To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Friday, April 23, 2021

Observercast

Why This Exclusion?

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BY CONSTANCE N. JOHNSON

The Senate Rules Committee’s decision to ignore Gov. Mary Fallin’s nomination of Jim Roth to the State Election Board represents a failure in legislative leadership and representative democracy.

For Sen. Rob Johnson to question Mr. Roth’s capacity, as the State Election Board’s Democratic representative, to be objective of those seeking elective office shows Johnson’s own lack of objectivity regarding this outstanding public servant who is eminently qualified.

Roth, a former Oklahoma County Commissioner and Corporation Commission member, has served on the election board since October 2011, during which time he has presided over several special legislative elections, and the candidate registration for the 2012 elections.

To suggest that his service would be anything less than his already stellar work ethic is duplicitous, unfounded and insulting.

When asked why he was refusing to hear the nomination, Sen. Rob Johnson asserted that he didn’t have the votes to pass it. When asked to simply hold a hearing and entertain an up or down vote, Sen. Johnson’s refusal represented a failure of leadership; unless leadership is about protecting legislators instead of upholding the legislative process. When asked whether the nomination could be reassigned to a different committee, the answer again was no. When the Senate President Pro Tem was approached with a plausible plan to hear the nomination in another committee, that idea too was squashed.

Gov. Fallin’s party has taken unprecedented steps to treat this nominee differently than any other nominee has been treated in the history of the executive nomination process.

The legislative process is the foundation of representative democracy. As senators, we each represent approximately 77,000 constituents whose needs are best served when their elected representatives advocate their perspectives.

As a female, African American legislator whose participation in the process for the last two years has been thwarted at every turn, to now have to accept that this exclusionary practice also applies to my diverse constituency is extremely troubling to me.

It’s one thing to be refused a hearing for any of my legislative proposals during the last two years of Republican Party rule seemingly because of my gender and race, but quite another for the party to also disregard my constituents in the same manner.

Exclusion of those who represent our society’s diversity in our governmental systems is unacceptable.

The question “why this exclusion” begs an answer, as it affects our political well-being as a state going forward.

Constance N. Johnson, an Oklahoma City Democrat, represents District 48 in the Oklahoma Senate

Editor’s Note: The only plausible explanation for the Senate’s refusal to confirm the eminently qualified Roth is bigotry. Roth, who is gay, has an exemplary record of public service –  and often was supported for election by conservative Republicans. Even the Oklahoman’s oft-reactionary editorial page lambasted the Senate’s handling of the matter.

 

Arnold Hamilton
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.