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The Sheet

The Blog for Oklahoma Forum

Oklahoma's weekly, statewide discussion program, Oklahoma Forum, provides civil, meaningful discussion of news and issues that impact citizens statewide. Hosted by Emmy Award-winning journalist Dick Pryor and produced by Emmy Award-winner Mickie Smith, Oklahoma Forum is more than sound bites and spin. It is purpose-driven television - seeking answers, providing insight – about life in Oklahoma and its people.

Oklahoma Primary Election

Written by Dick Pryor on Saturday July 31, 2010

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Scattershooting along the campaign trail...

On this week's program we wrap up the July 27th Oklahoma Primary Election with political analysts Neva Hill, Keith Gaddie and Sheryl Lovelady.  Our focus is the stunning victory scored by Jari Askins over Drew Edmondson in the Democratic gubernatorial primary and Mary Fallin's win over surprisingly popular Randy Brogdon, which sets up an all-female battle for governor in November.  The duel between Fallin and Askins is only the fourth gubernatorial race in U.S. history pitting two women against each other (the others were in Hawaii, Nebraska and this year in New Mexico).  

Lt. Governor Askins was as much as 16 points down in the final poll conducted just a few days before the election, but a superior GOTV (get out the vote) effort and an overall strong close pushed her over the top by 1,493 votes (out of 2,244 precincts) in unofficial results.  Neva Hill told us how Askins did it.  Mary Fallin got just under 55% in a four-way race for the Republican nomination.  No surprise that Congresswoman Fallin won.  What WAS surprising was the strong showing by Owasso State Senator Randy Brogdon.  The Tea Party favorite picked up almost 100,000 votes and finished with 39.42%. 

Now, it will be fascinating to watch how Fallin and Askins approach the fall campaign.  Sheryl Lovelady, Director of the Women's Leadership Initiative for the Carl Albert Center at the University of Oklahoma, is going to be a very popular interview in the weeks ahead, and she told us what to expect when these two savvy politicians square off in an women-only duel. 

We also discussed the nomination of Jim Rogers as the Democratic Party's candidate for U.S. Senate and the general election matchup between Rogers and Oklahoma's junior senator, Tom Coburn.  The reclusive Rogers is 75 years old, lives in Midwest City, and goes public, it seems, every couple of years when he places his name on a ballot.  He got 76,981 votes in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary that was won by Andrew Rice in 2008.  That was 40% of the vote, and Rogers did it with a minimalist campaign:  a sign.  You can occasionally see him at events or along the roadside, sporting his Jim Rogers for whatever sign, and his red cap.  But of all the candidates in the history of the state he gets more votes for the buck than anyone else.  Of course, the Rogers name helps.  Plus, Rogers also ran for Lt. Governor in 2006, U.S. Senate in 2004 and 2002, so people are used to see that familiar name on a ballot.

Coburn was an easy winner over Evelyn Rogers of Tulsa and Lewis Spring of Hugo in the Republican race.  Coburn - who says this will be his final race for the U.S. Senate since he will only serve two terms -  received more than 90% of the vote.  He, of course, is the prohibitive favorite come November for many reasons (including the fact that through July 7 he had $2,396,443 in his campaign war chest).  But, it's interesting to note that 247,865 Republicans voted in the primary, a solid turnout rate of 30% that was higher than usual for a primary because of the large number of interesting Republican races.  A total of 241,635 Democrats voted in their primary, in which 26% of registered Democrats went to the polls.  Democrats are considered to be less enthused about the elections this year than Republicans, but consider if they had turned out at 30% they would have sent about 280,000 to the polls on Tuesday.  Now, nobody is saying that Jim Rogers will beat Tom Coburn (there are more than 2,396,443 reasons he won't) but depending on turnout that race might be more interesting than you would think at first, second and third blush.  Not to mention that it may get national media attention.

