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Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt picked as next EPA chief

Nomination of EPA critic to head agency is drawing fire from environmental groups

♦By Rich Shumate, Chicken Fried Politics.com editor

oklahoma mugWASHINGTON (CFP) — Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a vocal critic of the federal Environmental Protection Agency and a skeptic of climate change science, has been picked by President-elect Donald Trump to be the EPA’s next administrator.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt

Pruitt’s nomination to the post was announced December 8 by Trump, who, like Pruitt, has been critical of EPA regulations on the energy industry designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

“For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn,” Trump said in a statement announcing Pruitt’s selection.

“(Pruitt) will reverse this trend and restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe.”

Pruitt, who has both sued and been publicly critical of the agency, said in his own statement that “the American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations.”

“I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses,” he said.

But Pruitt’s nomination has already run into fierce opposition from environmental groups.

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement that putting Pruitt in charge of the EPA “is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires.”

Kassie Siegal, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, dismissed Pruitt as “a wholly owned subsidiary of the oil industry,” pointing to political contributions he has received from Oklahoma oil interests.

“Nominating him to lead the agency that protects our air, water and climate from pollution is like putting the Swamp Thing in charge of draining the swamp,” she said in a statement. “Any senator who doesn’t fight this nomination is handing corporate polluters a wrecking ball to destroy our future.”

Pruitt, 48, is in his second term as attorney general. His criticism of the EPA largely stems from the agency’s imposition of new restrictions on coal-fired power plants in order to curb carbon dioxide emissions, which proponents of climate change believe are harming the planet.

Pruitt, who has called the science behind the theory of climate change “unsettled,” sued the EPA after it rejected a plan put forward by the state to control power plant emissions in Oklahoma. He has also accused the EPA of overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by natural gas producers.

At a congressional hearing in 2015, Pruitt charged that the EPA was trying to force an “anti-fossil fuel agenda” on the states.

Trump, too, has been critical of the science behind climate change, once describing it as a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese. However, in an interview after he won the November 8 election, he partially walked back that statement, saying there might be a link between human activity and changes in global temperature.

U.S. Senate: Republicans hold on to all 8 of their Southern seats

Rubio and Burr beat back challenges in Florida, North Carolina; Kennedy and Campbell will contest runoff in Louisiana

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

election-central-16(CFP) — Republicans held on to all eight of their Southern U.S. Senate seats, with Marco Rubio in Florida and Richard Burr in North Carolina turning back strong Democratic challengers.

Meanwhile, in Louisiana’s all-party “jungle” primary, State Treasurer John Kennedy and Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell will advance to a December 10 runoff for the open seat being vacated by Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter.

Kennedy led with 25 percent, with Campbell at 18 percent, edging out Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany at 15 percent.

Because Republicans already secured their 51-seat Senate majority, the Louisiana runoff will not affect the balance of power.

In addition to Rubio and Burr, Republican incumbents also won re-election in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

With the wins on November 8, Republicans will hold 23 of the 28 Southern Senate seats, with Louisiana still to be decided.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

In Florida, Rubio had initially decided to give up his Senate seat to pursue the Republican presidential nomination. But after losing the White House contest, he changed course and filed to run for a second term, improving the GOP ‘s prospects for keeping the seat.

Rubio took 52 percent, defeating Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who took 44 percent.

Alluding to his withdrawal from the presidential race in March, he told election night supporters in Miami, “This is a lot better than the last time I did one of these.”

Rubio, who had been a critic of Trump before reluctantly endorsing him, did not mention his party’s  victorious presidential standard-bearer in his speech, but he did make a plea for civility in politics.

“While we can disagree on issues, we cannot share a country where people hate each other because of their political affiliations,” Rubio said.

U.S. Senator Richard Burr

U.S. Senator Richard Burr

In North Carolina, Burr, seeking a third term, took 51 percent of the vote, defeating Deborah Ross, a former state legislator and Duke University law professor, who took 45 percent.

