The shifting Oklahoma voter registration landscape

With State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s switch from Republican to Democratic Party registration on October 7 and former Senator Dr. Ervin Yen’s switch from GOP to Independent on October 19, I thought it would be a good time to look at voter registration in Oklahoma.

As I stated in my previous post about Supt. Hofmeister’s announcement, until 2014 Democrats had always held the majority of voter registration in Oklahoma. Republicans took the lead in voter registration after Hofmeister’s entry into the race for State Superintendent against GOP incumbent Janet Baressi.

I was surprised when I compared voter registration numbers as of January 15, 2021 to those as of October 1, 2021.

Total registration fell from 2,272,252 to 2,197,574. That’s a drop of 74,678.

The only political party that gained in that time was Libertarian. They gained 1,482 registrations going from 15,734 to 17,216.

Republicans lost 26,354 voters going from 1,138,947 to 1,112,593.

Democrats lost 49,761 voters dropping from 748,222 to 698,461.

Independents lost only 45 voters going from 369,349 to 369,304.

I reached out to Misha Mohr, the public information officer with the State Election Board. She pointed me to several valuable pieces of information regarding voter registration in Oklahoma.

On April 16 of this year the Election Board issued a news release which stated, “The State Election Board completed its routine, statutorily-mandated, biennial voter list maintenance on Thursday, April 15. The process removed 4,034 duplicate voter registrations and 110,973 inactive voter registrations from Oklahoma’s voter rolls.”

So with this additional information I decided to look up the voter registration numbers by party after the April 15 purge.

Interestingly from April 30, 2021 to October 1, 2021 Republicans gained 13,175 voters, Libertarians gained 1,063 voters, Democrats lost 836 voters and Independents gained the most with an increase of 16,707 voters.

In his announcement yesterday that he was switching his registration Dr. Yen said, “I have had several friends who have recently changed their registrations from Republican to Independent.  I invite like-minded Republicans across the state to do what I have done.  I hope and pray that there are a significant number of other Republicans, like myself, who will unregister as Republicans and truly move our state forward instead of backward.”

Dr Yen also said,  “The Oklahoma GOP has left me.  Seemingly, every other day, I receive a communication from the Party being rabidly opposed to mask mandates as well as Covid-19 vaccine mandates.  The majority of the Republican Party also seems to believe that the Presidential election was stolen from our former President.  I vehemently disagree with these views and that is why I have withdrawn my Republican voter registration.  I have not changed, the Party has.”

In an interview with the Tulsa World Supt. Hofmeister said something similar insinuating it was the Republican Party that changed not her.

Supt. Hofmeister told the Tulsa World, “My loyalty is to Oklahoma families, not to structures or party. I am changing parties, but I haven’t changed who I am. I have the same values, and they haven’t changed.”

It will be interesting to see if the numbers for registration by party make significant changes over the next few weeks or months. Will registered Republicans who are pro-science and anti-misinformation, pro-education and not anti-tribal sovereignty follow the leads of Hofmeister and Yen?

If I remember to check, I’ll update these numbers in the months ahead.

On being a pragmatic progressive joyful for Joy

I’ve written something like this so many times over the last two decades. But usually I don’t share it.

I know it will piss off a lot of my progressive friends. And I am a progressive, or liberal if you prefer, on most issues. When I’ve taken those quizzes every four years to see which Presidential candidate is my best fit, it’s been the Ralph Naders, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warrens that are my closest matches.

But I truly believe in the big tent. And I think that is the only way Democrats can ever win again in Oklahoma. At least until there are truly seismic changes in beliefs and attitudes and education of those who vote. We have to welcome liberal Democrats, and moderate Democrats, and conservative Democrats. And we have to work together to win.

Let me tell you a little story. Well it may be a bit longer than a little.

From February 1996 to July 1999 I worked for the Oklahoma Democratic Party. As an intern for a few months until I was promoted to political director. I came back later and helped out for a bit at the ODP in 2002 and again in 2006.

In 1996 Democrats had control of both the State House and the State Senate. We had the Attorney General, State Superintendent, State Treasurer and State Auditor. And we had the 3rd Congressional District.

