By Cal Hobson
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Let me make something very clear at the very beginning: I served with then-state-representative and now-Gov. Mary Fallin for a number of years when we both were in the legislature. I liked her then and like her personally today. She was and is a pleasant, dedicated career politician and a very successful campaigner.
She was a moderate Republican legislator who seemed to vote policy first, politics second. However, apparently her political leanings have changed dramatically. To put it bluntly, she has been an awful chief executive of our state.
Clearly, based on her policies and initiatives, Fallin’s top objective during her first term as governor has been to make sure no Republican challenger would be able to attack her for not being conservative enough. And she really worked at it.
How otherwise to explain the deepest cuts found in the nation in funding for public schools (22.8 percent cut in a system where 95 percent of our kids are enrolled); a huge drop in the state’s share of financial support for higher education plummeting from 30 percent six years ago, now moving toward 11 percent in 2014; and endless and, thankfully, so far, futile efforts to cut our state’s already very modest tax base. We were seventh lowest nationally in 2012.
Her personal income tax reductions are ill-conceived and unnecessary in an already very friendly environment to do business. Additionally, the governor’s 2013 tax hoax, just struck down unanimously by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, with the opinion written by a Republican appointee, would have rewarded a family of four with an annual income of $40,000, a whopping tax cut of 35 cents a day in 2016.
Besides ignoring our aforementioned educators, Fallin stiffed public employees by ordering a “study” of their salaries, a classic dodge, while she gave generous pay raises to her own staff.
The arrogance toward state workers in general and corrections workers in particular was recently highlighted in a Page 1 article found in the Dec. 22 edition of The Oklahoman. It quoted Fallin’s general counsel, a not-so-enlightened corrections expert named Steve Mullins, as saying, “The governor is not concerned about the situation in the prisons” and “generally, you’re going to find that almost all law enforcement, if you look at it, work double shifts. Double shifts themselves do not implicate safety concerns."
They do when only 60 percent of security posts are staffed and employees must face daily hundreds of dangerous felons. And all this wisdom from lawyer Mullins, who probably has never seen a prison cell from the inside, except on TV.
Unfortunately, our governor’s most irresponsible decision was to reject billions of your federal tax dollars that were otherwise earmarked for health care in Oklahoma, for Oklahomans. And, brother, does Oklahoma need some health and mental health services. You don’t have to believe me. Just try to get care, except in an emergency room when you or your child are the sickest ... if you don’t have insurance.
Our frugal governor, as well as members of her family, have gold-plated, taxpayer-funded health insurance. She is worried about the national debt, a valid concern. The problem is our health care money, your tax dollars, won’t reduce the national debt a penny. It simply goes back into a formula and is redistributed to the other states for health services. The “C” word for that isn’t “conservative.” It’s “crazy.”
Therefore, even a casual observer of Fallin’s record would presume she is safely ensconced from any meaningful attack by this century’s version of the 19th century’s short-lived party, aptly named the Know-Nothings. A product of New York City in the 1850s, its members answered any question with the answer “I know nothing.”
Today’s replica is the self-identified Tea Party, which fits perfectly British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s definition of a fanatic.
Churchill wrote, “a demagogue is one who won’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” That’s why the Tea Party dominated House Republicans in Washington have voted 43 times to abolish Obamacare, knowing full well the Senate will never take it up, and if it did, President Obama would veto it.
So just who is the kamikaze, Tea Party hero strapping into his motorless bi-plane to take on our popular and well-financed incumbent? Why, it’s that liberty-loving, anti-government patriot named Randy Brogdon. Yes, that Randy Brogdon.
He attracted 39 percent of the vote in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial race. Immediately after that drubbing, the former Owasso city council member, mayor and two-term state senator was hired into a high-paying executive position by Insurance Commissioner John Doak, R-Tulsa.
Doak and Brogdon are both well known and frequent disparagers of big government. Perhaps the former senator had private sector insurance experience? Nope. He’s a heat and air guy.
The real answer? He needed, and got, a plum government job that, after only three years, has enhanced his state retirement by 60 percent. These three short years, when combined with his eight in the Senate, reward him with a monthly check of more than $1,600.
Most state workers put in between 25 to 30 years to earn a similar amount. But, hey, who cares? Based on my review of many right-wing publications and blogs in Oklahoma, certainly not the Tea Party pilgrims who, as much as they try, should not to be confused with the original pilgrims, a brave and hardy lot not known for coveting generous retirement benefits.
Such alleged anti-government true believers (unless their corporate tax credit or incentive is up for abolition) have flooded the Internet world with encouraging words for Oklahoma’s self designated “most conservative senator ever.” Their posts often end with “Run, Randy, Run.” I agree that he should run and hide his face in shame for such hypocrisy.
In closing, and before some of my conservative friends, such as frequent Transcript letter writer Bill Logan, put quill pen to parchment paper and point out that yours truly was in the legislature too long, draws a state retirement check, is identified as a big spender and, most damning of all — hide your children and avert your eyes — is a liberal. Gasp. I’ve been outed.
Back in the not so distant past area, Democrats such as Lee Cate, Carolyn Thompson, Nancy Virtue, Vickie White Rankin, Wallace Collins, all from Norman, Gary York of Blanchard and John Lassiter, representing Moore, joined occasionally by Republicans Jonathan Nichols, Doug Miller and now District Judge Thad Balkman of Norman, would put our political differences aside while enhancing, over multiple years, our state’s true core services: public education, health care, public safety and infrastructure.
Together, we not only improved these critically important government services but also the physical landscape of Norman. Just look around your city. It was no accident, nor just luck of the draw that the National Weather Center, Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, Fred Jones Art Museum, a sparkling new Cleveland County Health facility, a new J D McCarty Center for children with cerebral palsy, the superb new veterans’ home and many, many other capital investments are here in Norman, serving their constituents: the public.
It wasn’t just the legislative delegation that got these things done, but it damn sure didn’t hurt. Most of us also realized it was not our governmental responsibility to intrude with a blizzard of new laws and regulations into the privacy of your home.
Now, I ask you, who is really for big “gubmint” and who is really just pulling your leg while jerking on your billfold?
Go, Randy, go. I hope you dispatch the not-conservative-enough Fallin, and then even a Democrat named Daffy Duck will move into the mansion or, more comfortably the OU Duck Pond. There, he frequently will be joined by America’s First Family, the Robertsons of Louisiana and stars of our family’s favorite show “Duck Dynasty.” Quack quack.
Don’t laugh. Anything’s possible with Republican Tea Partiers calling the shots.
Fortunately for the sanity of our country, several of their 2012 nominees for the U.S. Senate cost them control of that most deliberative of all bodies, and perhaps even the White House. So don’t blame the Democrats for the fact that your public enemy No. 1 still is president. To find the real culprit, just look in the mirror and, by the way, thank you. Let’s do it again. Go, Randy, go.
P.S. Randy, hot check in snail mail for your campaign. Very snail and very small.
Former state legislator Cal
Hobson can be reached at
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