The other key contest we discussed was the race for 5th District Congress, the seat being vacated by Mary Fallin.  Billy Coyle won the Democratic nomination with more than 56% of the vote over Tom Guild, and he may be positioned to launch a strong general election campaign.  The big story, though, was the Republican primary, where relative unknown James Lankford edged out former state representative and 2006 5th District congressional candidate Kevin Calvey by 612 votes.  Since neither candidate got 50% in the 7-person field, they will meet in the August 24th runoff.  Often, the candidate that finishes second wins the runoff, but Keith Gaddie warns that might not hold true this year.  Lankford seems heading to the top with a bullet, and despite Calvey's greater name recognition (he received 10% of the vote in the 2006 Republican primary in this race), the former Director of the Falls Creek Youth Camp has parlayed a strong social media presence and an outsider's image (which plays well in an anti-incumbent election) into a campaign force to be reckoned with.  Full disclosure - Neva Hill is one of his advisors, and she told us how he was able to come out of obscurity to get more than 33% of the Republican vote.

Tying up some other election loose ends:  Drew Edmondson says he does not plan to run for another office, but will opt for retirement, instead.  He says he may even get in a little golf after his term as Attorney General expires in January...We didn't have a chance to talk much about the third and fourth place finishers in the Republican gubernatorial primary, Roger Jackson and Robert Hubbard.  We got to know them a little at various candidate forums, and although he got only 2.53% of the vote (finishing 4th out of 4) Jackson had one of the more interesting campaign pledges this year:  to legalize marijuana...Former Secret Service Agent Todd Lamb will face Democrat Kenneth Corn in the Lt. Governor's race (Independent Richard Prawdzienski is also on the November ballot).  This battle of two State Senators (Lamb, of Edmond, is the Republican's Majority Floor Leader in the Senate; Corn, from Poteau, is the chair of the Democratic Senate Caucus) will be a classic Democratic-Republican matchup...State Representative John Wright of Broken Arrow finished second in the Republican Lt. Governor primary, with Paul Nosak of Tulsa third and Bill Crozier of Hinton fourth.  We didn't have much of a chance to talk about Nosak or Crozier on election night, but both are interesting stories.  Nosak is a tree surgeon and reality TV show producer from Tulsa, while Crozier is a former U.S. Senate candidate (he received the Republican nomination in 1984 and lost the general election to David Boren).  Undoubtedly, Crozier is one of Oklahoma's more colorful pols.  He made national news in 2006 when he ran for State Superintendent of Public Instruction against incumbent Democrat Sandy Garrett.  Crozier appeared at parades campaigning in a Superman suit and caused quite a stir with his principal campaign plank:  teaching children how to use textbooks to defend themselves from gunfire.  You Tube video of Crozier demonstrating which textbooks worked better against different caliber ammunition went viral and made him a bit of an Internet celebrity (but not State Superintendent).

Oklahoma politics is always fascinating, and there will be many more stories to tell as we head toward November.  We'll be following all of the statewide races on Oklahoma Forum and bringing you meaningful interviews with the candidates as they talk about the issues that are important to the voters of Oklahoma.  Keep watching throughout the rest of the summer and fall, and be sure to mark your calendar for the evening of November 2, when we pull out all the stops for our Oklahoma Votes 2010 coverage of the general election.  Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Dick Pryor

(Pictured below:  In a not-so-serious moment, Sheryl Lovelady and Neva Hill "press the flesh" with Keith Gaddie on the set of Oklahoma Forum following our taping. Hey folks, this election stuff really can be fun!)

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Review of the U.S. Supreme Court term

Written by Dick Pryor on Sunday July 25, 2010

1993-592-3By most accounts, the recently-completed U.S. Supreme Court term was one of the most interesting in recent memory.  It concluded with the final day on the bench of Justice John Paul Stevens, after 35 years on the high court.  Stevens was an appointee of President Gerald Ford, but he was far from conservative.  In fact, long before he retired his black robe, Stevens had become known as one of the most "liberal" members of the court.  Perhaps he had changed, as many justices do, or perhaps the court just became more conservative over the past three and a half decades.  Regardless, the erudite, bow tie-wearing justice could always could be counted on for reasoned legal rationale, and some biting dissents.