That year, according to the professional predictors, we were supposed to lose control of the State House. We at the ODP were criticized by many in the party for focusing too much on the legislative seats and not enough on the Presidential race and congress. But we only lost one Democratic-held seat that year in the state house and two seats in the state senate. We retained control with 59 Democrats to 42 Republicans in the House and 29 Democrats to 19 Republicans in the Senate. We lost the 3rd Congressional District to former-Democrat-turned-Republican Wes Watkins.

1998 was a repeat of 1996. We were again supposed to lose control of the State House. Some of the seats shifted, but our numbers in the legislature were exactly the same. We kept the four statewide positions and picked up State Insurance Commissioner.

But at that time in the late 1990s and early 2000s many Oklahoma liberals and progressives were complaining loudly. And many decided they’d rather have Republicans elected than conservative Democrats. “At least then we would know what we’re getting,” I heard so many times from friends. They refused to vote for conservative and moderate Democrats.

I understood their frustration many times with some conservative to moderate Democrats on specific issues in the legislature. But I never agreed it would be better for Republicans to win instead of conservative Democrats.

When we had the majority in the state legislature, which was made up of liberal, moderate and conservative Democrats, we had the Speaker of the House and we had the President Pro Tem of the Senate. That is who sets the agenda. And the agenda back then was so much better than what it has been since Republicans took control of the legislature.

So I say again to my progressive friends, working to elect only Democratic candidates that you agree with on everything, only liberals or progressives, is not good for you, for me, for our schools, for our healthcare, for our state. It is not going to happen. Not in this decade. Not in Oklahoma. You may feel good about it, but you’re just going to keep having an Oklahoma controlled totally by the GOP.

I’ve already seen some activists in the Democratic Party saying it is because of racism that so many Democrats are jumping with joy about Joy Hofmeister switching from GOP to Democratic and running for Governor because there is an already announced Democrat running for Governor.

Former state Senator Connie Johnson announced several months ago she was running. Johnson is an African-American.

And I hate to admit that there could be and probably is some racism in it. I’ve seen racism first hand in some past Democratic campaigns. But by and large, most racist left the Democratic Party some time ago.

Johnson has run for statewide elections before. She was the Democratic nominee for US Senate in James Lankford’s first senate race in 2014. She received 29% of the vote. She ran for Governor in 2018. She received almost 39% in the Democratic primary against Drew Edmondson who won the primary with 61.4%. Of course we know when the general election arrived in November, Kevin Stitt won with 54.3% of the votes.

But when one looks at 2018 numbers Joy offers us some hope.

Stitt received 644,579 votes for Governor. Hofmeister received 687,468 for State Superintendent. She received 42,889 more votes than did Stitt. That’s a positive thing.

I do want to say here that for most of my life I have been more of a vote-for-the-person rather than a Yellow Dog Democrat. I just usually have believed that the Democrat is better than the Republican. There have been a few times where I left a race blank because I’ve known both candidates and I didn’t like either one. But I have voted for Republicans at every level previously at some point in my life (I’ll be 56 this coming Sunday). But since Trump (and Trumpism) took over the GOP I doubt I will ever vote for another Republican again.

I for one am joyful for Joy! It is a good thing she has left the GOP. More should follow her lead. I welcome her to the Democratic Party and look forward to kicking Stitt out of the Governor’s Mansion next year and ending his dreams of running for President of these United States.

Just a couple more points I would like to make. Some of the best Democrats today are former Republicans.

I feel honored and privileged to have been able to work on all of Jim Roth’s campaigns, both his 2002 and 2006 campaigns for Oklahoma County Commissioner and his statewide campaign in 2008 for Corporation Commissioner. He has been a favorite of progressive Oklahomans. Jim is a former Republican.

My good friend Calvin Rees is President of the Oklahoma Democratic Party Veterans Committee. He helped start that important organization. He’s served as a district and county officer in the Oklahoma Democratic Party. He is a far better Democrat than I. Calvin is a former Republican.

I made this point in a tweet but want to point it out here as well. Oklahoma had always been a Democratic-registered majority state. Until 2014. When Joy Hofmeister announced in 2014 that she was running for State Superintendent, thousands of educators switched parties so they could vote for her over the terrible, horrible incumbent Janet Baressi in the GOP primary.

