November 22, 2010

In Oklahoma, the Tide Has Turned

[This Marlin Oil advertorial appears in this week's edition of The City Sentinel.]

In 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected president of the United States, he easily carried Oklahoma even though Republicans held just one statewide office.

In the year of Reagan, Oklahoma state Auditor and Inspector Tom Daxon was doing a good job after having defeated a scandal-plagued Democratic incumbent in 1978, and the young conservative was aiming to take on incumbent Governor George Nigh, a seasoned veteran Democrat.

In 1982, Democrats won every statewide race in Oklahoma. Nigh, who had governed carefully, became the first man in state history reelected to the governor's office. He simply overwhelmed Daxon, who indeed was the Republican party's nominee for governor.

The GOP nominee for lieutenant governor that year was Norman Lamb, a former Senate minority leader. He was overwhelmed in the Democratic tide, losing to incumbent "light gov" Spencer Bernard. Democrats, of course, had overwhelming control in both Houses of the Legislature.

That was then, this is now. Republicans won every statewide race in the historic 2010 elections. Norman's son, Todd Lamb, was just elected the first male Republican lieutenant governor in Oklahoma history, and it wasn't even close as he crushed Sen. Ken Corn of Poteau.

The party of Lincoln controls both houses of the Legislature, where new and returning members took their oaths last week. Oklahoma is among the most Republican American states, one of 20 with a GOP "trifecta" through control of the Legislature and the executive branch.

Tom Daxon? Well, he's writing provocative essays for the conservative Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, and still having a positive effect.

In Oklahoma's complicated and overly populist governing structure, it takes a governor four to six years to gain control of many agencies, particularly those with governing commissions. Incoming Governor Mary Fallin won't get her way all the time. Then there's the judiciary, where Governor Brad Henry has had a major impact through his appointments.

There stands in place 103 years of precedent, procedure, and policies fashioned largely by the party of Jefferson. Real change takes time, and Republicans are not out to undo everything that came before.

Still, the tide has turned.

Republicans must now prove themselves worthy governing stewards of a state where voters are ready to go to the next level.

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