POSTED ON OCTOBER 31, 2012:
A voter's guide for the rest of us
Barack Obama and Joe Biden
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan
he only time Mitt Romney visited Tulsa came during a Saturday Night Live sketch.
In Oklahoma, his image has never sparkled compared to other Republicans. In the primary election, he garnered 29 percent of the Tulsa County vote, just behind both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.
While President Barack Obama easily won with 76 percent of the Tulsa County vote, his popularity was remarkably low compared to, say, Dallas County in Texas, where he received 97 percent of the vote.
Obama in March visited a pipe yard near Cushing, about an hour west of Tulsa. Romney spoke in Oklahoma City in May. So, the two haven't completely ignored Oklahoma. But the focus of their campaigns has been on the battleground states.
But there may be drama yet in Tulsa County. Shockingly, a Sooner Poll released Oct. 26 had the pair tied, each with 46 percent of support from likely voters.
Statewide, Romney fared much better, garnering 58 percent of voter support in the poll. If Obama does carry Tulsa County, it would be an upset. In 2008, he failed to carry a single county out of 77 in the state, the only state where he failed to do so.
State Question No. 759
Legislative Referendum No. 359
This measure adds a new section to the State Constitution ... The measure deals with three areas of government action. These areas are employment, education and contracting. In these areas, the measure does not allow affirmative action programs. Affirmative action programs give preferred treatment based on race, color or gender. They also give preferred treatment based on ethnicity or national origin ... The measure applies to the State and its agencies. It applies to counties, cities and towns. It applies to school districts ... The measure applies only to actions taken after its approval by the people.
Since 1984, state agencies have been required by law to present an affirmative-action plan every year. In their most recent plan, the University of Oklahoma devoted a whopping 455 pages to detailing the gender and race of workers in various departments, as well as progress (or lack of it) in meeting diversity hiring goals.
What happens to these plans -- and goals -- if voters approve SQ 759? The answer isn't clear.
"At this point, there has been no determination of what the effects of the passing of the measure would have on state agencies in filing their affirmative action plans," said Harold Roberts, chair of the state's Affirmative Action Review Council for the last four years. In Robert's opinion, the state's Attorney General would have to weigh in if voters approve the measure.
The council has no power to sanction agencies for not meeting diversity goals, but Roberts said the value is in making out the plans.
"It raises the consciousness of the agency head ... that they should make an attempt to have a diversified workforce that reflects our state population," Roberts said.
He backs affirmative action.
"Currently, I don't think here in Oklahoma that we have reached a point where affirmative action is no longer necessary," Robert said.
Not everyone agrees -- not even everyone on the council chaired by Roberts.
"I support the question and will vote for it," said Jonathan Small, fiscal policy director for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a conservative think tank that describes The Heritage Foundation as its model.
Small, who is black, said low minority numbers in government result from few applicants. He downplayed the amount of change that would result if the question is approved.
"To the extent that there might be an affirmative-action plan that specifically required preferential treatment on race, that plan might have difficulty," he said.
Kate Richey, a policy analyst with Oklahoma Policy Institute, said that if voters approve SQ 759, she expects state agencies to stop compiling affirmative-action reports "or they'll be sued and it will cease."
She called the proposed change "highly open to interpretation by the courts, depending on what's challenged."
This three-way race has mainly been about Jim Bridenstine, the 37-year-old Navy Reserve pilot and political newbie who nevertheless bested incumbent John Sullivan in the Republican primary, and John Olson, 35, a business owner and Army reservist.
Along with sharing a military background, both have impressive educational accomplishments. But each also bears the burden of six-figure student debt, as first reported by The Oklahoman.
Olson holds two graduate degrees, including a law degree from the University of Tulsa. He owes between $100,000 and $250,000 in government loans and up to $150,000 in private student loans.
Bridenstine earned a master's in business administration from Cornell University. He owes between $100,000 and $250,000 in government loans.
An analysis from the Pew Research Center found that 19 percent of all households nationwide owed money on student loans in 2010, an increase from 15 percent in 2007. For households headed by an individual in the same age group as Bridenstine and Olson, slightly more than a quarter owed student debt.
But neither candidate has chosen to devote much campaign time to what many economists describe as a troubling trend. In an Oct. 22 KFAQ radio debate hosted by Pat Campbell, both men were asked about their student debt and ideas on the current system, with Campbell using a tone that put both a bit on the defensive.
"The reality is, a lot of people have college debt and there's nothing inappropriate about that," Bridenstine said.
He was also critical of education costs.
"The Department of Education has driven up the cost of education to the point now where you have to get a direct loan from the Department of Education in order to afford your education. We have created this cycle of dependency and it must be reversed," Bridenstine told Campbell. He also blamed the "Obama economy" for employment struggles of recent college graduates.
Olson said people "who invest in themselves and in education are absolutely on the right track." He praised steps toward reform that involve removing banks from the student loan equation to streamline costs.
Bridenstine didn't respond to an interview request. Olson did, admitting that he hadn't studied proposals broached by President Barack Obama on the issue.
