AJ Griffin served as a Republican senator from Guthrie, Oklahoma for six years. She joins KGOU’s Dick Pryor and eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley to discuss why she decided not to seek re-election and more. The three discuss bipartisanship at the state capitol, the unique contributions of women in office, and changing attitudes in Oklahoma around the role of government when it comes to social services.
Listen to the extended version of AJ Griffin’s conversation with Dick Pryor and Shawn Ashley below.
Dick Pryor: I'm Dick Prior with eCapitol News Director Shawn Ashley. Our guest is former state senator AJ Griffin, Republican from Guthrie who decided not to run for re-election after six years in the state Senate, and has resigned from the Senate to take a job with Paycom. Welcome.
AJ Griffin: Glad to be here. Thank you very much for having me.
Shawn Ashley: You've completed what was probably your last legislative session. Why did you decide not to run for re-election?
Griffin: I was just looking for the next challenge. This last session was extremely challenging, but I just felt it was time for me to go back and serve the state in a different way.
Pryor: You've spent six years in the Senate. Why have the members of the two major parties not worked better together?
Griffin: Well if you look at the vote count and that's been one of the major criticisms, but that generally comes from the votes on revenue raisers. If it were a simple majority vote, as it is in 48 other states, we would have to pass revenue in 2015 probably, when we first start working on the tobacco tax for health care expenditures. So that three quarters majority vote has made things more challenging. All in all, you know, the majority of the votes taken in the legislature are unanimous or very close to unanimous, and many many of them are not along party lines. But the really hard stuff is where people tend to dig in and that's on ideology. Those of us that tend to vote more of a problem solver style, such as myself, which can cause problems for you politically...but I think we've also seen at the voting booth a move towards electing more individuals that really do just want to solve problems, and the "R" and the "D" will become less important as opposed to your productivity when you're in the building.
Ashley: You were one of just a handful of women in the legislature. What impact do women have that is unique in the legislature? And should there be more in Oklahoma's?
Griffin: Women can be elected. The people of this state will support women at the ballot box--that has been proven over and over. We don't have as many women that run, but we need more women who can run, we need to encourage young women to put it on their radar, and women generally tend to have to be recruited. I know I was recruited, as was Senator Bice, Senator David, we were all recruited. And so one of the things I always tell women is yeah I'm recruiting you to run for office at some point at any. Any woman that can hear this, you have been asked to run for office. You now are officially recruited. Because we added a special dynamic to the process... I know that the bipartisanship among the women in both chambers is excellent, and we generally tend to just get a broader depth of conversation, because we are women. We use a lot of words. We talk a lot.
Pryor: Unlike many of your legislative colleagues you come from the nonprofit sector. Given your background and now your legislative experience what do you see as the role of government?
Pryor: The role of government is to help us manage where our lives butt up against each other. That and to build things and that's... We forget that we're also supposed to build things together. We need our infrastructure we need to build systems that serve us all, and we have neglected that role of government. I'm glad to see us finally make some investments.
Ashley: You mentioned systems that serve us all, but conservatives have often been criticized for some of the social services that serve many. What do you, as a conservative, see the role of social services in Oklahoma?
Griffin: Well and that it has been a problem, but we have seen recently a change in the way Oklahomans even conservative Oklahomans are seeing, you know, if the role of government is to manage where our interactions, things like crime that is created whenever someone doesn't have an appropriate economic opportunity and didn't have an appropriate education and that's the path that they chose, that is negative... That has a negative impact on all of us.
Ashley: Do you ever see yourself being back on the doorstep asking for people's vote again?
Griffin: I never say never. We'll see.
Pryor: State Senator A. Griffin, thanks for joining us on Capitol insider. Good luck in your next position.
Griffin: Thank you.
As a community-supported news organization, KGOU relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.