After Joy’s entry into that race Oklahoma Republicans gained 30,463 registered voters. They surpassed registered Democrats for the first time in state history. On November 1, 2014 there were 963 more Republicans registered in the state than there were Democrats.

I’m hopeful many of those former Democrats-turned-Republicans will return home over the next few months and help to end the terrible reign of Kevin Stitt.

Blast from the past

On Labor Day a lady I don’t follow on Twitter posted a photo of several books. She said she found them at an estate sale. Each book was all of the Oklahoma Today magazines for the year on that book’s spine. I saw her post because she tagged the current editor of Oklahoma Today, who I know and do follow on Twitter.

Another lady commented that her dog was in one of those books. Nate, the editor, responded (among other statements) that that lady could see her dog online as all the past issues are archived.

So I started looking at past issues. I knew I was in one issue. I thought it was in 1983, so I looked at all those first. I wasn’t in any from that year. So I looked at the 1984 issues. There I was in the September/October issue.

In October 1983 I was privileged to get to attend the very first Oklahoma Arts Institute training session for adults. I was still a senior in high school. But the late Gene Williams, a pharmacist in my hometown of Hollis, paid for me to go in photography and for my friend and classmate Dennis Myers to go in acting.

In the photo on the first page of the article, I’m the third from the right in the back. I’m sitting up on a big stone and it looks like I’m wearing a white coat (I think it was actually gray).

The instructors were awesome. David Fitzgerald was well known for his photos of Oklahoma and he taught at OU. But I’ve probably used more of what I learned from Bernard Plossu. His specialty was taking pics of people, but he liked spontaneously taking pics, not posed ones. I prefer those too. Plossu was from Paris, France but was living in New Mexico at the time we were at Quartz Mountain.

I took some really amazing photos that weekend at the workshop. Sadly I have no idea where they are today. It would be cool if I could find some of the people who also attended this and see if they had any pics they’d taken that weekend.

Yes, I’m Judgmental

I was accused of being judgmental on Facebook last week and I freely admit, yes I judge others. I judge what they say, I judge what they do, I judge who they associate with. I try really hard to not judge others by their appearance. But sometimes I fail at that.

I know “Judge not” but it continues, “that ye be not judged.” That sentence is from Matthew 7:1.

I’m prepared to be judged by others, I expect to be judged by others, I am judged by others – by my words and by my deeds (and sometimes by my hair).

I don’t quote the Bible a whole lot, but sometimes it is good to do.

If one keeps reading Matthew chapter 7 eventually Jesus basically instructs us to judge others. 


“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” – Matthew 7:15-20

The fruits that were yielded on Insurrection Day – January 6, 2021 – were bad fruit.

The entire rally was based on lies. The election was not stolen. There was not election fraud. Not one single court found any fraud (in over 60 cases brought before courts) and even the Trump Justice Department announced on Friday, January 15, 2021 that it was ending its investigation because they found no fraud. It was all based on lies spread by many false prophets. The fruit from that tree was rotten.

It’s true, one bad apple can spoil a whole bushel. The same can be said of people in groups. 

I’m sure there were some people at the January 6, 2021 rally-turned-riot who truly believed they were doing the patriotic thing based on the lies told to them by Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, James Lankford, Kevin McCarthy, Tucker Carlson, Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity and hundreds of other false prophets. But what I can’t understand is why one’s conscience would not set off alarms after seeing who was standing with them in that crowd.

There were thousands of bad fruit. Some had swastika and Nazi tattoos, some were wearing T-shirts that read “Camp Auschwitz” and “6MWNE” (6 Million Was Not Enough – meaning murdered Jews), there were loud Proud Boys, vocal white supremacists, Oath Keepers, 3 Percenters and numerous other despicable groups.

Former four-star General, National Security Advisor (to Reagan and Bush Sr.), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (for Bush Sr) and Secretary of State (for Bush Jr.) said, “A mirror reflects a man’s face, but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses.”

People judge us by the company we keep and with whom we associate.  

So yes, I judge others because by their fruits we know them.

