Well, the confetti has been cleaned up, the banners removed, and the signs all across the state will slowly be coming down. Election Day came and went.
In our 103 years of statehood, the GOP has never had a night like Nov. 2. Every statewide Republican candidate won, and none of those races were even close. The Democratic down ticket candidates outspent their GOP opponents and still lost.
So, what does all this mean for Oklahoma?
The GOP no longer has any excuses. Gov. Frank Keating dealt with a Democratic Legislature, and the GOP Legislature dealt with Gov. Brad Henry. However, now every statewide elected official is under GOP control.
There are two main challenges the GOP must deal with. The first is to govern competently. Govern openly. Govern effectively. When the GOP took over the state House, there were some growing pains ” learn from those mistakes and don’t repeat them.
In the next legislative session, the two big hurdles are the budget and redistricting. There is not a lot of waffle room, so get things done early and in an open manner. We have serious issues that need to be addressed, but until the budget and redistricting are taken care of, the other stuff will be put on the back burner.
Every candidate on the statewide ballot campaigned on being a conservative, so now the GOP gets to define what that means in Oklahoma. Governing is hard ” it touches us all ” so do it right and you will be rewarded by the public.
The second challenge is more introspective. In 1994, when the GOP took control of the U.S. House and Senate, the factions almost brought the majority down. What did bring them down was their arrogance and ineffective governing. Learn from those who have failed before: Don’t let factions within tear the majority apart. Rural, urban, Sooner, Cowboy, agriculture, oil, gas, Tulsa, OKC. The fault lines are there; we can see them in the state Senate Republican caucus. Hopefully, President Pro Tem-Elect Brian Bingman can keep things in line.
Preventing fractures within the GOP is going to be tough, with hard conservatives like Mike Reynolds, Randy Terrill and Sally Kern trying to deal with leadership that is rural and a governor who is going to try to get her agenda through. The one thing that makes the challenges easier is the coattails on which Gov.-Elect Fallin won: She has political leverage to use, and a lot of the people now in office are there because of her winning by so much.
Just as two years ago, and in the not-too-distant ’90s, the GOP was dead. Well, if you break the public trust, get ready, because the wave that you rode in on can take you out in four short years.
Kyle Loveless, a 2008 Republican candidate for Senate District 45, is CEO of Phoenix Consulting, editor in chief of http://www.okpolitico.com and business manager of Loveless Orthopedic and Custom Footwear.