“I am truly humbled by the support I’ve received from people across this state,” Burr said at a victory celebration in Winston-Salem. “This is a victory for all of those who have believed in me.”

In a state notorious for exchanging Senate seats between parties, Burr becomes the first senator to win three consecutive terms since Jesse Helms in 1984.

Here are the other Southern Senate results:

Shelby

Shelby

Alabama: Republican U.S. Senator Richard Shelby won a seventh term by defeating Democrat Ron Crumpton, a marijuana rights activist. by a margin of 64-36 percent. At the end of his new term, Shelby will be 88 and will have served in Congress for 44 years.

boozman-sm

Boozman

Arkansas: Republican U.S. Senator John Boozman won a second term by taking 60-36 percent for Democrat Conner Eldridge, a former federal prosecutor from Fayetteville. Boozman suffered an aortic aneurysm in 2014 that kept him away from Washington for two months.

Isakson

Isakson

Georgia: Republican U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson won a third term in the Senate by defeating Democrat Jim Barkdale, a wealthy Atlanta businessman, by a 55-41 percent margin. Isakson ran for re-election to a third term despite announcing in 2015 that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

paul sm

Paul

Kentucky: Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul defeated Lexington Mayor Jim Gray by a margin of 57-43 percent. Paul had pursued re-election simultaneously with a presidential campaign until he dropped out of the White House race in February.

Lankford

Lankford

Oklahoma: Republican U.S. Senator James Lankford easily won his first full six-year term by defeating Democrat Mike Workman, a Tulsa political consultant, by a margin of 68-25 percent. In 2014, Lankford was elected to finish out the final two years of Tom Coburn’s term after he resigned.

Scott

Scott

South Carolina: Republican U.S. Senator Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, easily won a full six-year term by defeating Democrat Thomas Dixon, a Charleston pastor, by a margin of 61-36 percent. In 2014, Scott was elected to serve out the remaining two years of Jim DeMint’s term, after he resigned.

Republican U.S. Senate incumbents trying to fight off Democratic challengers

Florida and North Carolina are Senate battlegrounds; Louisiana holds all-party primary for Vitter’s seat

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

election-central-16(CFP) — Nine GOP-held Southern U.S. Senate seats are up for grabs in the November 8 election, with Republican incumbents heavily favored in six races.

The exceptions are Florida, where Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is facing off against Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, and in North Carolina, where the GOP incumbent, U.S. Senator Richard Burr, is facing Deborah Ross, a former state legislator and Duke University law professor.

And in Louisiana, 24 candidates are running in an all-party “jungle” primary, with the top two vote-getters advancing to a December 10 runoff, which could potentially decide the balance of power in the Senate.

Pre-election polls have shown Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy in the lead, followed by Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, a Democrat; Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany of Lafayette; and Democrat Caroline Fayard, a New Orleans lawyer.

If Kennedy and Boustany can both clear the runoff, the GOP would be guaranteed of keeping the seat, now held by U.S. Senator David Vitter. But if Campbell or Fayard can come through, the December 10 runoff will be the last word on Senate races this year — and, if the Senate is closely divided, decide which party controls the chamber.

In addition to Rubio and Burr, Republican incumbents are seeking re-election in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

All are heavily favored, although the race in Georgia between U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson  and Democratic businessman Jim Barksdale is somewhat more competitive.

In Alabama, Richard Shelby faces Democrat Ron Crumpton, a marijuana rights activist; in Arkansas John Boozman is seeking a second term against Democrat Conner Eldridge, a former federal prosecutor from Fayetteville; and in Kentucky, Rand Paul is running against Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.

In Oklahoma,  James Lankford faces Mike Workman, a Tulsa political consultant, and in South Carolina, Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, faces Democrat Thomas Dixon, a Charleston pastor.

