Thursday, April 2, 2015

Some Oklahoma Democrat Party Officials Don't Want Their Base To Vote

A Democrat County Chairman said he would rather that Oklahoma Democrats not vote for a presidential nominee on March 1st.

Oklahoma's House Elections & Ethics Committee prepares to hear SB233
  I recently took on a bad bill which had been sailing through the state capitol. SB 233 would move Oklahoma's turn to select a presidential nominee. Oklahoma has risen to the 5th authorized date on the GOP calendar for state presidential primaries, in the upcoming 2016 race. SB233 would move Oklahoma back 5 weeks, so that the GOP nominee would, in all likelihood, be selected before Oklahoma weighed in.
  Defeating the bill in the House Elections & Ethics Committee became my eminent objective. Rep. Paul Wesselhoft chairs the group of 5 Republicans and 2 Democrats. Wesselhoft. had the power to bury the bill, but he and a couple other committee chairmen have pledged to give every bill an "up or down" vote in the full committee. Wesselhoft told me he would not change his commitment for this or any other cause.  But he did say that I, as a citizen, could ask to give input. I accepted the opportunity and went to the capitol on March 25th, to do so. 

The March 25 Hearing

Ronda Vuillemont-Smith, President of Tulsa 912 Project
  Only one other private citizen joined me, but others were already busy contacting some committee members. Ronda Vuillemont-Smith and I both spoke for a few minutes and it appeared that at least one of the Democrats was opposed. The chairman and one freshman Republican from Broken Arrow had also expressed reservations. One member was ill, so It left the sponsor, Rep. Gary Banz, some doubt that he would secure the 4 needed votes. Since OKGOP Chairman David Weston had failed to appear in support of this bill which he was the initiator of, Banz decided to request a  "lay over" and the vote was tabled for a week. Banz said he wanted a lot more input from the GOP before a decision was made.
  The one week delay gave us time to accommodate the desired input. Ronda and I communicated with GOP groups and many of them mobilized.
  But Ronda and I focused on the 2 Democrats on the committee. we listened a lot and looked for common concerns. then I contacted local Democrat leaders. What I discovered was very illuminating. the Oklahoma Dems are a much smaller group than they once were. One Chairman is an eastern transplant to Oklahoma. After a few efforts, I did get his cell number and I reached him on March 31st.
"Oklahoma has a lot of Democrats who just never bothered to change their registration, but they quit voting for Democrat presidents 20 years ago."
 He added; "I don't want them forcing an Oklahoma winner who isn't a progressive".
David Van Risseghem, at the House Elections
and Ethics Hearing, on March 25, 2015
  The county chairman I reached is a very "progressive" democrat. He was not aware of the SB233 topic so I had to brief him on the effects of it and the history of how his party worked with other southern Democrat legislatures in the mid 80s, to build a "Super Tuesday" event. the idea was to get traction for a Southern moderate Democrat who could win southern states in November.
  So this particular Democrat county chairman definitely did not like the idea. He said it would not produce a nominee who is progressive enough for his liking. He said; "Oklahoma has a lot of Democrats who just never bothered to change their registration, but they quit voting for Democrat presidents 20 years ago." He added; "I don't want them forcing an Oklahoma winner who isn't a progressive".
  I then said; "you're selected by your county's Democrats to represent their interests but you really don't want them impacting the Democrat nominating process because you don't like the candidate they's probably prefer!".
  He agreed with my assessment, but he was resolved on the matter.
  I then decided the Democrat grassroots activists were more likely to defend their own interests than some of their leadership.

Heroes in both parties

Rep. Donnie Condit (D) - McAlester
Rep. David Perryman (D) - Chickasha
  Representative Donnie Condit, of McAlester, called me back and he would not commit either way on the matter. But he did say that no one from his district had reached him about this bill. After I listened to his concerns (and he tried to sell me on National Popular Vote), I kindly mad a few of my own concerns and he said I had given him some more perspective.
  I shared my concerns with Ronda and we went to the capitol Wednesday not knowing who would support us.
  At the hearing room we were amazed with the flood of allies we had. current and former GOP legislators showed up. Dr. Carolyn McLarty added her gravitas. Only Weston and his vice chairman asked to speak during the public input period.
  Weston's summation was unusual. "This is not a hill I'm prepared to die on..", he said. when his yielded his time, he turned for the door and left the room. Vice Chairman Odom spoke and exited after him.
  The vote came in at 2-5 and the bill failed. Both Democrats rejected the bill. In the hall afterward I asked Rep Condit what convinced him? "Four calls came in to my office late yesterday, from my own district. They were Republican callers, but they were my constituents"
  I told Condit of my experience with one of his Oklahoma Democrat chairmen. He was clearly disappointed that one of his own county leaders would actively seek to suppress his own party's voters for that reason. I mentioned that there are also Republican leaders who want to suppress Republican voter impact in Oklahoma because our selection might not be progressive enough for their liking.
  Perryman was focused on the voter disconnect problem in Oklahoma. He was very concerned that a meaningless primary occurring after both nominations are a foregone conclusion, will just deepen the apathy and disconnect.
  The two Democrat legislators on this committee (Condit and Perryman) were heroes for all of Oklahoma voters who want to be relevant in the early process of selecting presidential nominees for both parties. And so were the three Republicans (Dank, Rogers, and Wesselhoft), who voted to save Super Tuesday, in Oklahoma

David Van Risseghem

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