I was looking at my sample ballot today from the Cleveland County Election Board website so I could get a handle on the myriad statewide races that I have not bothered to look into yet.
First thing I noticed was the choice between the flying eagle (Republicans) and the strutting chicken (Democrats) for the straight party voting option. In almost every other state, the official image for the Democratic Party is the donkey. Oklahoma is one of only a few states to use a rooster as the Democrats' symbol, which apparently has a long and storied history that I read about here. As we are a change-averse state, it doesn't surprise me to see an icon from a different time still surviving on our ballots.
Anyway, here are the choices for elected offices on my sample ballot.
Mary Fallin - Republican
Jari Askins - Democrat
The highest profile of all the races, I won't waste time talking about them here.
My vote: Askins
Todd Lamb - Republican
Kenneth Corn - Democrat
Richard Prawdzienski - Independent
Todd Lamb and Kenneth Corn are both in the state legislature. Richard Prawdzienski is actually a Libertarian. In an Oklahoma Gazette profile, Corn emphasized jobs, education, and lobbying reform, while Lamb emphasized jobs, economic development and tort reform. In a League of Women Voters profile, Prawdzienski emphasized limited government, business creativity and liquor store reform. Corkscrews for the people!
My vote: Corn, but without much enthusiasm.
State Auditor and Inspector:
Gary Jones - Republican
Steve Burrage - Democrat
Steve Burrage is the incumbent State Auditor, having been nominated by Brad Henry to fill a vacancy caused by corruption charges. Steve Burrage got the endorsement from Brad Henry, of course, but also from the Daily Oklahoman, a newspaper whose editorial board usually recommends Republicans. His challenger is Gary Jones, who has unsuccessfully run for this office two other times. Apparently this campaign is nasty, according to Jones and the Republican news site The McCarville Report. Among Jones's claims is that Burrage said he was thrown out of office by the voters. Jones retorts that he merely lost an election. Hmm.
My vote: Burrage. If a Democrat can get an endorsement from the Oklahoma, they must be doing something right.
Scott Pruitt - Republican
Jim Priest - Democrat
My vote: Priest.
Ken Miller - Republican
Stephen E Covert - Democrat
How unfortunate for the Democrats to have a candidate named Covert. If they try to donate to his campaign, the headlines will surely read "Democrats Fund Covert Operation". Perhaps a lack of funding explains why Covert's official website looks like a Geocities page from 1996. Ken Miller, a state legislator, is well-funded and has a professional website proclaiming his dislike for spending of any kind, and he will let his conservative values guide him. Current state treasurer Scott Meachem, a Democrat, is not running for another term and has endorsed Miller, a Republican. But Stephen E. Covert is the only one to point out the constitutional limitations on the office of the treasurer, pointing out that his opponent is going around acting like he can make policy. And Covert is, as he puts it, the only CPA in the race, even if his low-technology style does give his official campaign photo a passing resemblence to the stapler guy from Office Space. Can't you just picture Covert fondling a Swingline in his left hand?
My vote: Covert
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Janet Barresi - Republican
Susan Paddack - Democrat
Richard E Cooper - Independent
Barresi is the founder of two successful charter schools and is also a dentist. Paddack is a state senator from Ada and a former science teacher. Cooper is an educator also from Ada. Barresi is for expansion of charter schools, testing reform, and local control of schools. She is adamantly opposed to State Question 744, although she does misrepresent its accountability measures (Barresi thinks there will be no invoice telling how the money is spent, but one of the few things SQ 744 does mandate is that there will be a report published telling how the money is spent). Paddack is hard to pin down. She has refused to take an official position on SQ 744. Cooper is all for SQ 744. According to this Oklahoma Gazette profile, none of them seem to have a response to the perceived exodus of teachers to other higher-paying states (Paddack: Please stay! Barresi: We'll get rid of some onerous rules for you. Cooper: We'll get creative about job titles.) I heard part of a debate among the three candidates this past week as I was waiting for a tow truck to show up, and I found Paddack and Barresi to be well-spoken and assured, even though it was still hard to determine exactly what Paddack was for. For what it's worth, Paddack has the endorsement of Brad Henry and the Norman Transcript, while Barresi has the endorsement of Senator Jim Inhofe and the Oklahoman.
I think there are lots of reasons to vote for any of these candidates. I like Barresi's "research-based" strategies and her openness to merit pay for teachers, but I also like the fact that Paddack is less likely to be in favor of vouchers and "local control". It seems that conservatives really like Barresi, which I think is enough to turn me to voting for Susan Paddack.
Commissioner of Labor
Mark Costello - Republican
Lloyd L Fields - Democrat
Lloyd Fields famously ended up in the detox center in Oklahoma City after a night where he "attempted to steal a professional bull rider's guitar". He also has been sued for "political harassment" and back child support. Republican Mark Costello has jumped all over this story. He got the professional bull rider to support him. He made a Jib-Jab-like video of all of the rest of Fields' misdeeds. And he even found time to record a jingle for himself to the tune of Mellow Yellow, with the lyrics "Vote for Mark Costello (labor commish!)/ He's the right fellow (that's right!)". What this all has to do with the Department of Labor, I don't really know. The Norman Transcript supports neither candidate.
My vote: Costello
John Doak - Republican
Kim Holland - Democrat
Kim Holland, the only Democrat to be leading in the polls for statewide office, is more of an independent than a liberal. She is racking up endorsements from all over the political spectrum, including the right-leaning Daily Oklahoman (her website* lists them all). John Doak is obsessed with getting rid of the new federal health care law. He has joined a federal lawsuit against it. He has made an ad where all he does is talk about how much it removes choice. He is spearheading a yes on State Question 756 campaign (the one that says no to ObamaCare). He has even tied Holland to Obama in another ad (She was a delegate! How awful!).
My vote: Holland
*Note: If you're stumbling around online for information about the race for insurance commissioner, perhaps while making a blog post, don't decide to bypass the convenient Google search toolbar in the upper right corner of your screen and type in kimholland.com instead to see if there's anything there. Because there is something there, and it is incredibly NSFW.
Tom Coburn - Republican
Jim Rogers - Democrat
Stephen P. Wallace - Independent
Ronald F. Dwyer - Independent
I'm not going to vote for Tom Coburn, so this section will be about all those other guys. Today I ran across a piece written for Wonkette.com by Josh Fruhlinger, who also happens to run another of my favorite sites, the Comics Curmudgeon. The Wonkette piece is entitled "Grizzled Old Coot Will Be Oklahoma's Next Democratic Senator". Among the many theories about how Jim Rogers, the White Alvin Greene, got to be the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate was that voters may have thought he was related to Will Rogers.