Trump, Clinton roll across the South on Super Tuesday

Trump carries five of seven Southern GOP primaries; Clinton takes six on Democratic side
SUPER TUESDAY SOUTHERN RESULTS
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern-states-lg(CFP) — Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton rolled across the South on Super Tuesday, carrying 11 of the 14 primaries and the lion’s share of the delegates up for grabs.

The only outliers were Oklahoma, which both Trump and Clinton lost, and the Republican primary in Texas, which went for homestate U.S. Senator Ted Cruz

Trump and Clinton won Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia in the March 1 vote. Clinton also won the Democratic primary in Texas

Super Tuesday was rough sledding for  U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who came in second place in Virginia and Georgia but could only manage a third-place finish in Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Texas.

In addition to winning Texas and Oklahoma, Cruz finished second to Trump in Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee. He was third in Georgia and Virginia.

While Trump won most of the Super Tuesday primaries on the Republican side, he cleared 40 percent only one Southern state, Alabama, which he swept by 18 points.

Trump also notched double-digit wins in Georgia and Tennessee. His victories in Arkansas and Virginia were narrow, 2 and 3 percent, respectively.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Buoyed by her strong support among African-Americans, Clinton rolled up huge numbers across the South. With the exception of Oklahoma, which she lost by 10 points to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Clinton’s support ranged from 64 percent in Virginia to 78 percent in Alabama.

Her margin of victory ranged from 29 points in Virginia to a staggering 59 points in Alabama.

The next Southern stops in the presidential race are:

  • Saturday, March 5: Kentucky (GOP caucus), Louisiana (primary)
  • Tuesday, March 8: Mississippi (primary)
  • Tuesday, March 15: Florida (primary); North Carolina (primary)
  • Tuesday, May 19: West Virginia (primary)

Southern Super Tuesday Results

ALABAMA
Trump—43%
Cruz—21%
Rubio-19%
Carson–10%
Kasich–4%

Clinton–78%
Sanders–19%

ARKANSAS
Trump—33%
Cruz—31%
Rubio-25%
Carson–6%
Kasich–4%

Clinton–66%
Sanders–30%

GEORGIA
Trump—39%
Rubio–25%
Cruz–24%
Carson–6%
Kasich–6%

Clinton–71%
Sanders–28%

OKLAHOMA
Cruz—34%
Trump—28%
Rubio–26%
Carson–6%
Kasich–4%

Sanders–52%
Clinton–42%

TENNESSEE
Trump—39%
Cruz–25%
Rubio–21%
Carson–8%
Kasich–5%

Clinton–66%
Sanders–32%

TEXAS
Cruz–44%
Trump–27%
Rubio–18%
Carson–4%
Kasich–4%

Clinton–65%
Sanders–33%

VIRGINIA
Trump—35%
Rubio–32%
Cruz–17%
Kasich–9%
Carson–6%

Clinton–64%
Sanders–35%

Analysis: Midterms a show of woe for Southern Democrats

GOP has a particularly strong showing in the upper South, where Democrats have recently been competitive

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern states sm

(CFP) — One look at a color-coded map of midterm election results in any Southern state tells the story – there’s a tsunami of red and a shrinking pool of blue.

Take Texas, for example, with its 254 counties. Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn carried 236 of them; the Republican candidate for governor, Attorney General Greg Abbott, carried 235. The only blue is found in Dallas, El Paso, Austin and along the Mexican border.

But that’s still more blue than in Oklahoma, where both Republican U.S. Senate candidates swept all 77 counties, and in West Virginia, where GOP Senate candidate Shelley Moore Capito swept all 55, despite the fact that Democrats have a 350,000-person lead in voter registration.

A deeper look at the numbers from the midterm elections shows just how far Democrats have fallen from the halcyon days when they had an iron grip on the solid South. They’re not just losing; lately, they’re not even competitive.

And perhaps even more troubling for Democrats is the fact that the dam seems to have burst in states in the upper South, where the party had been holding its own at the state level.

