Don’t rush to judgment. There are several factors why these City Council races were not a good indicator of the strengths or weaknesses of the tea party.
First, municipal elections are nonpartisan. (I don’t want to debate the merit of such a system. I’m just stating a fact). Picking up the trash, fixing potholes, and police and fire for the most part do not fall into the usual realm of partisan fault lines of bickering. Having a nonpartisan race changes the rules; with all parties being able to vote, the average partisan leanings of voters are not as conservative as they would be in a GOP primary.
The average Oklahoman aligns more with the tea party philosophy of limited government and lower taxes.
Second, the timing of it is a factor.
With municipal elections coming at the worst possible time of the year, not a whole lot of people are paying attention. We just ended an off-presidential election year with a new governor still getting used to the mansion, the state Legislature just starting to get going and people are not used to voting in March.
There is a fallacy that all voters got together and came to a decision in accordance with any party. Each ward needed to be taken individually. Most (above 90 percent) of all incumbents win in any election, regardless of race or situation. So Meg Salyer and Pat Ryan, unless they did something really stupid or were caught in a scandal, were going to be re-elected.
In my ward, David Greenwell’s win over Brian Walters was somewhat of a shock, but Greenwell ran a more focused, more aggressive and more effective campaign. On Election Day, I got a last-minute mailer, a phone call in the morning reminding me to vote and a call around 6:30 p.m. to see if I had voted, which I had not yet. Greenwell presented himself as professional, accomplished and experienced. Campaign mailers produced by the Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum claimed that Brian Walters contradicted his conservative stance by voting more than 10 times to raise fees and taxes, all while voting to “double his own salary.” (I am not arguing over those votes; those were the allegations.)
Finally, forces were focused on beating Walters and getting the non-tea party candidates to win. The tea party was for the most part fractured in its efforts and strategy. If and when the tea party groups come together (on strategy, message and candidates), watch out, because the average Oklahoman aligns more with the tea party philosophy of limited government and lower taxes.
So, don’t rush to judgment that the tea party is dead, because more than likely it is the sleeping giant that took a nap last City Council election.
Loveless, a 2008 Republican candidate for Senate District 45, is CEO of Phoenix Consulting, editor in chief of www.okpolitico.com and the business manager for Loveless Custom Footwear.