Oklahoma GOP favored to hold the governor’s mansion in 2018

Oklahoma GOP favored to hold the governor’s mansion in 2018

By Hastings Wyman – Gov. Mary Fallin (R) is finishing her second-term and will be term-limited in 2018. An open seat for governor is always a plum, easier to win than challenging an incumbent, with all the built-in advantages that a state’s CEO enjoys. Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb (R) “is obviously going to run and is the presumed frontrunner,” says former state GOP chairman Chad Alexander. Lamb, who will be finishing his second term in the number two spot, served in the state senate for seven years, where he was elected Majority Floor Leader. He won the 2010 Republican Primary for lieutenant governor with 67% in a five-candidate race and won the General Election by 64% to 32%. “He transcends the Republican factions,” says Professor Keith Gaddie of the University of Oklahoma. He was a Secret Service agent during George W. Bush’s presidency. Other assets include that he has “a good personality and is a good fundraiser,” says Gaddie. Lamb has already latched on to an issue which may be a vote-getter. Gov. Fallin has proposed a major tax overhaul, which would eliminate the corporate income tax but extend the sales taxes to services. The proposal would net local governments some $769 million dollars. Those directly affected, such as lawyers and funeral directors, have already begun to complain. In addition, the tax on cigarettes will increase from $1.03 a pack to $2.50, a levy that falls mainly on poor people, but proponents believe this is offset by discouraging smoking, thus improving the health of those who quit. Says Gaddie, the proposal “is not horrible, but it is controversial.” Last...
Alabama: Strange “obvious choice” to succeed Sessions

Alabama: Strange “obvious choice” to succeed Sessions

By Hastings Wyman – When the Senate confirmed President Trump’s nomination of US Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to be the nation’s attorney general, Gov. Robert Bentley (R) quickly appointed the state’s attorney general, Luther Strange, to the vacancy. Strange, who had already announced he would run for the Senate if Sessions was confirmed, will hold the seat until 2018, when there will be an election to fill the last two years of Session’s term, which ends in 2020. Sessions, a fixture in Alabama politics, had held the Senate seat for 20 years. Strange “was and always was the obvious choice” to take Sessions’ place in the Senate, says Marty Connors, former chairman of the state GOP. He enjoys “tremendous regard on the grassroots level,” for protecting the state’s coal industry by challenging President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, for opposing Obamacare, and especially for negotiating the $1 billion settlement with BP-Deepwater Horizon after its disastrous oil spill in 2010. Strange, who will also relinquish his post as the new chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association, has brought or been associated with more than 50 lawsuits against what he has called “federal overreach.” Strange has also prosecuted Republican officeholders who ran afoul of the law, including state House Speaker Mike Hubbard, convicted of ethics charges and sentenced to four years in prison. The main difference between Strange and Sessions, quips Connors, “is about two feet,” alluding to Strange’s 6’9” height, compared to Sessions 5’7”. Indeed, Strange played basketball at Tulane, where he earned the nickname, “Big Luther.” Adds Connors, “I don’t know of any [policy] differences between Jeff and Luther,...
Alabama’s crowded gubernatorial stirrings

Alabama’s crowded gubernatorial stirrings

  By Hastings Wyman – In two years, Alabama elects a governor to succeed term-limited – and embattled – Gov. Robert Bentley (R). While interest in the position is high, there’s little consensus as to who will be the major contenders. More than a dozen Republicans have expressed interest in running, but only one has announced. When asked to name potential candidates for governor, Republican National Committeeman Paul Reynolds answers, “The line starts right down the street from my house (in Jefferson County) and stretches all the way to Mobile.” The race “is extremely fluid,” says Marty Connors, former chairman of the state GOP. The early stirrings of the race are happening against a background of scandal, an ethics investigation and possible impeachment, all involving incumbent Gov. Bentley’s relationship with Rebekah Mason, the former aide to the governor to whom he sent inappropriate emails. Bentley’s impeachment is unlikely, says Glenn Browder, Emeritus Professor of American Democracy at Jacksonville State University in Alabama, and a former congressman (D) from Alabama’s 3rd District. Browder. “He’s a Republican governor” and GOPers wouldn’t want to see him impeached. He adds, “Most Democrats are black and don’t want to kick out a governor on personal issues, as they are often the targets of such charges.” Nevertheless, “Whoever runs will be denouncing Bentley’s conduct,” says Browder. The leading possibility, if you go by one poll taken last July, is former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore (R). The survey, taken for the Alabama Forestry Association, showed Moore in the lead with 28%, followed by 19% for state Attorney General Luther Strange (R), who has since moved...
How’s he doin’?

How’s he doin’?

By Hastings Wyman – The late Ed Koch, mayor of the Big Apple, used to ask New Yorkers, “How’m I doin?” So although President Trump has been in office only one week, it’s been quite a week, and it’s already worth asking, “How’s he doin’?” If you were in Washington, DC, where New Yorker Donald Trump received 4% of the vote to Hillary Clinton’s 91%, where anti-Trump demonstrations are held almost daily and reported on the local news, where the Washington Post publishes a front-page article critical of him almost daily, and where most folks watch cable news’ nightly hostile analysis of his every move, you could be forgiven for believing that the new president has barely enough public support to function. But although Trump’s approval ratings are low by historic standards, his fans and his foes are just about even after his first few days in office. Moreover, in the South, which was almost solid in its support for Trump on Election Day, Trump’s early actions in office get some near-rave reviews. Marty Connors, a former chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, says of Trump’s first week, “Everybody’s applauding it pretty much… There’s lots of action going on. More action than I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen anything like it. People like it after watching Obama for eight years. Trump is retreating from Obama as fast as he can. Alabamians love it.” Barney Bishop, a Tallahassee-based political analyst, says, “All of the conservative Republicans and Democrats in Tallahassee and in North Florida are extremely impressed with his cabinet nominees, especially three former generals. And it’s interesting to see...
Wherefore art thou Rubio?

Wherefore art thou Rubio?

By Hastings Wyman – Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote up or down on the nomination of Texas oilman Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state. If they do not approve him, his nomination will go to the Senate floor without a recommendation, which would make it more unlikely that the closely divided Senate – 52R-48D – will ultimately confirm him. The key figure in the political and ideological drama surrounding Tillerson’s nomination is US Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Tillerson, like the man who nominated him, has a history of favorable comments about Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin. While President Trump’s views about getting along with Russia have been political, Tillerson’s have been business. When CEO of ExxonMobil, Tillerson dealt with Putin, and many other world leaders, in an effort to buy or sell petroleum. Rubio, however, sees the issue in moral terms. And he pushed, indeed pushed hard, to get Tillerson to agree that Putin is a “war criminal,” citing the mysterious deaths of his political opponents. Is Rubio’s stance essentially a moral or ideological one, or is there political ambition in the mix of motives? Barney Bishop, Tallahassee-based political analyst, says, “I surmise that he’s just very strong on foreign policy, on Cuba, China and Russia. And he’s not a big fan of Donald Trump,” who famously dubbed Rubio “Little Marco” during the unsavory GOP nomination battle. Bishop adds, however, “I was a little surprised at his tone at the Tillerson hearing.” University of South Florida Professor Susan MacManus points out that Rubio “has a long history of making strong statements on foreign policy.”...