(Oklahoma, which leads the nation in female incarceration, needs corrections reform. Read DocHoc’s commentary this week in the Oklahoma Gazette.)
It’s vitally important that Lt. Gov. Jari Askins becomes Oklahoma’s next governor so she can provide crucial political balance as Republicans retain or increase majorities in the legislature this year.
Askins, who won the Democratic primary for governor Tuesday, is an intelligent, experienced leader, who will serve the state with distinction as its first woman governor.
One of the major tasks facing Askins in her gubernatorial campaign will be to find some type of counter to U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin’s Tea-Party rhetoric and sloganeering.
Political observers expect Fallin, who won the Republican primary, will talk about non-issues like “freedom” and “states rights” in her campaign, rhetoric that is now resonating in one of the reddest states in the nation. It’s low on substance and facts, of course, but some political pundits believe the anti-Obama and anti-government anger in this state could be a major factor in any political campaign this year.
Askins will win against Fallin in debate situations when discussing the real issues, such as jobs, education and economic development. OU former football coach Barry Switzer’s support for Askins could also be important-let’s call it the “Barry Bump” if only because it alliterates. Switzer remains a popular person here. We can hope he plays a major role in the campaign.
But the ideological mush presented by Fallin, and other GOP candidates, for that matter, could become problematic for Askins, not because she’s some uber-liberal-on the contrary, I see her as solidly centrist-but because Republicans here have co-opted the Tea Party’s political reductionism and anger. In Fallin’s case, it’s probably a faux anger, for sure, but that won’t stop her from fear mongering.
The question becomes this: How should Askins respond? If she tries to out-Tea Party Fallin, she will lose support from liberal Democrats, and it would probably fall flat anyway. If she ignores Fallin’s ideological strategy and tries to focus on the issues, she could lose centrist votes as well. How can Askins expose the shallowness of Fallin’s expected political strategy while reassuring angry voters?
One strategy would be to directly address the issue in campaign advertisements, attacking Fallin for a lack substance. The point would be to show Fallin as someone flailing around spouting unsubstantiated cliché’s and rhetoric while the state’s problems persist.
This wouldn’t be a campaign gimmick. Askins IS the serious candidate, the right person for governor. She has the intelligence, energy and people-skills to lead Oklahoma during these tough financial times. This state’s residents need her steady leadership and the political balance she will to bring to the state Capitol.