ANALYSIS: Jackie Short and Bob Anthony answer reporter’s questions but a Progressive won’t; Drew’s trip to Masters gets scrutiny – and a ballot initiative gets important backing
By Darla Shelden on October 14, 2018
Patrick B. McGuigan, Publisher
From the state’s largest newspaper, two stories of interest as election day nears – and, from a venerable state group comes a boost for supporters of choice in eye care.
Generally speaking if you are running in a statewide race, you talk to reporters for the largest news organization hereabouts. But one of the three candidates in an important statewide race acts as if that doesn’t matter.
In the race for the GOP nod as Corporation Commissioner, Republican nominee Bob Anthony dodged opportunities to debate former Senate President Pro Temp Brian Bingman. While the affable Bingman closed the gap after the June primary, he fell short in the runoff against Anthony, who has held the job since 1989.
In a solid pre-election overview from business reporter Jack Money, The Oklahoman detailed Anthony’s long tenure in a story published Saturday (October 13) and then posted online today (Sunday, October 14).
Anthony still talks passionately about the 1989 bribery case against Southwestern Bell Telephone, and his part in bringing a measure of justice in a bribery case.
On job performance, he says he’s played a key role in keeping utility rates competitive and the business environment positive. He is proud of his association with various groups that keep an eye on the energy business while remaining supportive of it. As Money summarized things, Anthony is “asking voters this year to stick with him.”
An interesting option for voters wanting to end Anthony’s long stint with the best form of term limit (voter action) is found in the person of Jackie Short, an attorney running as an independent who is beginning to get noticed. She is part of a cotorie of Independent candidates in five of the statewide races. She is bound to the others, she told Money, in seeking “open government with open records and meetings, where everything is transparent.”
In the first half of a long and wide-ranging legal career, she represented landowners who were frustrated over water, soil and air issues in relations with the big players in energy. Then, she came to understand “the issues on both sides” from working to get oil and gas firms in compliance with environmental strictures.
Her agenda, she told Money, is to bridge gaps and bring adversaries together, with protection for residents and profitable operations for the energy firms. She reflected, “In the grand scheme of things, there’s a middle ground, a place they can meet that is good for the citizens and good for the companies.” Short takes seriously the “independent” part, and is not taking donations from the companies the commission regulates.
The third candidate for this important statewide job is the Democratic nominee, Ashley Nicole McCray. She pressed social justice and environmental issues during her time at the University of Oklahoma and has been involved in a range of Progressive causes – including a push to stop construction of the Plains All American Diamond Pipeline. (The pipeline began operating last December.)
However, McCray did not respond to Money’s requests for a interview about her candidacy, so voters may not have a chance to find out much about her. It was a curious decision, in that Money is about as fair a soul as works in the news business.
Anthony and Short talked with him about public policy. McCray did not. Voters should keep that in mind.
Former Attorney General Drew Edmondson, the Democratic party nominee for governor in the November election, had a blast from his electoral past brought to wide attention in Nolan Clay’s page one story in The Oklahoman.
With detailed reporting and documentation, Clay sketched details of a weeklong trip Edmondson took in 2009 to the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia, with a side jaunt to Hilton Head Island.
The Oklahoman story related that Edmondson, then the state’s top law enforcement officer, went to the tournament as a “special guest” of AT&T. He “apparently repaid AT&T for the cost of his ticket to the tournament’s first two rounds and other amenities.”
The newspaper learned of the trip “from a source who, through an attorney, provided records detailing Edmondson’s expenses in 2009 in Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah, Georgia, and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.”
Edmondson’s gubernatorial campaign manager, Michael Clingman, said everything about the event was legit, and that it was legal then and now for a campaign to spend money “cultivating donors.” A written response to The Oklahoman, Clay’s story reported, “did not say how much was reimbursed and whether Edmondson repaid from personal funds or donations.”
On Edmondson’s contemporaneous campaign finance report, the expenses were described as “food/travel/lodging.” Edmondson’s close ally, Mike Turnpen (also a former state attorney general) encouraged Edmondson to make the trip. Turpen did not respond to Clay’s request for comments.
Clay’s story detailed dates and amounts for several expenses, including air travel, food and liquor, while observing, “It’s not clear from the records where he stayed during the trip and who paid for his lodging.”
State ethics officials, past and present, responded to questions but did not know specifics for the long-ago trip, Clay reported. AT&T told Clay last Friday that the company had followed applicable rules and regulations.
In this year’s campaign for the chief executive’s job in the Sooner State, Edmondson has criticized lobbyists. Clay reported Edmondson wants new rules to “crack down” on the lobbying industry.
The state’s largest newspaper has published feature stories that can be characterized as positive on both Edmondson and the Republican nominee, Tulsa businessman Kevin Stitt. Reporters at the paper have also scrutinized Stitt’s experience in business, including past controversies over practices at Gateway Mortgage Group.
Stitt’s business practices were assailed in advertisements by some of his Republican primary opponents, including Mick Cornett, but the former Oklahoma City mayor endorsed Stitt last week. The Republican nominee will get another boost for his campaign when Vice President Mike Pence visits Tulsa for a Stitt event this week.
On October 9, Advocates for State Question 793 garnered the coveted endorsement of the Oklahoma Silver Legislature for the ballot initiative intended to “expand consumer choice for vision care by allowing patients to receive eye exams and purchase eye wear at affordable prices in convenient retail locations, such as Walmart and Costco.”
The initiative has faced often fierce opposition from the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians (OAOP), a medical trade association. But some eye doctors have rallied to back the proposition, saying it would make professional eye care more affordable.