It is appropriate that Stephens County Republicans are hosting a fish fry in conjunction with their May 19 gubernatorial forum. Greed’s Own Party adheres religiously to Matsya-nyaya, the Law of the Fishes – The big fish eat the little fish. This annual gathering is allegedly second only to state conventions for its concentration of Oklahoma Republicans. A big deal with the primary just over a month away.
In the spirit of bi-partisanship, I offer some bait which local GOPers can dangle before the candidates roaming the fairgrounds with their hands out – and for others who might encounter these guys in the next few weeks. A similar forum for all candidates at Duncan’s Simmons Center last month drew a small crowd. But, there were no fish to be had – and that forum was free. Paying to play is the GOP way. Just ask Michael Cohen.
Education – and the funding thereof – has dominated state politics this year. All GOP candidates claim to support education. Most balk when it comes to funding schools. When Gov. Mary Fallin signed the hard-wrought budget bill this spring, Gary Richardson, Kevin Stitt and Todd Lamb all said they would have vetoed it. Richardson supports the petition that Tom Coburn is pushing to abolish the tax increases included in that bill. Stitt said that he would not vote for Dr. No’s proposal, according to Chris Casteel of The Oklahoman.
After waffling to make the Elder Bush proud, OKC Mayor Mick Cornet finally said that he was glad that Fallin signed the funding measure.
State Auditor Gary Jones favored the funding bill since it mirrored his own proposals from several months earlier. You would have thought – in vain – that other candidates vying to lead this state would have floated plans of their own, would have had an idea or three on the subject.
Lamb, an oil industry darling, told The Oklahoman last week that he was going to be touting his experience during the campaign. This is the same lieutenant governor who quit as small business advocate in Fallin’s cabinet last winter and then became the invisible man during subsequent budget negotiations. His experience seems heavy on dodging responsibility.
And, of course, he’s the family values Republican who recruited the Adulterer-in Chief’s adulterous son and would-be Russian colluder for fund-raising.
At the Duncan forum and throughout the campaign, most GOP candidates rail against the government they want to lead and claim – with no evidence – that a good hard look at state agencies will provide the spending cuts to fund other areas of government. Jones unsportingly points out that his office has been doing those audits.
They also preach “economic diversity” while fighting to protect the oil industry – and with not one concrete suggestion as to how to achieve such diversity in a state where their reluctance to fund education handicaps the work force.
At the Duncan forum, Cornet advocated tax policies to encourage investment, the oft-failed trickle-down economics that Republicans use to bamboozle taxpayers. Capital gains exemptions have cost the state $460 million in lost tax money over the past five years while generating $9 million in investments. These guys promising business-style management would never stand for such abysmal returns in the real world. Nor would anyone employing them.
Cornet’s stance is disingenuous at best considering that his claim to fame is as mayor of Oklahoma City. He wants credit for 100,000 new jobs in the OKC metro while ignoring the fact that Cap City voters decided to spruce up their town more than 25 years ago and did so by spending about $2 billion in special sales taxes. Cornet inherited the already-successful MAPS campaign when he took office. Nothing trickling down here.
Richardson – “dismantle the toll gates” – has been criticized for exploiting the death of Bob Barry, Jr., to assure God’s Own People that he hates the right strangers. When the grieving Barry family complained, he pulled his ads from OKC, but they continue to run statewide.
He’s not the only candidate embracing Trumpista bigotry – even though more than 70 percent of state and county voters rejected Trump in the 2016 primary. Maybe some brave fish-eaters or others can challenge this institutional cowardice.
Mighty quiet. Republican values seem to apply only to non-Republicans.
In January, The Oklahoman assessed Stitt’s campaign with “Is Oklahoma ready to elect a wealthy outsider to high office?” He was in the top three – with Lamb and Cornet – in a recent Oklahoman poll. Someone has conveniently provided a shadykevin.com website to document legal troubles connected to Stitt’s Gateway Mortgage company. There is a lot of material for questions there – including wondering who might be behind it.
And questions should be the side order of the day at the fish fry and any other forums. We can hope that our Republican pals will not fall for empty rhetoric hook, line and sinker; that they will demand plans, not platitudes.
Matsya-nyaya – and the sharks are on their way.
(Gary Edmondson is Stephens County Democratic Party Chair.)