Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
Joy Hofmeister must give Barry Switzer a call
Oklahoma's last Democratic governor would not have won without the King's support and maybe the old coach has one more big race left in him
Barry Swtizer’s done coaching.
Let’s hope he’s not done with politics.
Let’s hope, too, he’s where he’s always been when it comes to endorsing candidates, the way he was with Brad Carson in 2004, trying to oust Tom Coburn from the Senate and the way he was with Brad Henry two years prior, running against Steve Largent and Gary Richardson to become governor of our since-diminished state.
Henry was facing quite the uphill battle 20 years ago. He was in the wrong party, of course, flying a blue flag in a state already very red.
That and his Republican opponent, Largent, was not only a sensible and fine candidate, a conservative defined by the policies he favored rather than the libs he sought to own, and had other plusses, too.
He’d served three-plus terms in the U.S. House, succeeding Jim Inhofe when he split to run for David Boren’s Senate seat. Before that, Largent was a legit pro football football hero, catching more passes (819) for more yards (13,089) and more touchdowns (100) than any receiver in NFL history at the time he retired (1990) from the Seattle Seahawks.
Henry had a couple things on his side.
One, Richardson, who was a Republican running as an independent, bound to steal more votes from Largent than him.
Two, the legality of cockfighting was on the ballot as a state question and, though Henry wasn’t exactly for it, nor did he demonize rural Oklahomans for whom it was a cultural issue. Meanwhile, Largent thought the whole idea of cockfighting was ridiculous on its face, which, let’s face it, it was.
But Largent’s righteous stand did him no electoral favors, while Henry’s thread-the-needle Hail Mary, along with the vocal support of Oklahoma’s greatest folk hero this side of Will Rogers — Switzer — did.
As the campaign funneled into the election, you couldn’t listen to the radio without hearing Switzer talking up Henry.
It proved just enough.
Henry (D): 448,143 (43.3 percent)
Largent (R): 441,277 (42.6 percent)
Richardson (I): 146,200 (14.1 percent)
Would you believe Henry even got drummed in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, but made it all back in rural less populated counties he won?
What’s that mean?
It means Joy Hofmeister must make the call.
She must make the call to Barry Switzer, who’ll soon turn 85 but who’s lost none of his legendary charisma, remains a registered Democrat and who’s been on the right side of things many times before and might be happy to be on the right side of things again.
He may want to escape the shadow of Donald Trump, who attended a fundraiser across the street from his home, at his daughter’s and son-in-law’s home, six Septembers ago.
He might want to make one more righteous electoral stand while he still can in the adopted home state he’s done so much for and has done so much for him.
It makes perfect sense, because Switzer spent his collegiate coaching life offering football glory and paid-for educations to young men, frequently from difficult or poor backgrounds, perhaps still more frequently from rural public high schools, located in just the type of districts bound to suffer the most under four more years of Kevin Stitt clearing the way and cheering on Ryan Walters’ destruction of public education in Oklahoma.
Because, should Stitt get his way with school vouchers and the rerouting of education funds to private school parents, and should Walters, as state superintendent leading a state board appointed by Stitt, fulfill his latest threat to not accept federal education money bound for Oklahoma, what then?
What might those policies do the Eufaula school district, home of the Selmon brothers, Lucious, Lee Roy and Dewey, who anchored defenses Switzer would not have won his first two national championships without.
Or the Miami district, which delivered Steve and Tinker Owens to Oklahoma. Steve winning the Heisman Trophy on an offense Switzer coordinated and Tinker, who became an All-American receiver on those same two national championship teams.
Billy Sims came from Hooks, Texas.
Kenny King came from Clarendon, Texas.
Stitt and Walters can’t ruin those districts, but could kill hundreds like them in Oklahoma and the best way to stop is to not give them the chance.
If Hofmeister prevails, Walters can be neutralized, surrounded by state board members who champion public education and will keep him in check.
Better, Democrat Jena Nelson could just go beat him, so maybe she should call Switzer herself, or maybe Toby Keith, who stuck his neck out for public education six years ago, supporting SQ 779, a one-cent sales tax designed to give every teacher a raise of at least $5,000.
True, his persona doesn’t scream Democrat, but nor is he a Republican. A registered independent, maybe his policy sympathies haven’t changed.
So make the call.
To him, to Switzer, and maybe Brad Henry himself, whose first term he won by a fraction, but whose second was delivered by landslide.
Pull out the stops.
Too much is at stake.
What do you have to lose?
Maybe everything, so make the calls.