This year, 13 of 14 Southern states — all but Florida — had a U.S. Senate election, and two states — Oklahoma and South Carolina — had two. Setting aside Louisiana, which is headed to a runoff, and Alabama, which Democrats didn’t even bother to contest, GOP candidates won by an average of nearly 21 points.

Democrats couldn’t crack 30 percent in either Oklahoma race. They failed to crack 40 percent in six others. In fact, Republicans won by double digits in 10 races. Only Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina were close, with the GOP taking the latter two.

Things were just about as bad in races for governor, where the GOP margin of victory was about 18 percent. Republicans won by double digits in six of the eight governor’s races. Only Florida and Georgia were even remotely close.

The news was particularly bad for Democrats in three upper South states that were politically competitive a decade ago – West Virginia, Arkansas and Tennessee.

In West Virginia, Democrats not only lost the U.S. Senate race, but they lost all three U.S. House seats, and Republicans took control of both houses of the state legislature for the first time since 1931.

With Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Pryor’s loss, Arkansas will have an all-Republican congressional delegation for the first time since Reconstruction. Heading into the election, Democrats held five out of the seven statewide constitutional officers. In the midterm, they lost all seven.

Tennessee used to be split between Republicans in the east and Democrats in the west. Now, the GOP is winning everywhere, holding seven of the state’s nine U.S. House seats. Both Alexander and Governor Bill Haslam, re-elected with 71 percent of the vote, carried Shelby County, which includes the Democratic bastion of Memphis.

Increasingly, Democrats seem to be doing better in the deep South, where they can rely on the support of black voters, than in the upper South, where black populations are smaller.

For example, Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, despite being a long-time incumbent in a very red state, won by a smaller margin than did Republican Tom Cotton, who beat Pryor like a rug in Arkansas.

Some might attribute Graham’s narrower margin to his Tea Party problems. But Alexander — who faced a similar Tea Party dynamic — managed to win by 30 points in Tennessee.

What is clear from the midterms is that despite recent gains at the presidential level in states such as North Carolina and Virginia, Democrats are becoming less competitive across the region, and the South is becoming more monolithically red.

Indeed, the midterm results support the argument that in most of the South, the two-party system is becoming a relic of the past.

Republicans make gains in statehouses across the South

GOP takes control in West Virginia for the first time in 80 years, makes strong gains in Arkansas, Florida

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern states smELECTION CENTRAL (CFP) — Republicans made gains in statehouses across the South in the November 4 midterm election, taking complete control in West Virginia and padding their numbers in Arkansas and Florida.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul

U.S. Senator Rand Paul

However, Democrats managed to keep their majority in the Kentucky House, which could doom plans by Republican U.S Senator Rand Paul to run for both the White House and his Senate seat in 2016.

Of the 21 legislative chambers up for election, the GOP picked up seats in 15, while five others saw no change. The only place Democrats made a gain was in North Carolina, where they added a net of three seats in the House. However, Democrats also lost three seats in the Senate.

The biggest shift came in West Virginia, where despite having a 350,000-person advantage over Republicans in voter registration, Democrats hemorrhaged seats.

In the House, the GOP gained a net 17 seats and now has a 64-36 advantage. In the Senate, Republicans gained seven seats to create a tie, then took control when a Democrat switched parties after the election.

Republicans have not controlled the Mountaineer State’s legislature since 1931.

In Arkansas, where the GOP had a slender one-vote majority in the House, Republicans gained a net of seven seats. They also added three Senate seats, giving them a two-thirds majority for the first time.

In Florida, where Governor Rick Scott narrowly won re-election, Republicans down the ballot did better, gaining a net of eight seats to capture an 82-37 majority over Democrats.

The GOP also picked up six House seats in Alabama, and in the Oklahoma Senate, Democrats lost four seats, leaving them with just eight senators in the 48-member chamber.

