The Republicans should have paid more attention to Gail Parker. Democrats should send her a dozen roses.
You see, Parker is a retired Air Force officer and grandmother of four who ran for the U.S. Senate in Virginia. She didn’t campaign against the war in Iraq or corruption in Congress, hot issues that decided many races across the country this year. She ran on a platform of expanding passenger rail service in Virginia and balancing the budget. She was born in Arkansas and grew up in eastern Oklahoma.
In October she was only pulling about 2 percent in polls, and had been shut out of debates with the two main candidates. So, two weeks ago she offered to withdraw from the race and support either Democrat Jim Webb or incumbent George Allen, depending on which one would commit to high-speed rail. Toward the close of the campaign, she sided with Webb as a catalyst for change.
Webb won the Virginia Senate seat by 7,217 votes out of 2.4 million — or one out of 328 votes cast. Parker picked up 26,102 votes, or 1 percent, and presumably a comparable number of her supporters heeded her call to vote for Webb.
Democrats needed the Virginia seat to gain 51 seats and clear control of the Senate. So it can be said Parker wrested the U.S. Senate from the Republicans and handed it to the Democrats on a silver platter.
Politics is a game of coalition building. Having a rigid single-issue idealogy is all well and good, but it alienates as many people as it attracts. Successful political campaigns cobble together people of different, but compatible interests, who can tolerate each other at least long enough to build a majority and win elections.
Nationally, the most remarkable news is the Democrats’ return to power in both the House and Senate. Democrats gained at least 29 seats in the House, twice the number needed to oust Dennis Hastert and his buddies. Not a single Democratic incumbent lost a re-election bid. In the Senate, Democrats have picked up five of the 33 seats on the ballot this year.
Mary Fallin now becomes a freshman Congresswoman in the minority party. That won’t give her much clout in the 110th Congress, probably as much as being lieutenant governor of Oklahoma. Had David Hunter been elected, he would have been part of the Democratic revolution of 2006, with plum committee opportunities. Instead, central Oklahoma will be at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to political power in Washington. That may not be noticeable because that’s about where we’ve stood for the past 14 years under Ernest Istook.
In Oklahoma, Republicans have been lusting after the state Senate since they took over control of the House two years ago. They’ve long seen the Senate as a frustrating barrier to right-wing measures originating in the House. By definition, makes the Senate more conservative.
Working to the Republicans’ advantage was the fact that all nine term-limited Senators this year were Democrats, and they only needed a net gain of three to win power. Thanks to the conversion of Tulsa Sen. Nancy Riley from Republican to Democrat during the summer, the Republicans were only able to eke out a 24-24 tie.
Ironically, the Republicans have no one but themselves to blame for failing to take control of the Oklahoma Senate. Fallin was a safe bet for re-election to the lieutenant governor’s office, which she’s had since 1994. Had she stayed in the post, she, and not the Democrats, would control the swing vote in the Senate.
But if you ever doubt whether your single vote matters, look at some of the races.
Wallace Collins defeated incumbent Republican Thad Balkman by 89 votes out of 10,629 cast. Democrat Eric Proctor defeated Mark Liotta by 217 votes. Jennifer Seal, who would have been an outstanding legislator, lost by 128 votes out of 12,692 cast. Dana Orwig came up 280 votes short, and incumbent Al Lindley survived by 86 votes. Six House seats were decided by a total of 802 votes.
Edmond resident David Prater unseated District Attorney Wes Lane by 824 out of 173,374 votes. If one out of every 210 voters in Oklahoma County had stayed home instead of voting for Prater, then Lane would have been re-elected.
But that’s not all. Lloyd Fields won the statewide labor commissioner race by 2,728 out of 910,018 votes. That’s about one vote per precinct, or one out of every 530 votes cast. It doesn’t get much closer than that.
Unless you consider the race for state representative in Ada. The seat was open because the incumbent, Democrat Bob Plunk, was term limited. Darrell Nemecek, the Democrat, defeated Republican Todd Thomsen 4,796 to 4,794.
Think about that, and Gail Parker, when the next elections roll around.
(Walter Jenny Jr., an Edmond resident, is secretary of the Oklahoma Democratic Party and chairman of the Edmond Democrats.)
The Republicans should have paid more attention to Gail Parker. Democrats should send her a dozen roses.
