD14,  Representatives David Dank (56.4%) and Jason Nelson (53.2%) held on in tough re-election races. The GOP also retained seats vacated by Skye McNeil, Jason Smalley, Mike Jackson, Colby Schwartz, T.W. Shannon, Don Armes, and Mike Reynolds.

All in all, a great night for Oklahoma Republicans.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Democrat Desperation: fake Barresi signs reappear

As the Oklahoma Democrats attempt to make the 2014 election a referendum on Janet Barresi's tenure as State Superintendent, their desperation has reached -- again -- to making fake Barresi signs to place next to Republican candidates' signs.

These first appeared back in September, but just popped back up again in Muskogee. If you've seen them in your neck of the woods, email me.

Between this and cookie-cutter, nearly-identical mailers trying to make [factually non-existent] ties Barresi between numerous GOP legislative candidates, things must really be desperate for the Oklahoma Democrats.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

My Picks for the 2014 General Election

With the election literally around the corner, I've had people ask for my take on the candidates. Here is how I plan to vote, primarily focused on the Muskogee ballot but also throwing in a few other races I deem to be important.

U.S. Senate - Jim Inhofe and James Lankford
Lankford will make a great addition to the U.S. Senate. Although I'm not a fan of being in Washington for 20+ years, Inhofe is a reliable conservative voice. However, this should be his final term.
U.S. House - Markwayne Mullin (CD2), Steve Russell (CD5)
The Democrats put up lousy congressional candidates, so all GOP nominees should coast in. Russell will be a fantastic Congressman, and a good ally for Jim Bridenstine.
Governor - Mary Fallin
I'll hold my nose and vote Fallin. She's been a disappointment in some ways, but is better than the alternative - four or even eight years of a Democratic Governor.
Lieutenant Governor - Todd Lamb
Sure, it's hard to mess up being Lieutenant Governor, but Lamb has done a great job in being proactive and involved in economic development.
Labor Commissioner - Mark Costello
Costello has been a great Labor Commissioner. Add to that the fact that his opponent is pretty much a certified nut, and it's an easy pick.
State Superintendent - Joy Hofmeister
Hofmeister may not be perfect, but I trust her more than I do the Democrat (Cox). This is an important office, and I don't want to give it back to the Democrats.

State House District 12 - David Tackett
Although I disagree with David on some issues, he is generally on the right side of things, and would add to the conservative caucus in the State House.
State House District 14 - George Faught
We need experienced conservatives at the State Capitol, and HD14 needs continued conservative representation. (Disclaimer for those who like disclaimers: George Faught is my father)
State House District 76 - David Brumbaugh
I used to go to church with Brumbaugh. He will easily win reelection, and deserves to.
State House District 87 - Jason Nelson
Nelson is a reformer, and was the principal author of HB3399, which repealed Common Core. He's in a tough re-election bid, and is also facing his young daughter's recent diagnosis with a life-threatening condition.

State Senate District 5 - Joseph Silk
This is a very tough seat to win (registration is something like 12% Republican), but if Silk can pull it off, he will be one of the most conservative members in the State Senate.
State Senate District 6 - Josh Brecheen
This is perhaps the most important legislative race of the year. Brecheen has been targeted for his leadership in repealing Common Core, and is facing a tough reelection bid in a district that heavily favors the Democrats (Brecheen was the first Republican to win).
State Senate District 8 - Roger Thompson
A great chance for a pick-up by the GOP. Thompson is a good, conservative candidate.

Muskogee County Commission, District 1 - Ken Doke
Ken will bring a fresh, conservative viewpoint to the County Commission, one that we desperately need. I believe he would be the first Republican to ever win.

District Judge (District 15, Office 4) - James Walters for District Judge
I don't know a ton about this race, but have heard enough to go Walters over Alford.

Supreme Court - John Reif - NO
Supreme Court - Tom Colbert - NO
Supreme Court - Joseph Watt - NO
The consistency with which our mostly-liberal State Supreme Court tosses out pro-life legislation leads me to throw them out, too.
Court of Criminal Appeals - Gary Lumpkin - YES
I've heard good things about Lumpkin, so I'll vote to keep him.
Court of Civil Appeals - Jerry Goodman - NO
Court of Civil Appeals - Jane Wiseman - NO!
Wiseman officiated the first homosexual wedding in Oklahoma. That's enough for me to vote her out -- but Michael Bates details other reasons as well
Court of Civil Appeals - Deborah Barnes - NO
Court of Civil Appeals - Keith Rapp - NO
Court of Civil Appeals - Brian Goree - YES
I've also heard good reports about Goree, so I'll vote to keep him.

SQ 769 - NO
This deals with allowing certain government officials to concurrently hold certain military offices. This will probably pass (it passed the House 82-5 and the Senate 44-0), but I'm just not comfortable with the potential situation of a government official being unable to perform the duties of their elected office due to their enlistment in the military. I could probably be talked into voting 'yes', though.
SQ 770 - YES
SQ 771 - YES
SQs 770 and 771 deal with property tax exemptions for service-disabled veterans and surviving spouses, and for spouses of those killed in the line of duty. I will vote 'yes' on both.