Welcoming a new year with the Corona virus

Here it is the first day of a new year and I would like to be filled with relief and hope. After all, the year just ended was perhaps the worst in my 55 years. Good riddance to 2020.

This is also my 10th day of symptoms from having COVID-19. I’m better but still have an irritating cough, body aches and easily become fatigued. I’m really tired of being tired!

My worst two days were Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Both of those days were bad all day long. I had a really bad evening on the 29th. This has been a very different and strange illness. The symptoms are many.

I’ll feel fine and then all of sudden I just drop. My eyes hurt all the time which keeps me from reading much and the diarrhea comes and goes and comes again. I’ve never lost my senses of taste and smell, but today I have a horrible metallic taste that I can’t get rid of by brushing my teeth or using mouthwash. I couldn’t sleep last night because my legs wouldn’t relax. My throat also felt like I swallowed some powder and no matter how much water I drank I couldn’t get rid of it. I still have moments of nausea followed by dizzy spells.

I do not know where I contracted the virus. We really have tried to stay in our pod of 8 since we first locked down in the spring.

Of course life couldn’t totally stop because of the inaction of our federal and state governments. I’ve still had to travel on Tuesdays to pick up our newspaper from the printers (they are just transferred from one vehicle to another), I have to go to the post office twice on that day, and I deliver the newspapers to the stores and machines. We however did not put out a newspaper this week.

I do go to the grocery store. But we also do more delivery or grocery pickup.

I wear a mask everywhere except at home. I keep alcohol wipes in my pickup. I wipe down my steering wheel, my phone, my hands. I wash my hands habitually and have since my first job 40 years ago at the Pizza Hut. I try to avoid people, by more than 6 feet apart.

I still got the virus. It is not a hoax. It is not like the flu. It helped to make 2020 the deadliest year in history for the United States. But here in Oklahoma more people than not are still going about their daily lives like nothing has changed. Our governor spouts “personal responsibility” yet refuses to wear a mask when he’s in the public. Apparently our citizens are following his lead.

Let’s hope 2021 brings better days and real leadership at least at the federal level.

Blackout Redux

Well it happened again. We were driving to El Reno on RT66 Saturday afternoon and at first I just thought I was having motion sickness. Luckily I was the passenger.

I was nauseated and said I was just going to close my eyes to see if that helped and I guess I blacked out and did a little seizure sort of thing. Kelly pulled over and let me get my wits. Then we went thru a drive through and got a bottle of water and returned home to Yukon.

She wanted to drive me on to the hospital but I wouldn’t let her. So we hung out at home for about an hour. I was hoping it would pass and I’d return to normal. Kelly called our Namina who is an RN.

I did not improve and the gang up of Kelly and Namina convinced me I should be checked out. So we loaded back up and hit the turnpike. Kelly took me for my fourth trip in six years to the Oklahoma Heart Hospital.

When we went in the ER entrance, because of COVID-19 they would not let Kelly go back with me. But before she went back to wait in the van we told the entrance nurse what was what and she sent for another nurse to come get me.

To my surprise that nurse was an old friend, the wife of the bass player in a band I was a member of back in the late-80s to mid-90s. She wheeled me back to an ER room.

This time I was surrounded by four women (remember two nights before it was six men). One nurse was asking me questions and typing in a computer. One was telling me to take off my shirts. One was sticking my arm and taking blood. They hooked me up to monitors and then in came the doctor.

I retold him what I’d told them.

They all left me alone and then it was waiting. For bloodwork results.

Then a nurse came in pulling a huge contraption and took chest X-rays. She left.

Another nurse came in for me to sign paperwork. She left.

I really needed to pee so I rang the nurses station to see if I could be unhooked from all the gadgets and go to the bathroom.

No. But they brought me a bedside urinal. I’ve never been able to use one of those laying down or even sitting up. So I stood up beside the bed and was successful.

I closed the lid on it and then it popped off. I tried again with the same results. I rang the nurses again and the one on the other end said someone would come get it. I tried closing the lid again. It popped back off. I hung it on the side of the bed with it open.

