by David Van Risseghem
The promised 'unity team' that Oklahoma Republicans voted into office last April, have now filed for a divorce, of sorts.
Tulsa's former county chairman, David McLain; decided to throw his hat in the ring last January. He'd served one term in party office and had connected with the Stitt campaign just a couple months earlier.
Edmond's Mike Turner had served one term in the legislature. He'd been deeply involved in the national Trump campaign and has deep ties with his legislative colleagues, many of whom are in leadership.
McLain has been involved with faith groups and especially political organizations reflecting those values.
Turner comes from a successful family business legacy and is well connected with the business communities in Oklahoma, as well as national political organizers working for Trump.
They started well. Each focused on specific duties. Turner worked on legislative relations and GOP policies as they reflect on current legislation. McLain set up the state party office and connections with county GOP organizations.
Then came the summer and the silence between the two. In late July, some were noticing the dysfunction. A Central Committee meeting was held and all seemed well. Some concessions were agreed to by both of them. But then came the financial news.
At the 3rd Quarter State Committee meeting, in August; we learned that the required budget was not ready for the presiding State Committee to approve. Budget Chair, Gary Jones reported that he'd only recently been appointed and the budget committee had only met with his members 2 nights earlier. At this open meeting, Jones gave a sober warning that "as of the end of the previous month, the party was about $12,000 in debt". Just a few hundred dollars was in the bank. The party is required to operate on a budget which the State Committee approves, but we were told that the rest of the year would operate with no budget. It would be up to the party chairman to decide whether we go further in debt, pay off the debt, or 'tread water'. We knew that the upcoming election season would cost money, and we are not storing up any campaign funds.. or even operational funds.
Then came this week's media reports that allege a debt of about $20,000. Mike Turner spoke with Randy Krehbiel of the Tulsa World, followed tonight by a 6pm newscast where he spoke to Aaron Brilbeck of News9 KWTV. He called for the resignation of McLain.
About 2 hours later, McLain sent me an issued press release, using the party's website & letterhead, where he not only called for Turner's resignation, but he said that the 4-member state central committee held a meeting and voted to 'ask for the resignation of Turner'. The central committee's duty is listed as "to perform.. functions necessary for the operation of the Oklahoma Republican Party."
It is the presiding State Committee which is tasked with the duty of overseeing leadership decisions.
McLain used the state party press release to remind Republicans that he received 70% of the vote at the state convention and that a party bank acct. has more than $20,000 in it.
I was contacted by Turner shortly after. He said the national party had wired a bailout to the OKGOP after Monday's embarrassing news. Turner believes the state has perhaps $20-25k in credit card debt. Turner believes that debt may have gone hidden much longer had he not shined light on it through the media.
This is a sad day for all those who believe the vision and promise that the OKGOP aspires to. Not only do we face inner strife and distraction; we also face debt, disorder, and a lack of spending oversight.
This is the worst of all conditions for a state party to find itself embroiled in. Both of these men have qualities and shortcomings. It's sad when the chemistry causes a lab fire, instead of a synergy.