BY DAVID PERRYMAN
Martin Handford is a British illustrator whose trademark is hiding a character in very busy, large drawings depicting dozens and dozens of people doing interesting things at specific locations. In England, the character, Wally, is a spectacled young man with a shock of brown hair under his red striped toboggan hat that matches his famous red striped shirt.
In the U.S. and Canada, the hidden figure is named Waldo, thus Where’s Waldo? The novelty of finding Waldo is nearly irresistible and when found, Waldo is normally doing the most mundane thing like walking across a pasture or a road when everyone else around him is engaged in pursuits of varying vocations and pastimes. Waldo appears mostly to be a man of leisure in a very busy world.
Perhaps Waldo is not much different than the persons who, from time to time, hold the office of Oklahoma lieutenant governor. The similarities are striking. Very seldom does anyone know where the lieutenant governor is and even fewer know what he or she does.
The current lieutenant governor was nowhere to be found after he withdrew himself from Gov. Mary Fallin’s cabinet in an attempt to distance himself from her policies as he polished himself for his own run for the governor’s office.
On Aug. 28, Oklahoma Republicans will choose between two candidates who are running for the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor. Apparently because the lieutenant governor has no policy responsibilities, the hottest campaign issue in this primary runoff, according to a recent article in the Tulsa World, is whether the next lieutenant governor should be a salesman for the state or a troubleshooter.
Either way, at an annual salary of $114,713, plus benefits, including a sleek black suburban, 24-hour driver and security detachment of OHP officers, it is pretty well regarded that the office of lieutenant governor is really just a stepping stone for ambitious politicians to reach the Governor’s Mansion.
There is not a single position in state government that has such lucrative compensation with so little accountability. Cornfield wisdom might equate the importance of an Oklahoma lieutenant governor to mammary glands on a boar hog or a screen door on a submarine.
Gov. Fallin announced last week that she was putting SQ 798 on the November ballot to require gubernatorial candidates to choose a lieutenant governor candidate as a running mate to run together on the same ticket. Oklahoma celebrated its centennial over a decade ago and in the past 111 years, the fact that the governor and the lieutenant governor run separately has not contributed to the condition our state is in.
In fact on the national level, until the 12thAmendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted in 1804, the vice-president was simply the “runner-up” for the presidency.
Perhaps a better question to pose to the people of Oklahoma would be to eliminate the position of lieutenant governor altogether. Five states, Oregon, Arizona, Wyoming, New Hampshire and Maine get along without a lieutenant governor just fine. For those who are concerned about what happens in the event of a vacancy in the office of governor, the Secretary of State succeeds in some and the President of the Senate in others.
In Tennessee and West Virginia, voters avoid an election and a salary by just naming the person who is the President of the Senate as the lieutenant governor.
Speaking of salaries, Oklahoma’s “Governor Light” ranks approximately 14th, right up there with states like California, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Ohio, Illinois and New Jersey.
If SQ 798 passes in November 2018 may be the last time that Oklahomans select a lieutenant governor as a stand-alone office. Good or bad? You be the judge. Hopefully the result will make it easier to find the lieutenant governor than to find Waldo.
– Chickasha’s David Perryman serves District 56 in the Oklahoma House and is House Democratic Floor Leader