One of Stevens' longest and most critical dissents was in the ground-breaking decision of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.  That opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, allowed corporations (foreign and domestic) and unions to contribute to American political campaigns from their general treasury accounts.  I won't go into the details here, but the decision and Justice Stevens lengthy dissent, can be found on the U.S. Supreme Court web site.  Citizens United was probably the most-talked about case of the term, and was followed late in the session by McDonald v. City of Chicago, a decision that struck down the city of Chicago's ban on the sale of handguns.  McDonald was a critical Second Amendment case, and coming just two years after the Court's ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller (striking down the Washington, D.C. gun ban), it gave additional definition to the extent of gun rights.  However, while McDonald established a new fundamental right to self-defense, it left unanswered many questions about the degree to which state and local governments can regulate gun sales and use. 

Our guests, University of Tulsa law professor Tamara Piety and Oklahoma City University Associate Professor Michael O'Shea have done extensive research on those cases, respectively, and were able to parse through the language of the decisions to give us their best guess as to what the cases stand for and will truly mean to American citizens.  It is interesting to note that the McDonald decision, in particular, while expanding the "rights" of each American in the area of gun ownership, may also serve to limit the power of states.  Michael O'Shea told me that the Roberts court does not seem especially interested in federalism issues, so the settled law that the laws of the federal government trump the laws of the states (the "Supremacy Clause" found in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution) may not be challenged in the foreseeable future.  Regardless of how people feel about the reach of the Commerce Clause, O'Shea indicated this area does not appear to be one in which the Supreme Court will become active.  Certainly not as active as the O'Shea and Piety believe they were in Citizens United and McDonald. 

For more information about the U.S. Supreme Court I recommend the SCOTUS BLOG.  It's good source for information and thoughtful discussion of thorny legal issues confronting the court.  Like most of our programs, this one was one that just enabled us to scratch the surface of the Big Topic.  There was so much more I would have like to have addressed, including cases construing Miranda v. Arizona, recent FCC rulings, and an important free speech case, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project.  But, we can do just so much in 24 minutes.  Expect us to revisit the U.S. Supreme Court again in a few months.  The decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court affect each of us, and we think it is important to hear what Oklahoma legal experts think about the evolving law of the land.  Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Dick Pryor 

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The Controversy over water rights at Sardis Lake

Written by Dick Pryor on Sunday July 18, 2010

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After more than three decades of wrangling, the dispute over rights to the water at Sardis Lake in southeastern Oklahoma is getting hot. The city of Oklahoma City has agreed to pay $27 million to acquire the rights by paying off the debt owed by the state of Oklahoma to the Army Corps of Engineers who built the lake in the early 1970's.  That deal could bring 90% of the lake's water to central Oklahoma for use by residents of Oklahoma City and surrounding communities. 

However, people in southeastern Oklahoma oppose the deal and are seeking a resolution of the matter in court.   Among those opposing the agreement presented to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board last month are the group Oklahomans for Responsible Water Policy, state legislators from the area, and the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes.  In fact, the tribes offered to pay the $5.2 million installment payment that was due by July 1 of this year, but that offer was rejected, and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board signed a contract to sell the storage rights at Sardis Lake to the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust. 

It's just a matter of time before the move will be challenged in court.  The tribes want the state to complete a comprehensive water use study (that would be available in about a year) before making any decisions or entering into contracts affecting the water at Sardis Lake.  Residents in southeastern Oklahoma are concerned that the lake, located in Pushmataha County, will no longer be available to supply water, recreation and economic development to a region that is already one of the poorest in the state, and the nation.  For its part, the city of Oklahoma City has been pushing for many years to acquire the Sardis Lake water to serve the growing metropolitan area.

