Who has the best chance against U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin in the state’s gubernatorial general election: Lt. Gov. Jari Askins or Attorney General Drew Edmondson?
It’s a question vexing and dividing many Democratic political observers, who mostly like and admire both candidates, but there’s wide agreement that this year’s governor’s race is about as crucial as it gets. Republicans are expected to retain majorities in the House and Senate, and only a Democratic governor can bring much needed balance to Oklahoma government.
So what if Fallin, who is leading in the polls, wins? What will happen to the state’s educational systems under the Republican agenda? What about the impoverished, the hungry? Will our prisons get more crowded? Will new tax cuts for the state’s wealthiest citizens force even more draconian cuts in state government? What about quality of life issues and the state’s national image in the land of state Reps. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) and Randy Terrill (R-Moore). Will the state lose even more progressive people?
Republicans here are running on anti-government hysteria and Tea Party rhetoric. Their strategy is to create unfounded fear in voters. Let’s face it, that’s what many Oklahomans are buying into these days. Which candidate, Edmondson or Askins, has the best chance of countering the right-wing extremism and winning votes in the November general election?
As a liberal, I want to vote for the most progressive candidate in any race, but in Oklahoma you sometimes don’t even get a choice. Both Askins and Edmondson can’t be described as liberal in any rational political sense, though the winner in the Democratic gubernatorial primary will undoubtedly be labeled by Fallin’s camp as a President Barack Obama-supporting socialist or something along that line. But we can try to limit the damage of the Republican agenda by supporting a Democrat for governor. That’s the reality here for liberals. Another option, of course, is to work outside the two-party system.
Askins and Edmondson are both accomplished people, who, if elected, would serve the state well as a centrist to sometimes centrist-right governor, much like Gov. Brad Henry. There’s little doubt about that among many Democratic leaders, but who can win against Fallin, a telegenic candidate with good funding, national endorsements and name recognition in the most anti-Obama state in the nation? That’s the main question as the primary approaches.
In Oklahoma, the conservative juggernaut, cheered on by The Oklahoman and other local corporate media outlets, continues unchecked. A Democratic win in the governor race this year would be a huge victory for those trying to find some political rationality here beyond Tea Party rants and hateful vitriol about the first African American president in the nation’s history.