I’ve had a week to reflect on the 2015 OK County
Convention held March 7 at OCCC. Having barely lost my race for Vice Chair, I wanted to get past the sting of defeat and gather perspective. On the whole, I’m optimistic the county party can become the dynamic grassroots force it was 50 years ago when Al Snipes put the GOP on the Oklahoma political map.
1. What we are doing is NOT working! The elephant in the living room (but not in the convention hall) is that too few people believe participation in the GOP is worth it. Over half the precincts (54%) had NO representation, and most of the others were under-represented. About 350 attended precinct meetings in January and were delegates. After adding about 80 more people, only 262 people were actually credentialed, for 257 precincts. Most people hate politics as usual, and don’t see that their participation can make a difference. Little that happened Saturday would change their minds.
2. The convention was poorly promoted. After the precinct meetings January 27, I saw nothing from the county party promoting the convention. Maybe half the listed delegates I called were unaware, or unsure, of the date and location. The Lincoln-Reagan dinner scheduled for two days before had such an abysmal sign up that it was postponed until May 7.
3. Many elected officials were AWOL, especially those who are not up for election in 2016. The same goes for ex-elected officials (I counted three ex-legislators, including myself) and ex-party officers.Something is wrong when that many seasoned veterans are uninvolved in this precarious time we live.
4. The predominant themes were unity, diversity, and outreach to new people, especially minorities and young adults. The irony was that we had much more representation in those demographics participating in previous years. There were around 700 people at the 2008 convention, with at least a third under the age of 30. Saturday, I’d guess the average age was around 65, with very few under 30. I saw 1 black, 4 Hispanics and 1 Asian.
5. As usual, there were two apparent factions. The first is proud of the fact that Oklahoma is the “reddest of the red states,” marked by the decisive, growing GOP dominance. “Our party this”, and “our party that” were dominant themes. The other was decidedly more activist/grassroots oriented. Their theme was more about building the grassroots and returning the GOP to its stated foundational principles: limited government, individual liberty, personal moral responsibility, and natural law. As these are brought together in a unified effort, the GOP will be able to change Oklahoma for the better.
6. There has been no massive ideological conversion by the legislature to the OK GOP’s foundational principles. The shift has been accomplished more by the combination of term limits and the revulsion of Oklahomans to Obama and other national Democrats. Opportunistic politicians now register Republican and mouth conservative rhetoric. Fifteen years ago many of them would have been Democrats. Republicans have sponsored all the outrageous bills that the liberty-loving grassroots have been fighting in recent years.
7. The State Chamber of Commerce has become a more aggressive, overt player. Indeed, the only slate to appear originated with a long-time Chamber lobbyist. From their backroom deal that created HB 1017 for Oklahoma’s last major tax increase in 1990, to their support for Common Core and industry subsidies and favors, to their recruitment and heavy funding of candidates, the Chamber has replaced the OEA as the major force in Oklahoma politics. As one example, their new Senator Yen introduced a bill to make all vaccines mandatory, a basic violation of individual liberty.
8. The best measure of the strength of these two factions probably lies in my own race for Vice Chair. My platform was aimed at building up the grassroots as a strong force to hold state and local elected officials accountable. I also promoted unity and outreach, as well as openness, transparency and integrity in the entire process. I got almost 49% of the vote.
9. Oklahoma County has some rising stars. I’ll mention only two, partly because I was preoccupied with my campaign during the speakers. Randy Grau, my State Rep, is polished in every way with a positive energy for reform of basic processes and values. And Estela Hernandez, running for State Vice Chair, energized the crowd with her passion sharing many of the basic themes of the convention. This smart, attractive entrepreneur and mother of three, could have a big impact on the party. I have yet to hear of an opponent.
10. This convention was the least overtly contentious and smoothest run since I began attending again in 2008. The credentialing process ran smoothly, due in part to the small number of delegates. There was no platform fight. Unfortunately, it was close to noon before we got to the main order of business. There has to be a better way.
11. I expect great things from the new County Chair, Daren Ward. He ran on a unity platform and has expressed great support for the solution to many of our problems — building the grassroots through precinct town meetings. He even wants to hold quarterly meetings of the County Committee, composed of the chairs and vice chairs of each precinct. This has not been done in recent history. He appears to have the integrity, determination and skills to make it happen. I will do my best to help him be successful in this effort.
12. Evelyn McCoy, new Vice Chair, brings a lot of experience and skills to the table. As a member of the Executive Committee, I’ve been impressed particularly with the amazing work her team is doing in the Hispanic community. Going far beyond politics, they are serving that part of our community helping people learn English as a second language, as well as helping them navigate the naturalization process. She has some great ideas for reform. I look forward to helping her establish active precinct organizations in the neighborhoods she serves so they can get the representation they need.
13. We have a great opportunity to make Oklahoma County an example for the rest of the state. The GOP has the foundational principles which, if correctly and consistently applied to public policy, can transform Oklahoma into a beacon of freedom and prosperity for the rest of the nation. Our county can help lead the way.
14. The key is to develop the grassroots into a strong political and social force. We can do that by establishing regular, meaningful town meetings in each precinct. I believe so much in their potential to help solve our problems that I launched an independent effort towards this end at the start of the year. Please check it out at OKGrassrootsProject.com. Plans are already under way to start regular precinct town meetings in Precinct 111, which I chair. The plan is to meet monthly, with high quality content for information and training, with livestreaming and video archives. Our goal is to increase participation, GOP membership and adherence to our foundational principles.
15. I want to thank all who attended the convention. Many people served on the rules, credentials and platform committees, as well as registration, security and arrangements. Out-going Vice Chair Cheryl Williams did a great job managing the event. And thanks to those who have volunteered to serve, as well as those who did, but weren’t elected to the offices.
16. Other officers elected are:
• State Committeeman: Ronn Cupp
• State Committeewoman: Sylvia Morales
• District 4 Committeewoman: Valorie J. Filippo
• District 4 Committeeman: Jerome Montgomery
• District 5 Committeeman: Scott Chance
• District 5 Committeeman: Paul Sublett