Voter Registration Map: Pre-2014 General Election

Official numbers are in from the State Election Board, and the voter registration in Oklahoma as of November 1st, 2014, stands as follows: 884,150 Democrats, 881,253 Republicans, 257,045 Independents, and 8 Americans Elect.

Democrats hold the plurality by a mere 2,897 registrants.

Compare the above map to the one from January, at this link.

Majority Republican: 21 counties (same)
Plurality Republican: 9 counties (+1)
Plurality Democratic: 8 counties (+1)
Majority Democratic: 39 counties (-2)

Since January, Custer County moved from plurality Democrat to plurality Republican. Beckham and Comanche Counties moved from majority Democrat to plurality Democrat.

Registration swung in the Republican direction by 1.44%. Every county moved towards the GOP. Tillman County continues to be the county with highest GOP growth.

Byas: Vote your head, pick Fallin

by Steve Byas, Oklahoma Constitution

Those who advocate casting a vote for Dorman to punish Fallin for some of the disappointing actions of her governorship (or voting for one of the two non-serious gadfly independent candidates) are hurting others besides Fallin.

Recent polls indicate that Governor Mary Fallin should win comfortably over Democrat challenger Joe Dorman, although not by the margin expected by other Republican incumbents running statewide this Fall.

This indicates that loads of activist Republicans are disenchanted with Mary, but not enough to commit the stupid act of voting for the Democrat candidate for governor.

Those who advocate casting a vote for Dorman to punish Fallin for some of the disappointing actions of her governorship (or voting for one of the two non-serious gadfly independent candidates) are hurting others besides Fallin. They are hurting the state, the Republican Party, the conservative cause, and in the end, themselves and their own family.

Sure, I understand the frustration. But, after knowing Mary Fallin for about a quarter of a century, I have come to the conclusion that Mary is just Mary, and when you come to expect disappointment, it is not all that much of a disappointment.

What I would like to do is make the case to conservative Republicans that the best choice in this governor’s race is to cast your vote for Mary Fallin for reelection.

Where do I start? First, state Representative Dorman is a Democrat, and I do not believe there is one single Democrat in the Oklahoma Legislature worth voting for. When we first started the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper back in 1979, there were Democrats in the Oklahoma Legislature worth voting for, some who made the Top Conservatives list, but those days are long gone.

This does not mean that Dorman is “evil,” or even a flaming liberal. He is just a Democrat, and as such, he is going to make Democrats happy more often than he makes Republican happy. Look, his Conservative Index score is only 39% lifetime, with a mere 31% score this year. I realize that is fairly good for a Democrat, but that only makes my point. For some reason, some excuse a lot of bad votes from a Democrat. I understand holding Republicans to a higher standard, but I do not wink at bad votes simply because the legislator is of the Big Government party.

As a Democrat, Governor Joe Dorman will fill state government with a whole lot of Democrats. Expecting these Democrats to be conservatives is laughable. I guess you can find a four-leaf clover every now and then, too. Regardless of what many people argue to the contrary, there are many Republicans who are worth appointing to state offices. No, I do not expect Governor Mary Fallin to appoint multitudes of conservatives, but I can guarantee you that she will appoint a whole lot more than Dorman, simply because she will appoint more Republicans than Dorman will appoint.

Then, we have the state judicial appointments. If Dorman were to pull the big upset, expect liberal Democrats to take the place of retiring state judges at the appellate court level. While these judges face the voters in retention votes every six years, no appellate judges have ever been denied the additional six years by the voters. Dorman’s judges, drawn from the ranks of an increasingly left-wing Democrat Party, will issue liberal decisions for years past the time Dorman is back home in Rush Springs, eating watermelon at the annual festival.

Let’s say there is an unexpected vacancy in the U.S. Senate. Do you think Governor Dorman will appoint anyone better than Jim Inhofe to fill that vacancy until the election? Get real. And, guess who will be the candidate of the Republican Party for the U.S. Senate should the great Jim Inhofe have to step down from the Senate? I suspect it will be Joe Dorman. If you cause the election of Dorman for governor, you just might be picking Inhofe’s replacement as well.

Realistically, I do not expect Governor Fallin to lead us to the conservative promised land, but she will probably sign good bills, if the Republican-dominated Legislature passes them. Sure, she waited to the last minute to sign the repeal of Common Core, but she did sign it. In our last issue, we analyzed the “conservative” ratings of the six governors who have resided at the Governor’s Mansion during the years of the Oklahoma Constitution (1979-2014). Whatever else one says about Fallin, of the six governors, she had the highest conservative score, at 63%, edging out fellow Republican Governor Frank Keating. I will admit that 63 is not great, but it is a whole lot better than the 31% score that Dorman had this last session. It is almost twice as good.

Sure, I could mention some bad policies and bad moves by Governor Fallin the past four years, and I have for the past four years in these pages. I fully expect I will be back next year, bellyaching about something else that Mary Fallin has done, or something else that she has failed to do.

But for now, I am going to use my head and vote this November for the person who is clearly the better candidate – Mary Fallin.

Byas is the editor of the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper, Oklahoma's conservative 
quarterly paper since 1979.