Seeing yourself as the world sees you
Ever try seeing yourself as others see you, or your piece of the world as others see your piece of the world?
You know, if you could get others to see you, or if you could get other parts of the world to see your part of it?
Narcissism and inferiority, both, can trap us in front of a mirror, admiring or lamenting, pleased or not pleased by the vision we presumably offer others.
Yet, what’s happened over the last three days, since yet another deadly tornado rolled through Moore, offers an entirely different perspective.
Through strength or weakness, we may take an interest in how we project. But when the “Today Show” is broadcast from the rubble and the network evening news has placed its anchor amidst the carnage; and when the news channels descend upon the destruction and every newspaper in the country is playing your and your neighbors’ plight bigger than its own hometown news, it turns surreal.
ROCK DOC: Japanese find a new source of natural gas
The name “natural gas” might be a puzzle. After all, how could there be such a thing as unnatural gas? The reason we call natural gas what we do has to do with history. There was a day that people made burnable gas by heating coal. The gases that came off the coal were piped around cities where they did things like light street lamps and even power cook stoves in homes.
Coal gas had its down side. For one thing, it often contained carbon monoxide. And it took energy to make the gas, so it never could be truly cheap.
Witnesses missing; Behenna case could be heard at Supreme Court
The film “Breaker Morant” was nominated for an Oscar for the best screenplay in 1980. It told the story of Harry “Breaker” Morant, an Australian who served in the British Army and was court-martialed for alleged war crimes during the Boer War in Southern Africa in the early years of the last century.
That conflict pitted the British Army against the descendants of the Dutch settlers who had migrated to what is now South Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries. The majority of them were farmers and in their language of Afrikaans were known as “Boers.”
Don’t leave Oklahoma!
May is graduation season. As I have done every year as lieutenant governor, I have given multiple commencement speeches. Advice flows freely during this time and it usually runs the gamut. What to do, what not to do, how to do ‘x’, be sure not to do ‘y.’ Too often commencement speakers speak in big generalities. So general, the message is frequently lost or forgotten.
Last-minute funding proposals not in state’s best interest
All indications point to this being the last week of this year’s legislative session. The Legislature will go home a week early. This is good news for Oklahomans as not only will there be cost savings but all Oklahomans should breathe a sigh of relief when the Legislature stops making new laws a week ahead of schedule.
As usual, the Legislature will take a number of important votes during the last week. Some will be forced due to attempts to introduce and pass far-reaching, new policies that should have been introduced much earlier in the year.
BY THE NUMBERS: Oklahoma still needs to invest in its economy
After six months of stagnation, the Oklahoma economy finally appears to be expanding again albeit still weakly. Unfortunately, our leaders aren’t making the investments we need to give our economic prospects a boost.
Last week the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services reported that in April state General Revenue fund collections were 5.2 percent above the estimate and 14.7 percent higher than last year’s collections. Under normal circumstances, such a report would indicate that the Oklahoma economy was very strong. But this isn’t a normal circumstance, and April isn’t a normal month.
Americans deserve the truth on Benghazi
Lately, the media has been consumed by the controversies surrounding the White House. Among these controversies is the horrific terrorist attack on the United States’ diplomatic compound in Benghazi that took place Sept. 11, 2012. As more people come forward with additional information regarding the attack on the consulate, many Americans, including myself, are still asking for the truth.
The Obama Administration and the State Department have been less than forthcoming with key information on Benghazi and recent information points toward a major cover-up.
Seizure of AP phone records insult to independent press
Distrust of government secrecy has been elevated to an exceptional level with the disclosure the Justice Department covertly examined two months of Associated Press phone records to determine who leaked details to the AP about a foiled terrorist plot.
HEY HINK: Some people just are not cut out for command
Recent headlines cause me to remember an incident that occurred on an army base some years ago. Warning here: I’m taking some liberties with names and details, but the basic outline of events is accurate.
A certain company commander, let’s call him Captain Duntz, had command of a motor pool on a large army base in the continental U.S.
We’ve become our own worst enemies
The past couple months have been marked by a seeming unprecedented number of man-made tragedies, as distinct from those caused by violent outbursts of the natural world, such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis.
You don’t want to dwell too long on the negative, but we do have to take notice of horrific human events and we owe it to ourselves to respond to them in some way. We don’t always agree on those responses, however, and that usually exacerbates the problem.
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