In addition to concern over the acquisition of Sardis Lake water by Oklahoma City, people in southeastern Oklahoma are concerned about efforts by the Tarrant County (Texas) Water District to tap into Oklahoma's water supply to serve the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex.  Shortly after the taping of the program, Federal Judge Joe Heaton dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Tarrant County Water District to acquire Oklahoma water.  Judge Heaton's ruling is expected to lead to the case being sent to the 10th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Denver for further litigation.

Today's program focuses primarily on Sardis Lake, but the implications of the outcome of this controversy are huge for the rest of the state.  Former Oklahoma governor David Walters has referred to water as "the new oil" and it's hard to argue with that characterization.  Dating back to the 1950's, none other than Oklahoma U.S. Senator Robert S. Kerr saw water as a potential windfall for the state, if properly developed.  Sen. Kerr also saw water policy as essential for flood control and environmental protection.

I hope you enjoy this program - featuring three reporters who have been following water issues in Oklahoma for many years.  It's the kind of discussion that you won't find anywhere else except on Oklahoma Forum.  Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Dick Pryor

(Pictured above, left to right:  Host Dick Pryor, Scott Carter, Carol Cole-Frowe, Pennie Embry)   

 

 

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What makes a good governor?

Written by Dick Pryor on Friday July 9, 2010

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Who is Oklahoma's best governor?  That's a question posed by Oklahoma Gazette staff writer Scott Cooper last year, as he gathered a group of political and historical experts to discuss and evaluate Oklahoma's 24 chief executives for a Gazette cover story published on November 25, 2009.

It's an interesting question, and the results were fascinating, although not entirely unpredictable.  With Oklahoma voters going to the polls this year to choose the next governor, we thought this would be a good time to discuss the rankings with three members of the blue-ribbon panel:  Oklahoma City lawyer Lee Slater, former Secretary of the Oklahoma State Election Board; Scott Cooper; and Dr. Kenny Brown, Professor of History and Geography at the University of Central Oklahoma.  Our goal was not only to discuss the top governors, but to analyze those skills and accomplishments that make a governor good.

If there was a common denominator for the top governors, it would be courage and the willingness to do what is right in the face of political opposition, even defeat.  Lee Slater's first experience with a governor was in 1960, with J. Howard Edmondson, when Slater was in high school.  So, he's had personal experience with four of the top five on the list.  Slater said that something that separates the best from the rest is their efforts at bringing about change.  Edmondson not only was effective on television, but he supported the end of prohibition,  created the state central purchasing system and championed merit pay for state employees.  Edmondson was chosen number three on the best governors list. 

The others in the top five each had distinctive contributions to the state.  George Nigh, at number five, was considered Oklahoma's greatest cheerleader.  Nigh sat in the governor's chair on four different occasions: after being appointed in 1963 and 1979, and following his election in 1978 and 1982.  He helped guide the state through one of its worst financial crises during the oil bust of the early 80's.

The panel picked David Boren as the fourth-best governor in state history.  The consummate politican, Boren got high marks for delivering on his promises to clean up corruption.  He also modernized the state Constitution and went on to become one of the state's greatest U.S. Senators before becoming president of the University of Oklahoma in 1994.

Number was Raymond Gary, which our panel said was a bit of a surprise.  The surprise was that after looking at Gary's contributions to the state in just one term, he shot up the list.  Gary was a champion for civil rights, and led the move to integrate Oklahoma schools, without the violence that plauged other states at the time.  In addition, Gary improved the state's roads, created the Department of Commerce and Oklahoma Today magazine, and improved the state's mental health system.  Voters did not elect Gary to another term, or to a seat in the U.S. Senate, but his mark on the state was unmistakable. 

Scott Cooper said the easy winner as the best governor in state history was Henry Bellmon, the unassuming farmer from Billings.  After a stint in the U.S. Marines during World War II, Bellmon got involved in politics and became the father of the modern Oklahoma Republican Party.  He rose to prominence as chair of the party (in a time when Republicans were in a distinct minority in Oklahoma) and won the gubernatorial election of 1962 on the strength of his message of "no new taxes" and the need for two viable parties in the state.   Lee Slater said Bellmon might have made the top five based on his first term alone, but it was Bellmon's second term (following a stint in the U.S. Senate) that clinched his place in history.  Dr. Kenny Brown pointed out that Bellmon was not afraid to buck his own party and did what he thought was best for the state.  Bellmon fought a big fight over education reform, and won, cementing his reputation as one of Oklahoma's most courageous and effective governors.

