Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Republicans must not sleep on the Governor's race

You're looking at the face of the Governor of Oklahoma from January 2023 to January 2027. If Republicans sleep on this race, it could be the one on the left (God forbid). 

"Oklahoma is the reddest of the red", an often-used phrase in GOP politics here in Oklahoma.

Well, not exactly.

While it's true that the state legislature is dominated by Republicans, all statewide office holders since 2010 have been elected as Republicans, and a majority of registered voters now are Republican, Oklahoma is not quite as red as one might think.

Democrats controlled state politics with an iron grip for nearly a century. It's hard to imagine now, but we are not quite twelve years removed from the GOP sweeping all statewide offices for the first time ever. It's only in the past decade or so that Republicans gained control of most county offices in the state, even in that former bastion of Democratic power - Little Dixie.

Here are two graphics to illustrate just how dramatic the change in Oklahoma voter registration has been since 2010:

Many of those new Republicans were Republicans at heart who were registered the other way in order to vote in local elections due to a dearth of local Republican candidates.

At the same time, many of the new Republicans are still Democrats, registering in order to vote in local elections due to a dearth of local Democratic candidates. I mean, hello, the Dems couldn't even find someone in the 2nd Congressional District to run for the open seat; their nominee is the 1st Congressional District vice-chairwoman. Even Ben Robinson, Muskogee's former Democrat State Senator and aide to former Congressman Dan Boren, is no longer a Democrat - he's running for CD2 as an Independent.

With a Legislature that is overwhelmingly Republican, odds are that we've got some secret Democrats there as well, hiding under a facade of boilerplate Republican platitudes. We've got them in the statewide offices as well; Joy Hofmeister outed her true self last year when she switched parties to run for Governor, and Labor Commissioner "Liberal Leslie" Osborn might as well join her and make her transformation official.

Which brings me back to the gubernatorial race.

Recent polling has this race as essentially a dead-heat. Democrat and RINO dark money groups have spent $12.5M+ against Stitt so far - with more to come. The five biggest tribes in Oklahoma endorsed Hofmeister earlier this week, a culmination of their four-year fight with Kevin Stitt.

Joy Hofmeister is banking on several things to carry her to victory. 

First, a resurgent Democratic Party in Oklahoma metropolitan areas. At the same time that the Dems have lost just about everything in rural Oklahoma, they've gained some ground in the urban areas, particularly Oklahoma City. They also hope to capitalize on the Stitt vs. Tribes fight over the past few years, as well as expecting some sort of backlash in the overturning of Roe v. Wade (which, I'll be honest, I don't think will be a big mover in Oklahoma, as the type of people that would be upset that baby murder is no longer legal already were in the Democratic camp).

Second, educators. An Oklahoma voting demographic that, when they're actually registered to vote (which is not as frequent as you might think), tends to lean toward whoever wants to throw the most money their way. Governor Stitt has made school choice a big part of his policy platform in recent years, and has stood up against the cultural rot that is infiltrating the education system across the country and here in Oklahoma, angering much of the education establishment in this state. Hofmeister aims to use her position as the State Superintendent (elected twice as a Republican, no less) to pull educators onto her team.

Third, Hofmeister needs disgruntled Republicans to either vote for her -- or not vote at all. Whether upset at Stitt over school choice, or tribal squabbles, or some of the self-inflicted controversies his administration has been involved in, Hofmeister needs Republicans to cross the aisle for her, or simply not vote in this race.

This third category really is the linchpin in Hofmeister's strategy. In a state that now has a majority of voters registered Republican, she cannot win on Democratic and Independent votes alone. She has to win significant crossover votes and beat Stitt's favorables down to depress the GOP turnout.

Fellow blogger Michael Bates has a great post articulating the many conservative policy accomplishments Governor Stitt has had in his first term. There are many good reasons why conservatives should be excited about the prospects of a second term for Stitt.

"It wasn't that long ago that Democrats still controlled this state. Yes, we're pretty red now, but conservatives can't take things for granted," says Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell. As a former chairman and executive director of the Oklahoma Republican Party, he knows what he's talking about. He played a key role in the GOP takeover of Oklahoma, and took that experience nationwide when working with the RNC.

Liberals win when conservatives take things for granted. Brad Henry was governor of Oklahoma for eight years, vetoing important legislation and styming conservative policies - because conservatives took things for granted in 2002.

The strength of the top-ballot race oftentimes determines how the "down-ballot" elections turn out.  When voters mark Republican in the first race (President or Governor), they have a tendency to follow the same party throughout the ballot. Oklahoma Republicans do exceedingly well in presidential years due to the influence of the presidential candidate, but have a history of underperforming expectations in gubernatorial years.

"Turnout will determine the Governor and State Superintendent races," OKGOP Vice-Chairman Shane Jemison told me. "Who does and does not show up to vote will have a direct impact on urban and some regional outcomes."

Close down-ballot races will be decided by the outcome of the gubernatorial race. Conservative success in holding or flipping seats can hinge on Stitt's electoral performance.

Mary Fallin was, in many respects, a disappointment for conservatives, particularly toward the end of her tenure. On the contrary, Kevin Stitt has been a conservative champion on most issues.

Joy Hofmeister? She'd be an absolute disaster.

If you think Joy Hofmeister would stand up against the sexual perversion inflitrating our schools, think again.

If you think Joy Hofmeister would stand up to the Biden administration, think again.

If you think Joy Hofmeister would advocate for lower taxes and decreased regulation, think again.

If you think Joy Hofmeister would appoint conservative, originalist judges and justices, think again.

If you think Joy Hofmeister would defend the constitutional right to life for the preborn, think again.

On all these issues, and more, we can count on Kevin Stitt. But in order for him to continue governing right on these, Republicans must get out and vote to re-elect him.

Joy Hofmeister, Joe Biden, and the Democrats want you to think that Kevin Stitt has it in the bag and doesn't need your vote. 

Don't fall asleep on this race. Make sure that nothing stops you from getting to the polls to vote for Kevin Stitt. Oklahoma's future depends on it.


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