A day inside the Richardson Campain...
I got a call this weekend from a campaign office. They were setting up a Monday series of events for announcing the Gary Richardson campaign for Oklahoma Governor, in 2018. I was given the opportunity to observe the event from the inside. I decided to accept. Here is a timeline and narrative...
8:00 I met up with the campaign bus at the parking lot of a south Tulsa Walmart. They had a large and comfy chartered coach. About two dozen invited guests were aboard. Some were Gary Richardson's law associates, past clients, family friends, civic leaders, or just big fans of the message Richardson's campaign is advancing. Every passenger was given a Richardson campaign tee shirt.
8:30 We were on the road. I sat by a former Richardson client. He's a professor of history at Oral Roberts University. We were en route to the Oklahoma History Center, on the campus of the Oklahoma State Capitol.
10:15 The Monday morning weather was beautiful and when we arrived at the venue there was a crowd in the large hall. the team had set up a perfect backdrop.. the Oklahoma Capitol building. It was in disrepair and scaffolding and tarps cloaked most of the exterior. How fitting for this populist message of Richardson's
Like any campaign kick off, you're somewhat surprised by who you meet. Former candidates for governor or other notable political faces... Robert Hubbard stepped up to greet me. He's a Yukon businessman. He's a popular Republican figure. Very likable and he ran for Governor in 2010. A couple of national campaign operatives were also there. Kirk Shelly was quietly observing the set up. He has served on several presidential campaigns, including Sen. Rand Paul and his father, Ron Paul.
Sean Murphy of the Associated Press, spoke with me. We compared some issues we thought would be addressed. A couple TV cameras were set up. The Tulsa World & The Oklahoman were also there.
Bob Dani was checking on all the details. He and David Tackett are a couple of the key campaign leaders. They seem to be a balanced team who provide the necessary skills Gary will need. Dani is the founder and leader of the High Noon Club. They meet regularly at an OKC shooting sports complex for a lunchtime political forum. Bob is a well-liked and established fixture in conservative circles. His 'gravitas' and approachable persona will fit Richardson quite well.
Tackett is a likable bundle of enthusiasm and a mind in perpetual overdrive. He has worked for some prominent political firms, before launching his own consulting service. He ran for the legislature from a deeply Democrat district a couple times. Last year he backed Kevin McDugle and helped turn that seat red for the first time in state history.
10:30 Gary stepped to the podium and without any fanfare, he began to introduce some individuals to the crowd. He wanted us all to know him, his family, and where he comes from. He comfortably shares his convictions, faith, passions, and goals. He is a very deliberate and calm man. Some call him a populist, but there is no way you can justly compare his rhetoric or politics to a 'Huey Long'. He speaks in measured deliberateness. He rarely has a gaff or studder.
The speech didn't produce 'electricity' but it was full of resolve. It was delivered in much the same way a prosecutor would address a jury at the beginning of a courtroom litigation. He clearly laid out his case, the evidence, the law, and what they must make their decisions based upon.
11:00 After the speech, a small group of reporters approached the candidate. I stepped up to join them. I mostly observed. Sean Murphy (AP) began the questioning in his aggressive nature. He seemed to be following the checklist of issues that I earlier shared with him. The first issue was the 2002 campaign where Gary ran against the Republican nominee. Gary made no apologies. He said that his friend and law partner, Frank Keating; had discussed and informed him on what the state needed. He says Keating regretted not having sufficient Republican support on some issues. Gary said that he ran as an Independent because he felt his campaign platform would have broader support in a general election than in a Republican primary race. He was conciliatory regarding the Republican nominee, Steve Largent. But he said that the 2002 race had a lot of unexpected turns. He said that Vince Orza's collapse was a huge game-changer. He also indicated that Largent's campaign failed on it's own, and for a lot of issues and message mismanagement.
My only active participation in the impromptu press conference was to seek clarity in Richardson's soundbite analogy, supporting a full performance audit of every state agency, in his first year in office.
11:30 After the press conference and plenty of time to greet his guests, Gary and his caravan departed to a local restaurant for lunch. He nearly sustained a terrible traffic incident on the way. The SUV immediately in front of him at 28th & Lincoln Blvd. was crossing at a green light when a car ran a red light at full speed. The SUV was T-boned and rolled over. Gary and his staff immediately pulled up to set a traffic barrier so that the injured had a buffer from further danger. They called emergency responders and checked on the motorists for injuries or needs. When emergency help arrives, they provided necessary information and contact info, then joined us at the restaurant.
12:30 Richardson traveled back to Tulsa on the campaign bus. He had nearly 2 hours with us and he took time to visit everyone. The two of us spoke on a number of matters. We had a very detailed private visit a year ago, when I first got the hint that he was considering this run for governor. Gary didn't just rattle off focus-tested phrases. He asked questions and listened. I found his perspective to be refreshing and 'outside the box' that other 'managed' Republicans were confined to.
2:15 We pulled in to the Walmart parking lot near Oral Roberts University. His campaign office is just up the avenue. He asked us to stop by and visit his staff and other guests. When we arrived, there was a separate crowd of Eastern Oklahomans waiting for him. there were the trademark balloons, tee shirts, punch, treats, and excited volunteers. Richardson gathered the crowd out into the foyer where he could properly address them for a few minutes. I decided to capture the comments on a video.
3:00 I spent time visiting some of Gary's family. I expected a bit of formality and feigned friendliness. But there was none of that, on this day. His kids seem very comfortable with who they are. Some talked of matters with an honesty that only comes from a determination to be themselves, warts and all. The kids have accomplished a lot on heir own. But they don't talk about achievement. They talk about family, passions, and things they truly enjoy.