Republicans also made small gains in Texas, Tennessee and Georgia.

Kentucky law currently prohibits Paul from running for re-election to the Senate while also pursuing the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. With Democrats in charge of the House for the next two years, that law is not likely to be changed.

Paul has said he thinks that Kentucky law is unconstitutional.

 

Ten things to watch for in Tuesday’s election

U.S. Senate, U.S. House and governorships are on the ballot all across the South

By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

(CFP) — As voters go to the polls on Tuesday, here are 10 things to watch for in races across the South:

Wsouthern states smill There Be A Peach State Runoff? — Georgia has a unique election law providing for a general election runoff if neither candidate gets an outright majority — a distinct possibility in a close race with a third-party candidate. Polls show that both the U.S. Senate race between Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn and the governor’s race between incumbent GOP Governor Nathan Deal and Democratic State Senator Jason Carter could be razor close. If that happens, a runoff in the governor’s race would be December 9, but the Senate race would not be settled until January 6.

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

Is Battle For Senate Control Headed To The Bayou? — Regardless what happens in Georgia, the in Louisiana between incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and her GOP opponent, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, is certain to head to a runoff. If Republicans need the Louisiana seat to gain control of the Senate, the Pelican State could become the focus of the American political world until the December 6 runoff.

How Much Of A Drag Is Obama? — The president’s approval ratings are anemic across the South, and none of the major Democratic candidates have brought him into the region to campaign. Linking each and every Democrat to Obama (and Obamacare) has been part and parcel of just about every Republican campaign. Tuesday will determine whether Obama’s unpopularity was a millstone that drowned Democratic prospects.

Will Florida Voters Resurrect Crist?Charlie Crist’s political career looked to be all but over after a disastrous run for the U.S. Senate four years ago. But now he’s back — this time as a Democrat — and, if the polls are to be believed, within striking distance of the governor’s mansion once again. If Crist pulls it off, it will be a remarkable feat of political redemption.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

How Big Will Abbott Win? — There’s no question that Republican Greg Abbott will win the governor’s race in Texas over Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis, who ran a remarkably inept campaign. The only question is how badly Davis goes down. Democrats talked a good game earlier this year about turning Texas blue. Tuesday’s results could show how distant that dream really is.

Fallin And Haley On National Stage? — Both Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley are cruising to easy re-election wins, which could catapult them into the national conversation for 2016. Historically, being a governor has been the best way to become president, and perhaps one reason we haven’t had a female president is that no female governor has ever sought the White House. Tuesday’s results could start those kinds of conversations in Columbia and Oklahoma City.

Are Nunn And Graham Their Father’s Political Daughters? — Both Nunn, running for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, and Gwen Graham, who is seeking a U.S. House seat in Florida, are scions of prominent Democratic political families making their political debuts. Both have run strong campaigns in areas that lean Republican. So Tuesday could be a night of political deja vu.

How Many Southern Senate Seats Can Democrats Keep? — Right now, the Democrats have only eight out of 28 seats. They seem certain to lose one of those, in West Virginia, and three others — Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina — are in jeopardy. So the party of Jackson that once strode strong across the South could be reduced to having less than 15 percent of region’s Senate seats.

Has Georgia Turned Purple? — If Democrats pull off wins in the U.S. Senate and governor’s races in Georgia, they will no doubt crow about changing political winds in the Peach State. Tuesday’s results will show if Georgia, like Virginia before it, is becoming less reliably Republican, which would no doubt encourage Democrats to try to put the state into play in 2016.

Can Rahall Survive in West Virginia? — When Democratic U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall was first elected to Congress, bellbottoms were still the rage. But after 38 years in Washington, he is fighting for his political life in a state where opposition to the Obama administration’s environmental policies is dragging down the Democratic brand. If Rahall goes, the state’s entire House delegation will be in GOP hands, a sea change in a state that a generation ago leaned Democratic.

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