To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Observercast

A Real Governor’s Race?

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BY RICHARD L. FRICKER

RichardFricker-2Democratic gubernatorial nominee Joe Dorman has made it clear since issuing his education policy statement July 10 that he intends to meet Gov. Mary Fallin head-on rather than run a reactive race. Fallin, Dorman says, has lost the Republican and Independent voter middle ground. “What we see in the field,” he told The Observer, “is buyer’s remorse.”

Recent polling numbers show Fallin no longer has the pre-legislative popularity she enjoyed in the fall. The Rasmussen poll, released Friday, shows Fallin and Dorman with a five-point separation, 45-40. Only a few days earlier, a SoonerPoll placed Fallin at only slightly above 50% electability, a 19% drop from her fall numbers.

Dorman’s comments on education, transparency, minimum wage, unconstitutional legislation and most recently the Workers’ Compensation Court signal the Rush Springs Democrat intends to fight Fallin on her own doorstep. These attacks maybe gaining traction, Rasmussen says – Fallin has a 49-48% job approval rating among likely voters.

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State Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs

Saying his administration would dedicate every dollar of state Franchise Tax to classroom education, Dorman calls his “Classrooms First” approach a response to the policies of Fallin and outgoing Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi.

Dorman has had some success keeping Fallin and Barresi linked. Most recently, a press release suggested Fallin was considering appointing Barresi to be her cabinet secretary of education. Barresi will be out of a job at the end of her current, and only, term, having polled third in the GOP three-candidate primary.

It is difficult to see any Fallin advantage to a Barresi appointment except to placate the corporatists who see opportunities to monetize public education. Also, Barresi raised $2.5 million running for an office she just lost. Accurate or not, Dorman’s suggestion prompted a Fallin denial.

The Democrat claims Oklahomans have wearied of the Tea Party Legislature and unconstitutional bills signed by Fallin. These bills, he and other Democrats believe, have been little more than bread and circus for the Tea Party in order to avoid primary opponents.

Asked if he thought these bills were passed and signed knowing they were unconstitutional, he said, “Absolutely. They have spent millions on legislation they knew wouldn’t get past the courts.”

This view is shared by fellow House member Kay Floyd, D-OKC. Floyd, an attorney, has served in the Attorney General’s office, as an Administrative Law Judge for the Merit Protection Commission and Oklahoma City Municipal Court Judge.

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State Rep. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City

First elected to the House District 88 seat in 2012, Floyd has compiled a list of 26 bills that have been modified or overturned by the courts.

She said it would be difficult to determine the cost of this legislation to the taxpayers because, according to Attorney General Scott Pruitt, the state does not track work hour per lawsuit as a private firm would do in the course of business.

She, as an experienced litigator and judge, estimates the cost into the millions.

The Dorman campaign is also taking issue with recent legislation granting the oil and gas industry a tax break lowering the tax on new wells from 7% to 2% the first three years. Opponents of the measure supported by Fallin claim the state will lose approximately $250 million in revenue.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Constance Johnson told a Tulsa luncheon group the drilling in question is using old technology in areas of proven reserves. This legislation is being challenged in the courts by Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent. Dorman said he is confident the courts will hold the tax break unconstitutional.

Also at issue is that Fallin supported the ban on municipal initiative petitions to raise the minimum wage by popular vote. Dorman says Fallin’s resistance to such petitions flies in the face of her claims that she believes in local control.

Dorman is also challenging Fallin’s control over the Worker’s Compensation Court which recently dismissed 16 employees. The court, which is in the process of moving offices, has closed for business for the remainder of July and directed all press inquiries to Fallin’s office.

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Gov. Mary Fallin

Fallin may also have problems of her own making – specifically healthcare, particularly healthcare for young women. Her resistance to the Affordable Care Act and same sex marriage, while embraced by Tea Party and far right Republicans, appears to have lost previous favor with mainstream Republican and independent voters.

ACA has gained national ground over recent months, to the point that Republican opposition in other red states subsided as more people enrolled. Additionally, according to Oklahoma State University political science professor Brandon Lenoir, young Republican women are rejecting the religion-based message Fallin and the far right element of the GOP offered in response to the State of the Union earlier this year. Lenoir reported young Republican women rated the GOP message lower than young Democratic men.

Fallin may well suffer from reaction to the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision, allowing some corporations to opt out of supplying the birth control part of ACA. Fallin and her GOP are attempting to support the ruling as a “religious freedom” issue while the opposition has been framing it as a “corporation as a person” issue.

With the general election slightly over 100 days out, poll numbers can be pesky beasts. But with two polls – one local and one national – showing an incumbent conservative governor, who won election with 60% four years ago, neck and neck with a minority party opponent who has never run a statewide race, it conjures visions of Eric Cantor and the Tea Party bouncing along the horizon.

Richard L. Fricker lives in Tulsa, OK, and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. His latest book, The Last Day of the War, is available at https://www.createspace.com/3804081 or at www.richardfricker.comE-mail: richardfricker@okobserver.org

Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.