Already sporting a 270,000 registered voter lead over Democrats in Oklahoma at the beginning of 2020, the state GOP has seen a big surge in registrations heading into the November 3rd General Election. KGOU's Dick Pryor and Shawn Ashley discuss that and more from the GOP perspective with Oklahoma Republican Party Chair David McLain.
Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider. And as we head toward November 3rd, our focus shifts to coverage of politics and elections as part of Oklahoma Engaged. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol news director, Shawn Ashley. And with absentee voting already underway our guest is the chair of the Oklahoma Republican Party, David McLain. Thanks for joining us.
David McLain: Thanks for having me today, Dick.
Shawn Ashley: David, the Republican Party has seen a large surge in voter registrations this year, up over 115,000 since January. Have you been making a concerted push to register voters or is there something else happening out there?
David McLain: Well, we put together a comprehensive voter registration plan coming in late December 2019. And then right around January 15th we put the operation into full scale across the state. So, we worked very diligently on this comprehensive plan to ensure that while we're doing this we were COVID safe, you know, socially distancing and ensuring that we're set up as appropriate and things of that nature. So, we have worked very hard in conjunction with our district chairmen, our county chairmen and our activist grassroots. But also, I think, too, one thing that also has helped us in this comprehensive voter registration drive is the atmosphere that we're in right now politically.
Shawn Ashley: What are Republican candidates running on this year? That is, what do you see that this election is about in Oklahoma?
David McLain: You know, even at our grassroots level, races for their city council, local school boards, state, House, Senate, statewide and on the federal side, this is really about freedom. And that's been the big message. It’s about the Democrats purposing to shut things down, stall things out, stalling down the economy, and causing quite a bit of grief to the American people. So, this has been a strategic situation for a number of our candidates to give the other side of that.
Dick Pryor: For many years, Republicans have done a very good job of distilling their message to an easy to remember phrase or short list of items. It sounds like if it's about freedom this year, it's even shorter.
David McLain: It truly is. You know, with the media, not local media, but with national media and the intensity and the veracity that they've come after Republicans at the state and the local level, it has really swayed things.
Dick Pryor: The GOP has long prided itself on being a party of ideas. But this year, the national GOP did not even adopt a platform at the Republican National Convention. Why not?
David McLain: Well, because it was a situation with COVID. We had a split convention, as you know. And so that's why the decision was made. We wanted to ensure that all of our Republicans from around the country had a voice in that. And we felt with only the Central Committee going to the national convention that it was best and appropriate, the RNC felt that it was appropriate, that we put a hold on that until we can all gather in person to adopt those. We felt that that was the most responsible way.
Shawn Ashley: Obviously, the CD5 race is top of mind. And there's really been a lot of fear messaging coming from supporters of both candidates. Groups supporting Stephanie Bice, the Republican, have attacked Congresswoman Kendra Horn, the Democrat, by calling her a liberal and linking her to Speaker Pelosi. That's rather old playbook and can even come across as kind of sexist. Who do you think Republicans think that message will appeal to?
David McLain: Well, we know that that message will appeal to our suburban women, and that's the whole purpose of that message, just to appeal to the suburban women. You know, Kendra Horn broke her word first thing when she went in and donned a white suit and she voted for Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker of the House and then she turned and voted to impeach the president of the United States. So those are two things that really separate Congresswoman Kendra Horn from Stephanie Bice. Those are two things. So, there's many, many more. And I would like to push back for just a moment on the comments, sexist. These are two women. I didn't know women could be sexist to one another.
Dick Pryor: In Oklahoma, is it imperative for Republican candidates to back President Trump 100 percent or is there room for them to speak out about certain things that he does or says that they believe may turn off voters?
David McLain: You know, my grandfather used to tell me, David, if me and you agree upon everything, one of us wouldn't be necessary in the conversation. And I think as long as we are being respectful when we do not completely agree with the president, I think that's perfectly fine.
Shawn Ashley: What do you see as the key races, particularly in the legislative election?
David McLain: There's numerous races that I think that we should probably keep an eye on. Cheryl Baber's race up in Tulsa County is one to keep an eye on. She was the one who had the swastika drawn on her driveway. She's in a very tough race. I believe Senator Dave Rader in Tulsa County is in another tough race. So, I'll keep an eye on Cheryl Baber and Senator Rader's races. We have put a lot of boots on the ground in those races, and we are purposing to ensure that we that we flip the one seat, Cheryl Baber's seat, and we're purposed to ensure that Senator David Rader keeps his seat. In the Oklahoma City metropolitan area it's our county seats that we're really focusing on. David Hooten’s seat. Rick Warren’s seat. And our sheriff race is very, very important. Tommy Johnson, his race. So, we're keeping a very close eye on those who got boots on the ground and we're purposing to make a big impact in those county races.
Dick Pryor: There are also a lot of uncontested races this year.
David McLain: Yes, sir, there are. We have 126 races that we're in right now, and 71 of those races are uncontested. I believe what you have to take a look at is the 91,000 plus Republicans that we've registered in the state just since January to September 30th. And the atmosphere that we're in, in contrast to 2016, we had 21 uncontested races in 2016. In 2018, we had twenty uncontested races. And with the complete restructure of the state GOP this year, we have 71 uncontested races. So, there's been a humungous growth in the GOP this year.
Dick Pryor: While Republicans run strong in rural areas Democrats have been gaining in the state's urban areas. What is the GOP doing to attract voters in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City metros?
David McLain: I'm glad you asked that. We've started a veteran’s coalition across the state of Oklahoma and this really reaches into the bigger cities. We've started an education coalition to begin to reach into the neighborhoods and into the communities to help provide needs for teachers in classrooms and things of that nature. I always say don't preach the need until you meet the need, and so we're purposing to bring forth strong coalitions across the state of Oklahoma and begin to partnership with one another so that we can be an add value to the state of Oklahoma.
Dick Pryor: Oklahoma Republican Party chair David McLain, thanks for joining us.
David McLain: Dick, thank you for having me.
Dick Pryor: You bet. That's Capitol Insider. If you have questions, e-mail us at email@example.com or contact us on Twitter @kgounews and @ecapitol. You can also find us online at kgou.org and ecapitol.net. Until next time with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.