I hope that voters gain some insight from this program about what makes a governor great, so they can be better informed when they go to the polls on day of the Oklahoma primary election, July 27, and again on general election day, November 2.

By the way, in case you are wondering, the second five governors were, from six to ten:  Robert S. Kerr, Brad Henry, Alfalfa Bill Murray, Charles Haskell, and Leon Phillips.  What do you think?  Let us know how YOU would rate the governors.  Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Dick Pryor

(Pictured above, left to right:  Host Dick Pryor, Lee Slater, Scott Cooper, Dr. Kenny Brown)

 

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Hometown News

Written by Dick Pryor on Friday June 25, 2010

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Across the United States, newspaper readership is dropping.  Newspapers have lost 16.9% in circulation in the last three years and 25.6% since 2000.  According to research from the Poynter Institute, newspaper advertising revenue has fallen 43% over the last three years and newsrooms have shrunk 25%.  Newspapers have devoted $1.6 billion less annually to news than they did three years earlier.  Several major newspapers have either closed or gone into bankruptcy in the last few years.

It's a disturbing trend for the print journalism industry and the people who rely on newspapers for their news and information.  But, the problems do not extend across-the-board:  major metropolitan dailies are the hardest hit; small market newspapers have fared better over the same period. 

Why is that happening?  That's one of the questions discussed during this week's Oklahoma Forum program by our guests:  Rusty Ferguson, Publisher of The Cleveland American, Hominy News-Progress and Pawnee Chief; Gloria Trotter, Co-Publisher of The Countywide & Sun; Jeff Mayo, Associate Publisher of the Sequoyah County Times and Publisher of the Vian Tenkiller News, Eastern Times-Register, Indian Journal, and McIntosh County Democrat; and Dayva Spitzer, Publisher of the Sayre Record & Beckham County Democrat.  Each is a member of the Board of Directors of the Oklahoma Press Association, and Gloria Trotter is the 2009-2010 OPA President.

To be sure, small-town newspapers are not rolling in dough; nobody's getting rich.  But, community newspapers that provide local news are holding their own and positioning for the future.  Rusty Ferguson, whose family has published The Cleveland American since 1931, says that newspapers connect the people in a community with news that matters to each citizen and provides cradle-to-grave documentation of the events that define people's lives.  Gloria Trotter called it "scrapbook journalism."

Oklahoma has 199 "legal" newspapers, with 39 dailies and 160 weeklies.  That doesn't count some of the special interest publications that serve a particular "niche."  Many of the newspapers, including those published by our guests, are operated by families, as opposed to larger media groups.  Jeff Mayo said local, and often family ownership is critical to the success of small market newspapers, because of the connection, and interest, in the community.  He and Dayva Spitzer agreed that small staffs make it difficult to cover everything that needs to be covered, but information from "citizen journalists" helps immensely.  (In an earlier day and time these people were called "sources.") Trotter said technology, including digital photography and e-mailing, has given community newspapers welcome, additional sources for news content.

One of the questions we addressed is difficult to answer:  Should newspapers put content behind an online "pay wall" that requires readers to pay for news from a website?  It's a question that's being hotly-debated in the industry, and one with no easy answer.  What do you think?  Do you read a "community" newspaper?  Would you pay for on-line content?  Do you want "traditional" news content, or would you also like video?

Join our discussion here, by posting your comments.  We'd like to hear from you.  Thanks for watching.

Until next time,

Dick Pryor

(Pictured above, left to right:  Host Dick Pryor, Gloria Trotter, Jeff Mayo, Dayva Spitzer, Rusty Ferguson) 

 

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