In this episode of Capitol Insider, KGOU’s Dick Pryor and eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley discuss what Todd Lamb’s loss means for the remaining gubernatorial candidates.
With Republicans Mick Cornett and Kevin Stitt forced to pour resources into the Aug 28 runoff election, Democratic candidate Drew Edmondson’s prospects improve.
Pryor and Ashley also look at the rise in independent voter registration leading up to the June 26 primary and the possibility of a drastically different state legislature come November. And they discuss the Ethics Commission’s lawsuit against Gov. Mary Fallin and other elected officials.
Dick Pryor: Shawn, it was a big election day on Tuesday. The big story, at least on the gubernatorial side, was that Todd Lamb did not make it into the Republican primary runoff. It will be Kevin Stitt and Mick Cornett facing off for the Republican nomination.
Shawn Ashley: Lamb failed to get even twenty five percent of the vote, coming in at 23 and some change. When you look at those results, though, it's rather interesting. Cornett did extremely well and won the Oklahoma City area, Stitt did extremely well and won the Tulsa area, and then Lamb seemed to do extremely well and win many of the rural counties. It's those rural counties now that are up for play, and which one of the candidates, Cornett or Stitt, extends their reach beyond their base will ultimately determine who wins the GOP nomination.
Pryor: And Drew Edmondson won the Democratic nomination, an impressive showing over Connie Johnson the former state senator, and it looks like things are shaping up this year for a very competitive gubernatorial race come November.
Ashley: Certainly. First of all Kevin's Stitt and Mitt Cornett have to make it through the primary runoff, which is always difficult because they will spend a lot of money to win the nomination. That helps level the playing field, though, for Drew Edmondson.
Pryor: There was a surge in independent registration in the months leading up to the election, and polling done by Sooner Poll shows increasing numbers of Oklahomans don't trust either party to fix the state's problems.
Ashley: That's exactly right. And it's been an interesting trend to watch over a number of years. For a while Republican registrations were outpacing Democrats and independents. But what has happened in the last several years is that the new registrations have moved towards independents, where people are no longer expressing support for either party.
Pryor: And it appears this mood of the electorate could result in a much different looking legislature than this year.
Ashley: There's no doubt about that. Already we have seen five House Republicans and one Senate Republican go down in defeat in the primary election, so they won't be coming back. There are seven more House Republicans who face a primary runoff. Usually the fact that they're in a runoff indicates that their constituents are no longer finding favor for them and are less likely to elect them. So a portion of those will likely go away. But even if they survived the runoff, we have a tremendous number of races in the legislature this year. So it would not be surprising to see any even more new faces when we get past November.
Pryor: There's another story that has been somewhat hidden by the elections and that concerns the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. The Commission has filed a lawsuit against the governor and the legislature over funding for the agency. What is that all about?
Ashley: On one hand it's simply about money. The agency has appropriated only 710,000 dollars for the upcoming fiscal year. And in fact that some 710,000 dollars was pulled from one of the agency's own revolving funds and then appropriated to the agency.
Pryor: And we should not forget what is the mission of the Ethics Commission?
Ashley: The Ethics Commission oversees candidate campaigns, as well as ethical behavior among statewide elected... Among elected officials and state employees.
Pryor: The conflict between the legislature and the Oklahoma Ethics Commission has been brewing for a while.
Ashley: It has been. The chairman of the Ethics Commission earlier this year indicated that he was fearful the legislature would attempt to starve the agency because of some of the rules which it had been proposing. In particular there was a cooling off period proposal that would have prevented state legislators, for example, from becoming registered lobbyists for at least two years after leaving the legislature. The legislature ultimately rejected that rule, so it will not be taking effect. But at the same time it also robbed the commission's own revolving fund in order to fund the agency, essentially doing what the chairman of the commission warned he was afraid they would do.
Pryor: We'll be watching that very closely.
Ashley: It will be interesting to see because one of the provisions, one of the things the Ethics Commission is asking for is a special legislative session to provide adequate funding to the commission.
Pryor: Thanks, Shawn.
Ashley: You're very welcome.
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