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Monday, June 17th, 2019Last Update: Tuesday, May 7th, 2019 11:03:32 AM

Republican Back Stabbers

By: Constitution Staff

Republican candidates usually don’t have to worry about Republican elected officials campaigning for their opponents. But, in the 2018 elections, a number of current or former elected officials either worked to defeat Republicans in the primary elections, or supported Democrats in the General Election.

Perhaps the most prominent example was the defeat of Oklahoma’s Republican Fifth District Congressman, Steve Russell. A Republican member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, Carol Bush of Tulsa, endorsed Kendra Horn, the Democrat who defeated Congressman Russell by a narrow margin. Rep. Bush was not only present at the July 13, 2017 campaign kick off for Horn, but was a featured speaker at the event in Oklahoma City. A photo posted on Horn’s campaign website showed Bush holding the microphone and addressing the gathering.

It might be said that Bush was merely returning the favor. When Bush was running against the Republican incumbent whom she defeated when she was elected, Horn was there giving her aid and support. Horn was executive director of Women Lead OK, an organization that guides women and prepares them to run for public office. Horn was also the director of Sally’s List which supported Bush’s campaign. Bush was the only Republican the group supported in Oklahoma. It might be expected that Rep. Bush would be reprimanded for helping a Democrat oust a Republican congressman which contributed to the Democrats taking control of Congress. But, following the election, Bush was elected by her Republican colleagues as Majority Caucus Secretary for the Oklahoma House Republicans. Bush has a cumulative average score of only 17% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index, ranking her as one of the most liberal Republicans in the Legislature. She certainly earns the distinction as a RINO (Republican In Name Only).

Bush was not the only Republican legislator supporting a Democrat over a Republican. State Representative Harold Wright of Weatherford not only endorsed, but helped fund the campaign of Jeff Berrong, the Democrat nominee running for a state senate seat in western Oklahoma. According to campaign contribution reports filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, Wright contributed at least $1,000 to the Democrat’s campaign. Since Wright received money from the Oklahoma GOP for his own reelection, it could be said that he took money from the Republican Party and then gave it to a Democrat campaign. Berrong was not successful in the race, losing to Republican Brent Howard. Rep. Wright is not as liberal as Rep. Bush, but his cumulative average of 53% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index classifies him as a RINO as well.

As was the case with Bush, Rep. Wright’s actions did not cause him to lose support of his fellow Republican legislators. After the election, Wright was elected Speaker Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma House, the number two position, just below the Speaker of the House. However, he did not escape the retribution of other Republicans. When the Oklahoma Republican State Committee met on January 5, Steve Curry, who also serves as National Committeeman for Oklahoma at the Republican National Committee, presented a letter from the state GOP Executive Committee advising action for Wright’s transgressions. Rule 19-g of the GOP rules provides criteria for removal from party positions. The criteria specifically states that campaigning for, or giving money to the opponent of a Republican nominee, is grounds for removal from party leadership positions. As an elected state official, Wright is included as a member of the Oklahoma Republican State Committee. Canadian County Chairman, Andrew Lopez, made a motion to expel Wright from the body. Former National Committeeman, Steve Fair, seconded the motion. There were 122 members of the committee present for the meeting and the final vote was nearly unanimous with a only a single member voting “nay.” Neither Wright nor Bush attended the meeting.

There was also an instance of former and present Republican legislators supporting a Democrat against an incumbent Republican office holder. Laura Thomas, District Attorney for Payne and Logan counties, was opposed for reelection by state Rep. Cory Williams (D-Stillwater). Williams, who had a cumulative average of 32% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index, was term-limited for his legislative seat and was running against Thomas. A campaign mailer titled: “When it comes to choosing our next DA: Republicans say the choice is clear.” The campaign piece included former Republican Speaker of the Oklahoma House, Kris Steele (R-Shawnee), and current state Rep. Dennis Casey (R-Morrison) supporting the liberal Democrat. Steele and Casey can both be classified as moderates, with Steele scoring 63% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index, and Casey 66 percent. But, other prominent Republican elected officials rallied to Thomas’ defense, including Congressman Frank Lucas and U.S. Senator James Lankford, who were featured in later campaign materials in support of Thomas. In the end, Thomas was reelected.

And, there is the case of a Republican legislator working to defeat fellow Republican legislators in the primary elections. Rep. Chris Kannady (R-Oklahoma City), a Republican floor leader in the Oklahoma House, spearheaded the defeat of 8 of the 12 Republican legislators who lost in the primary elections. The eight conservative Republicans had voted against House Bill 1010xx, the $447 million tax increase that enabled the teacher pay package. There was a concerted effort to target the conservative legislators who lost. Kannady, with a cumulative average of 35% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index, is another RINO. In an article published in the The New York Times on November 2, 2018, Kannady was revealed as the ringleader of the internal purge. Concerning the ouster of the conservatives against the tax increase, Kannady was quoted in the article saying, “Once you cut out the cancer that was attacking us, we’re now in a position to heal and move forward.” Kannady coordinated with a dark-money federal super PAC based in Alexandria, Virginia, that spent nearly $750,000 in an attack against the conservative Republicans. The Conservative Alliance PAC, which was able to raise and spend unlimited sums of money without disclosing its individual donors, targeted those legislators with mailers, and attack ads.

If one is interested, one can go to You Tube and watch Kannady being interviewed on Russian TV.

The Tulsa Beacon noted that the ads run by the deceptively-named Conservative Alliance PAC were “out and out lies,” and declared, “Kannady is the cancer.” The Oklahoman noted that the PAC was deceptive in the ads. “Rather than saying incumbents voted against tax increases, lawmakers were attacked for voting against ‘funding teacher pay.’”

These examples show the current battle within the ranks of the Republican party, not just in Oklahoma, but at the national level as well. Conservative Republicans must not only fight against the liberal Democrats, but must also contend with members of their own party.

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