Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
The Joy of responding to Stitt
After the governor took the stage, his opponent responded, driving home lots of good points … perhaps not very persuasively
Imagine a world in which the race to be Oklahoma’s next governor were non-partisan, like so many mayoral races. Like Oklahoma City’s mayoral race as a matter of fact.
Against several opponents on Tuesday, Oklahoma City mayor David Holt won reelection with almost 60 percent of the vote. You think Kevin Stitt could prosper statewide if candidates were forced to strip themselves of party?
If you can accept the premise, there are more interesting questions than that.
Would Stitt have as easy a time if forced to lose his party? Could Holt have won so easily if forced to claim a party?
Holt served in the state legislature as a Republican, but has hardly served like one during his mayorship.
“Today was a statement by the people of Oklahoma City,” Holt said upon reelection, as reported by The Oklahoman, “a statement that we, as a city, reject lies, racism and bigotry.
Doesn’t sound like a Republican.
But if he were to remain a Republican in a partisan mayoral election, would he lose the progressive base he’s fostered since stepping into the job?
And if he were to run as a Democrat, would he lose voters who reflexively refuse to vote for Democrats, a calculus accounting for most Oklahomans and perhaps(?) most Oklahoma Citians?
For that matter, could Holt, tagged with a party, count on his magnetic personality to dominate an election that historically inspires astonishingly low turnout.
If you can believe it, the 60,756 votes cast in OKC’s mayoral election on Tuesday — 36,338 of which went to Holt — represents the race’s biggest turnout since 1959, and still it’s just 17 percent of the city’s more than 357,000 eligible voters.
Make the candidates claim a party and turnout’s likely to spike, a turnout that might not appreciate the progressive tendencies of a candidate like Holt.
A skilled politician, maybe he’d run as an independent, temper his effervescently inclusive talking points just a touch, win just as big as a write-in and maintain the good fight he’s been fighting.
Food for thought.
Just so, what would a non-partisan election do for a candidate like Stitt?
Remove the Rs and Ds from the ballot and he can hardly count on his tribe any longer, and I don’t mean the Cherokees.
In that world, every dumb thing he says, does, supports or celebrates could come back to haunt him like so little seems to now, because that stuff’s more likely to stick to a candidate forced to run on their own island.
Meanwhile, the partisan electorate we’re stuck with remains one in which so many presume anyone from the other side screaming about the idiocy and transgressions of their side, though full of sound and fury, signifies nothing.
Which begs a question.
Can anybody be reached?
Or, can enough anybodies be reached to make a difference?
I don’t know, but there has to be a better way.
About that, I’m about to rewrite the press release Joy Hofmeister put her name on Monday, soon after Stitt delivered his State of the State address.
Hofmeister, a two-time statewide elected Republican as Oklahoma’s superintendent of public instruction, barring utter calamity, and running as a Democrat after flipping parties, will face off with Stitt for the governor’s chair on Nov. 8.
Now, about that press release:
Old: State Superintendent of Public Instruction and gubernatorial challenger Joy Hofmeister today made the following remarks after Governor Kevin Stitt’s State of the State address.
New: “In no world, can Kevin Stitt be the best, or even a remotely suitable possibility as our governor for another four years,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said today after watching and listening to the governor’s State of the State address.
Hofmeister, who is challenging Stitt in Oklahoma’s coming gubernatorial election, was only getting started.
Old: “The governor is scrambling to play catch up during an election year. He’s losing with the Supreme Court, with business leaders and constituents, and parents are angry about the disruptions he’s caused their kids by sowing division and chaos. He’s been a barricade to progress since 2018 and a closed door for reasonable solutions. Oklahomans are ready to kick that door open.
New: “Watching the governor speak has become tiring, frustrating and depressing. Again, he continued his vendetta against tribal sovereignty. Again, he continued his assault on education. Again, he had little to say beyond how grateful all of us should be for his zealot’s quest to run government with the cold efficiency of a conglomerate rather than as a means to lift Oklahomans up. It’s embarrassing.
Old: Governor Stitt seems only to notice the needs of Oklahoma kids and families when it’s politically convenient. His voucher plan is a rural school killer and robs funds from 90% of Oklahoma’s kids attending public school. Stitt is dismantling public education by handing over millions of taxpayer dollars to fund private tuition for wealthy families.
New: “Though the governor attended public schools, he’s trying to gut them, robbing Oklahomans’ tax dollars to give to wealthy families already affording private education. How is that the Oklahoma Standard. If you’re not for everybody, how can you be for anybody?
Old: “We deserve better than a governor who slings deals for a select few, picks fights for political gain and neglects his responsibility to lead.”
New: The governor and his policies do not reflect our values.
Old: “Although the governor failed to mention the global pandemic, Oklahoma has shouldered the highest COVID death rate in the nation. The 13,954 Oklahoma families who are grieving a loved one remain on my heart and in my prayers, and I offer sincere gratitude to the health care workers continuing to serve and sacrifice for our communities.”
New: “Finally, while Kevin Stitt has long been more concerned with his brand than stopping thousands of Oklahomans from dying of COVID at the nation’s highest rate, nor can he be moved to note the heroics of our state’s medical professionals left to traumatically triage the deadly humanitarian crisis left in his wake. To those professionals, I offer all of my gratitude. Your heroics are not lost on me, nor your fellow Oklahomans.”
Is that better?
How to communicate the disaster that’s become our governor that’s genuine and empathetic, rather than engaging in the tired rhetorical political fencing that sounds everything we’ve heard for years and years and years.
The governor is embarrassing. He really doesn’t care about all Oklahomans, just those helpful to his remaining in power. It is tiring.
We have to do better.
Folks got to be reached.