He said people simply ask him more about jobs and the economy, explaining why the burden of student loans hasn't been much of a campaign issue.
It may have been a missed opportunity, for everyone involved.
Michael G. Fulks
Undoubtedly the nastiest local race, it seems difficult to turn on the television without catching a political ad featuring either Wallace or Mullin (Fulks simply hasn't had the money to counter with an effective campaign).
Yet despite the time and money spent on TV ads, neither Wallace nor Mullin bothered to fill out a policy questionnaire from the League of Women Voters. Wallace's campaign manager, Kyle Gott, said Wallace never received the questionnaire.
As far as debates, only one 30-minue debate took place Oct. 29.
Instead, voters are mainly left with impressions from comedic attack ads approved by Wallace and Mullin vowing to "Stop Barack Obama's socialist agenda."
Tulsa City Council District 1
Jack Ross Henderson
Twan T. Jones
Henderson easily won the September 2011 Democratic primary contest, which also included Jones. Henderson, a former NAACP president, has served on the council since 2004. In the primary, he garnered 78 percent of the vote, according to the League of Women Voters.
It's hard to imagine how Jones -- whose main campaign plank this campaign cycle involves opposition to Vision2 -- could possibly make up such a large deficit without a major campaign effort, which he has failed to mount.
Tulsa City Council District 7
Probably the most bizarre race, in that Tom Mansur has a job outside of Tulsa and said he won't serve another term. But by remaining on the ballot, he forces a special election if he gets more votes than his challenger, 25-year-old Arianna Moore.
Meanwhile, Moore has been campaigning. Her credentials include a nearly two year-stint on the Commission for the Status of Women, a government board.
"I've got some signs out. I've been working on getting my door to door going," Moore said. Asked about her goals as councilor, she stressed a need to improve communication between the city and its citizens.
Many people she speaks to are unaware of Mansur's plan to resign even if elected, she said.
"I'm just doing my best and trying to get my name out," she said.
Proposition No. 1
Shall the County of Tulsa, Oklahoma ... levy and collect a thirty one percent of one percent (.310%) sales tax for the purpose of promoting economic development within Tulsa County ... such sales tax to commence on the first day of January, 2017, and continuing thereafter for thirteen (13) years from the date of commencement of such tax?
Proposition No. 2
Shall the County ... levy and collect a twenty nine percent of one percent (.290%) sales tax for the purpose of acquiring, constructing, furnishing and equipping capital improvements to be owned by Tulsa County, Oklahoma, incorporated municipalities ... such sales tax to commence on the first day of January, 2017, and continuing thereafter for thirteen (13) years from the date of commencement of such tax?
Matt Galloway was in the first video promoting Vision2. Then he was in a video outlining opposition to it.
And then he was in a video promoting it again -- but it wasn't his choice.
With Vision2 -- the official, unofficial name for the dry language voters will see on the ballot -- the campaigns for and against the measure have taken some interesting twists.
A measure touted as basically a sequel to 2003's Vision 2025 sales tax measure has two parts. One part focuses in improvement to airport industrial facilities, while the other relates to what proponents describe as quality-of-life issues.
Galloway, a freelance mobile software developer, said he first became involved in Vision2 when his phone rang.
"I got a phone call saying, 'Hey, we're doing a pro-Tulsa video downtown," recalled Galloway. Only upon arrival was he told it was for Vision2, which he said he only had heard about a day earlier.
Galloway spoke about downtown and the arts when asked about his vision for Tulsa. It was only quite a bit later when a friend became involved in the grassroots effort against Vision2.
Having studied the issue, Galloway agreed to appear in a video outlining his concerns. The video was posted on StopVision2.com
Unbeknownst to him, pro-Vision2 supporters spotted it and made their own rebuttal. The video, posted on Youtube.com, began with a small black-and-white photo of Galloway, along with a statement he made in the StopVision2.com video in white letters on the screen: "This affects 15,000 households. So by my math, that's only 6% of the population."
Then, a big red "False" appears, and a Vision2 proponent talks about the so-called quality-of-life Vision2 projects.
Galloway said he was "shocked" to discover the Vision2 supporters -- who have poured money into broadcast TV ads -- would choose to feature him in a video ad, albeit one only screened on YouTube.
He said the video takes his statement out of context. But he's not necessarily angry it was made in the first place, however.
"I feel like, hey, if I'm going to put a video out there, I have opened it up for rebuttal and debate," he said.
Bill Handy with the Vision2 campaign team wrote in an emailed statement about the video countering Galloway (and there are other, similar videos) that the campaign's intention "was not to single out individuals, but to address specific comments and misinformation."
Galloway said his "6 percent" comment actually referred only to Proposition 1, which has to do with the airport improvements.
Now, with the focus on him, he said he's begun to use Twitter more frequently to voice his anti-Vision2 sentiment.
"If I'm going to get singled out, well, I'm going to voice my opinion more loudly," Galloway said.
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