Then another nurse came in and told me I needed to take off my pants. She was pulling in another large contraption. She put it right beside the bed where the urinal was hanging and in my mind I could just see it being knocked off and my urine going everywhere. I told her my worry and she moved it for me and left.

I try taking my pants off. None of this is easy to do with all the wires attached to me from the left and blood pressure cup attached to me from the right. I drop my glasses on the floor. But I get it done and lay back on the bed and cover myself best I can with the backless hospital robe.

Same nurse comes back and runs an ultrasound thingy with warm gel from my right groin down to my ankle. Then she does my left groin. She leaves.

After about two hours the doctor comes back in and says everything looks normal. Blood work is good. Chest X-ray is good. Ultrasound is good. He told me to follow up Monday with my cardiologist.

So I really don’t know anything but apparently the problem isn’t my heart which is a good thing.

The adventure continues.

Hydrate

Last night, sometime between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m., I woke up to Kelly yelling. I was laying on the kitchen floor. She started calling 911 and I told her not to, so she hung up. 911 called her back immediately.

Within minutes there were three men standing above and around me. They were firefighters. Two of them started taking my vitals. Shortly after, three more men came in. They had arrived with an ambulance and they were EMTs.

Because I had a heart attack six years ago, they hooked me up to an EKG.

They were asking about my history. This same exact thing happened summer before last. One of the firefighters said he remembered and he had been in the same kitchen with me in the same predicament. That time they took me to the Oklahoma Heart Hospital. But I was just dehydrated that time.

I was certain the same exact thing was my problem this time. I could only remember drinking one glass of water all day. They wanted to take me to the heart hospital again, but I refused.

I had to speak to the EMTs’ supervisor before they could leave. I did this on the main EMT’s phone. So now I’m concerned. What if he was positive for Covid-19?! You know our phones are filthy things!

I drank water off and on all night. Got up to pee just as often.

I’m better today.

Remember, drink plenty of water. Every day!

2020 Election is Over … Welcome 2022

Now that the 2020 Election is over (yes, it is over, the shenanigans may continue for a few more weeks, but it is done) we can finally move on to normal life!

Well, not really.

Covid-19 is more out of hand now than ever and here in Oklahoma our Governor just keeps doing what he’s done since the beginning, practically nothing. Oh he has done some things: ignored doctors and science, repeated phrases about freedom and personal responsibility, continued to go out in public and refuse to set a good example by wearing a mask.

But maybe that will soon change. Former State Senator Ervin Yen announced that he is running for Governor. Yen is Dr. Yen, an MD, as in medical doctor.

Disclosure here: Dr. Yen is a friend of mine. But, he is a Republican and I am not. Because in Oklahoma we have closed primaries* I can’t vote for him in the Republican Primary.

Covid-19 and Stitt’s lack of leadership is what made Dr. Yen jump into the race.

From his announcement: “As a physician, my entire career has been trying to make Oklahomans healthier. The Governor of Oklahoma’s top job should be to protect our state and our people. Oklahoma is sorely lacking with that type of leadership.  I cannot and will not stand back and just watch this happen.  Every day I see the new deaths and my anger just increases.  If this is allowed to continue, we could still be in this pandemic on election day 2022,” said Dr. Yen.

YES! Thank you Dr. Yen. If only more Oklahoma Republicans would get mad about the lack of leadership, the number of Oklahomans dying, the overworked healthcare professionals, the disappearing available hospital beds.

As of this writing, there were 11 more Covid-19 deaths in Oklahoma reported today (11/12/20) bringing the total so far to 1,481 dead Oklahomans. That is the equivalent of almost 9 (NINE) April 19, 1995 OKC Bombing deaths. (9 x 168 = 1,512) We will reach that number of dead Oklahomans within days. I wasn’t a fan of Governor Frank Keating but I am so glad he was governor back then rather than our current governor.

Governor Stitt had another press conference this week and again refused to issue a mask mandate.

More from Dr. Yen: “Oklahoma desperately needs a mask mandate covering all 77 counties. When I first read about this virus, I knew it would come to the U.S.  I knew it would hit cities like NYC hard.  I thought perhaps Oklahoma would be spared being a hot spot, since we have always socially distanced, compared to places like NYC.  I was wrong.  This virus is so contagious, it will go everywhere.  It just goes to rural areas later than urban areas.  Mandating masks in a county after an outbreak is way too late,” said Dr. Yen.

