Oklahoma County GOP Convention Recap
An interesting series of events unfolded Saturday at the Oklahoma County GOP Convention. To simplify the schedule, the day began with Registration from 7 am to 9:30 am. At 9 am the Convention was to Convene (or near that time) followed by the report of the Credentials Committee (who gets to be a delegate), the Rules Committee (what rules the Convention will follow), the Platform Committee (what the party will stand for) and various speeches throughout the day. Things did not go as scheduled, however. The problem began with Registration.
Registration issues badges identifying who is a delegate, an alternate, a visitor, and who is in a closed committee or an open one. There were several lines based on precinct membership issuing badges. Since I arrived before 7 am, I was through this process very quickly, as were most people throughout the morning. The usual rush occurred as we approached 9 am. The problem was not the efficiency of Registration, it was the number of people they did not have credentials for. That number was large - of the approximately 340 people in attendance, approximately 60 were required to go through the Credentials Committee for admittance. Of this number, 13 were ultimately rejected. The reason all I spoke to - and there were several - was that their voter registration card showed a date after the Precinct Meeting. In other words, the Precinct Meeting was February 6th, and their voter registration card showed February 15th. The committee was stating they did not have proof that these people were Republicans at the Precinct Meeting.
It should be noted that the Ron Paul campaign had a sign up sheet at the Precinct Meeting. Since many of the people who went before the Credentials Committee were Ron Paul supporters, we knew who they were. We also contacted them prior to the Precinct Meeting with instructions to make sure they were properly registered and to bring their voter registration cards. Additionally, we instructed people to bring their voter registration cards to the County Convention. In other words, we knew they had followed party rules and were registered before the Precinct Meeting, much less yesterday's County Convention.
The Convention waited somewhat patiently for the Credentials Committee to report, with speeches by elected officials in the mean time. As the "reddest state in the country" (all 77 counties voted McCain in 2008) we have quite a few, and many spoke, including: US Senator James Inhofe, Congressman James Lankford, Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb, Labor Commissioner Mark Costello, State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi, and numerous State Senate and State House members, as well as State GOP Chairman Matt Pinnell. Finally, in the early afternoon, the Credentials Committee report came to the floor - along with word of the 13 "visitors" who did not qualify.
At this point I will insert Rule 3(A) of the Oklahoma Republican Party: Members: All citizens of Oklahoma are invited to join the Oklahoma Republican Party to perpetuate this Republic. All qualified voters of this state who are registered Republicans are members of the Oklahoma Republican Party, and shall have the right to participate in the official affairs and governance of the Republican Party in accordance with these rules as set forth herein. Such right shall be sacred and inviolate, and the willful disregard or abridgement of such right by an officer or member of any committee of the Party shall be deemed sufficient cause for the removal of such officer or committee member. For the complete rules, click Oklahoma GOP Rules.
With the openness of the party in mind, several concerned delegates including myself crafted an amendment to the Credentials Report. After a lengthy debate, we won a precinct-weighted vote 181 to 174 (about, it had decimals and I didn't write them down). This allowed the coincidentally Ron Paul supporting 13 "visitors" to become delegates. We then voted for the amended credentials report, and some 5 hours after the Credentials Committee began we convened.
The first order of business after the Convention Chair is seated (not County Party Chair Matt Jackson, but County Commissioner Ray Vaughn) is to accept the report of the Rules Committee - or amend it, or decline it. It should be noted that the composition of both the Rules and Credentials Committees was determined by - an unknown person or persons. That is a question that needs to be raised, and I have not asked it yet, but I did sign up for Rules at the Precinct Meeting, and requested via email and text to be on it, and was not "selected" for it. Before the Rules Committee Report was accepted, I authored and submitted (with the help of my associates) a change. Here is the rule prior to my change:
Section IV: ELECTION OF STATE CONVENTION DELEGATES
All accredited Oklahoma County Convention Delegates present at this Convention shall be, and are, hereby elected as Delegates to the 2012 Republican State and District Conventions as an open delegation. Those otherwise qualified to be State Convention Delegates but not attending this Convention may be appointed by order of the Oklahoma County Central Committee. The Oklahoma County Central Committee shall not appoint more than 15% of the number of Delegates selected at the County Convention. Excluded from the 15% tally will be all elected Republican officials. The Delegate list shall close two weeks prior to the State or District Convention.
My first crack at amending this was to strike all you see, leaving only the first line. After consultation with both sides, I changed it (several times) to allow for those who truly were sick or working to attend, and here is the video of my (final) amendment:
Here is a video of me speaking after Cheryl Williams, longtime party activist and former County Chair, current State Committee Woman (and I wish I had her speech - video is by my brother, and he only recorded me with his phone):
Unfortunately, we lost this vote (some people had begun to leave, since most of us had still not eaten all day and we were approaching 4 pm). The tally was about 155 to 152. Many people were seriously upset by this amendment, in it's first form particularly, since it would have prevented anyone who was NOT in attendance from being a delegate at State or District. This includes the Governor, Mary Fallin. It would also have prevented the Central Committee from "stacking" the 5th District and State Conventions with supporters of one particular side or another. It remains to be seen if the process of selecting these additional 15% of delegates - who now only have to be "otherwise qualified" to attend both Conventions - will be an equitable process. Numerous interested parties will be watching closely.
The remaining business was uneventful, and their were no arguments on the platform - even the proposed resolution by Labor Commissioner Costello calling on all elected Republicans to refuse contributions from the PAC of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association or the Oklahoma Education Association, beginning in May 2012, or face withholding of campaign funds from the State Party. For some reason this has been seen as controversial, even though the unions are hardly a friend of the GOP. They do seem to think PAC contributions help their postions, however.
Here is a final (and professionally done) video covering this convention, from another perspective:
There are many party "regulars" who were accepting, and some who were not. The Republican Party, nation-wide, is trying to come to grips with a wave of discontent. That wave is diverse, young, and irreverent. They believe in growing Liberty, and reducing government. They are much better educated than you would believe - ask them what monetary policy is, and sit down to listen. They stand for the Rule of Law, not cronyism, so if you are one who makes a living in the world of favors, they have your job on the cutting block. Some, like Oklahoma State Chairman Matt Pinnell, recognize this movement and seek to merge their enthusiasm with the wealth of experience multiple decade party activists possess. Others seek to exclude them, but they should remember that these new activists are giving them exactly what they claim to want: a return to the keeping of Oaths, a restoration of the Rule of Law, Free Markets, and Constitutional government and money.
See you at the polls on Super Tuesday, and at the 5th District Convention on March 31st!