Saturday, June 23, 2018

My pick and take on the GOP gubernatorial primary

I have struggled with who to vote for in the 2018 GOP gubernatorial primary more than with any other top-level race since registering to vote when I turned eighteen. Of the top six candidates, Mick Cornett is the only one that I absolutely could not put up with. He is the clear liberal in the race, even supported by a Super PAC funded by a Hilary Clinton bundler. Richard Engle penned a great column on the evidence of Cornett's liberal leanings. I would never vote for Mick Cornett under any circumstance.

There are aspects to each of the remaining five candidates that I find appealing, and certain issues that I have disagreements with.

I started off the primary season leaning between State Auditor Gary Jones and Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, the individuals I am most closely acquainted with and have interacted with, although I was open to hearing from Richardson, Fisher and Stitt.

I consider Gary Jones to have been by far the best statewide elected official in Oklahoma for the past eight years. His work at the Auditor's office has been stellar, and if it weren't for a Governor and legislative leadership that was unreasonably hostile to him, he would have been able to uncover even more fraud and waste than he did. The way that Fallin, Doerflinger and legislative leadership tried to hamstring and cripple Jones and his office is a serious travesty. If we could make Gary Jones Auditor-for-Life, I'd be all in favor of it, and Oklahoma would benefit greatly.

I appreciated how Todd Lamb surrounded himself with serious conservatives, particularly with OCPA policies and former OCPA employees. That was an important sign that his direction could be greatly different than Mary Fallin's. I also appreciated how Lamb would go out of his way to assist local candidates and county parties on events and fundraising, while other elected officials (Scott Pruitt in particular) would take advantage of candidates and county parties, even to the point of using them for their own fundraising and depriving those monies of being used locally. Lamb was genuine in his support for the party, while others were more mercenary.

Dan Fisher garnished a solid reputation as a diehard conservative in the Legislature, gaining a lifetime Conservative Index score of 94. Across the board, ideologically, I might match up better with him than with the rest of the candidates. As for Stitt, some people I know and respect are supportive of him and have good things to say about him personally.

The events of the last few months in particular changed my view of the race and the candidates.

My biggest disappointment was when Gary Jones began advocating for tax increases. It seemed so out of character when compared to the great work he has done in the Auditor's office. I feel that Gary fell into the trap of trying to appease the leftist unions that dominate the education field in Oklahoma, who only really seek to advance the Democratic agenda and candidates. While I am disappointed with his choice there, I feel very strongly that the next Governor should utilize Gary Jones in a high position on the budget and fiscal matters. He'd be infinitely better than his longtime adversaries Preston Doerflinger and Denise Northrup.

While flat-out refusing to answer the question when I directly asked him, Dan Fisher has indicated that when it comes to landmark pro-life legislation (such as the new "heartbeat" bill in Iowa), he would be no different than Brad Henry or Mary Fallin and would veto such measures. As such, I cannot in good conscience vote for him. While I agree with him on practically everything, and have the same desire to see abortion abolished, I just don't have a peace about supporting someone who would veto pro-life measures.

While he rightfully and very publicly stood against Mary Fallin's disastrous proposal to hike the state sales tax by $2.6B, Todd Lamb frustrated me by not being very vocal in supporting conservatives who fought against the massive tax hikes during the special sessions and 2018 legislative session. In his survey, Lamb said that he adamantly and publicly opposed tax increases that were passed this past session, but it must not have been public enough for me to catch, because I don't recall him being vocal on it. In some cases, his support has been almost after-the-fact, too-little-too-late.

Kevin Stitt is a blank slate, touting his political outsider credentials as a positive. It may well be, but I am hesitant to place novices into such great positions of power when they have no track record to base their trajectory off of. His apathetic voting record and lame excuse for it also leads me to question his dedication to the conservative cause, as the only time he has ever voted in a primary -- when conservative candidates can best be chosen -- was in the 2004 primary.

I am most disappointed with Lamb and Stitt's attempt to have it both ways by saying they would have voted against or vetoed the tax increases this last session, but would not vote to repeal the taxes in the Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite! petition made it to the statewide ballot. That hypocritical stance has made me remove them from consideration in the primary.

I am looking for someone who will be a bold conservative, who won't cower under political pressure, and who will fight for conservative principles even if it will hurt them politically.

I don't always vote for the candidate who wins the primary, but the primary is when I can best vote on principle and make a statement on the direction I'd like the Republican Party to go in.

If Tom Coburn had run for Governor, I would have been all in from day one. He did not, however, and the above issues left me with one candidate remaining.

I will be casting my vote for Gary Richardson.

I have had some problems with Richardson. I disagreed with some of the attacks he has made on Todd Lamb, particularly as it relates to the power and abilities of the lieutenant governor. At times I question his judgment on particular issues. He has an unsatisfactory answer on why he ran as an Independent in the 2002 gubernatorial race, and I believe is a primary reason why Brad Henry won.

However, more so than any other gubernatorial candidate, Gary Richardson has stood up and fought against the tax increases passed by the legislature in the last eighteen months.

Gary Richardson would upend the political status quo in Oklahoma City, and I would consider that to be a very good thing. On the major issues, he is a solid conservative. He would lead the charge in chasing down wasteful spending and could be counted on to protect the interest of taxpayers.

When few would stand up alongside the conservatives in the legislature, Gary Richardson backed them up in spite of the potential for blowback on his campaign. When the Legislature passed unconstitutional tax increases in 2017, Gary Richardson filed a lawsuit to stop them. At every point during the 2017 and 2018 sessions, Gary Richardson supported conservatives who fought to protect the forgotten Oklahoma taxpayer against massive tax hikes.

He's not a perfect candidate. He's not who I envisioned I'd end up voting for. I know that he'll annoy me at times and that he is a longshot candidate. I anticipate this race to go to a runoff between Lamb and either Stitt or Cornett (and Lamb would get my vote under that scenario).

But on Tuesday, in light of my problems with the other candidates, and his consistent and firm opposition to tax increases, I'll be voting for Gary Richardson.


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