As I stated above, I can’t vote for Dr. Yen in a Republican Primary in 2022. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try to help him. And right now in Oklahoma, it is almost a guarantee that whoever wins the Republican Primary is who will win the General Election for Governor. This year, of the 1,560,699 Oklahomans who voted, 710,000 used the “straight-party” option of voting. 71% voted Republican, 28% voted Democrat and 1% voted Libertarian.

I am proud Dr. Yen has stepped up and is speaking out. The health of our people and our state are the most important thing we face right now, even if Governor Kevin Stitt doesn’t think so.

P.S. I really like Dr. Yen’s logo with the mask!

Wear a mask, wash your hands, and social distance from others in public. Be responsible adults.

(*It is left up to the political parties here to decide who can vote in their primaries. Republicans only allow Republicans to vote in their primary. Democrats and Libertarians allow Independents to vote in their primaries.)

Music Review: Jared Deck – Bully Pulpit

By Brent Wilcox

We were lucky and privileged to be able to attend the show for Jared Deck’s release of his new album “Bully Pulpit.” This is his second solo album.

Deck’s live show at the Blue Door in Oklahoma City was filled with energy and entertainment. At times it felt like a music revival with the sold out crowd joining in with hand-clapping and foot-stomping. At times I expected some to stand up and shout “Hallelujah!” (Several did stand and dance in place! And I think I heard a few Amens!)

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Deck writes almost all of his own music. His art of scribing emotions, feelings and stories in verses and melodies has won awards for good reason. He excels at songwriting.

Rolling Stone Country included Deck’s first single “Great American Breakdown” from the new album as one of the ten new country or Americana songs to listen to. With the release of his first solo album Deck described his music as Mid-Americana. And Deck is a country boy. He grew up in Thomas, Oklahoma (Pop. 1,181).

But with Bully Pulpit, Deck proves he shouldn’t be labeled with one genre of music. He’s country, he’s Americana or Mid-Americana, but he’s so much more.

Deck served as the music director for at least two different churches in western Oklahoma. One of those churches had a majority membership of African Americans. Deck’s gospel music background shines through brightly in Bully Pulpit.

To illustrate the diversity on this album, and Deck’s wide range of musical talents I thought it would be fun to pick other more famous artists that I could imagine performing his songs.

In my mind I can see and hear Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones performing “The Great American Breakdown.”

The forth track on the album, “Make Your Mama Proud” would be a natural fit for Garth Brooks.

When I hear “In the Name,” the sixth track, I envision the late English rocker Joe Cocker performing this soulful Deck original.

With the seventh track, “Sometimes I Miss Being Lonely,” I could honestly hear Garth Brooks or Tricia Yearwood, Tim McGraw or Faith Hill, Vince Gill or Amy Grant, Elvis Costello or Diana Krall singing this song. I mention all those because they are married couples and this song was co-written by Deck and his wife Jacy.

Maybe it’s the horns and piano on the 2nd track, “Money Back,” but I can hear Billy Joel performing this song.

Reba McEntire could have another smash hit if she recorded Deck’s eighth track, “Tulsa Sound.”

I can hear the great Mavis Staples singing several songs on this album, including two traditional songs – “I Don’t Know What You Come to Do” and “There’s a Leak in This Old Building” – and the Deck original “True Believer.”

I think the other two tracks on this album (11 in all) are my personal favorites. I’m a sucker for slower songs and these two songs get stuck in my head. Both “Where I Fall” and “Over and Over” get stuck in my head and play over and over.

I’m not suggesting any of the artists I mention above would do a better job on these songs. Jared Deck is a multi-talented artist who holds his own with any of the above artists. These are his songs, he wrote them brilliantly and he performs them superbly. I just wanted to express the diversity of his talent.

I highly recommend “Bully Pulpit.” It is available on iTunes, Spotify, or his website jareddeckmusic.com. And if you ever have the chance to see Deck perform live – take it and you’ll be in for a really good country-mid-Americana-soulful-rhythm-and-Rocking fun time!