Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – Among the many interesting moments in her bold, controversial and in some ways courageous State of the State address on Monday (February 1), Governor Mary Fallin paid deft (and merited) tribute to one of her predecessors.
Near the end of her speech, in making a point about efficiency in public education, Fallin said:
“Listen to the words of a former governor when I sat on the back row in this very chamber as a young legislator 23 years ago – 'We need more dollars in the classroom. We need fewer school districts. Real education improvements are impacted by better organization at least as much as through additional revenues. It’s unrealistic to force everyone in the state to fund local school inefficiencies.'
“And that was said by former Governor David Walters, a Democrat, in his State of the State address in 1993. My, how things haven’t changed.”
Time and temperament, wisdom and wit, tough times in policy and politics, can at least sometimes ease sharp differences in the political arena. This has been observed in the friendship between President Barack Obama and former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, and in the ties formed for many years during their lives among Ronald Reagan and both Ted Kennedy and Tip O'Neill.
Along with her husband Wade Christensen, Fallin hosted five of the six living former governors and their spouses for dinner at the governor's mansion on January 26. In a press release disclosing the event, Fallin's staff disclosed, “Former Governor David Hall, who served from 1971-75, sent regrets that he could not attend as he is caring for his wife.”
It was apparently the first such gathering in decades. Fallin said, “I wanted to bring together our former governors and spouses for an historic gathering to thank them for their service, to reminisce about their service as the chief executive of our state and their memories of living with their families at the Governor’s Mansion. It was a fun night with great stories and personal recollections.”
Attending were David and Molly Shi Boren, George and Donna Nigh, David and Rhonda Walters, Frank and Cathy Keating, and Brad and Kim Henry. Boren, now president of the University of Oklahoma, served 1975-79. Nigh, retired as University of Central Oklahoma president, was in office 1979-87. He also served in January 1963 and January 1979 when vacancies opened the governor's job for a short time. Gov. Walters served 1991-95, followed by Keating 1995-2003, and then Henry served 2003-11.
According to the release from Fallin's office, “The group speculated about a popular Governor’s Mansion tale that the spirit of former Governor William H. (Alfalfa Bill) Murray, who served from 1931-35, still inhabits the mansion.”
State Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, got some good news when Oklahoma members of the National Federation of Independent Business announced on Monday (February 1) that their top priority for the 2016 legislative session will be civil asset forfeiture reform.
Kyle has pressed reform for more than a year. He unveiled a fresh version of Senate Bill 838 at a press conference that included a police chief and the head of the state American Civil Liberties Union, as well as strong support statements from both Oklahoma Policy Institute and Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA).
State Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, is leading the drive to gain presidential delegates for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, in the March 1 Oklahoma primary. The party's nominee will be chosen at Republican National Convention this summer.
This week, Holt added two names to the list of colleagues backing Rubio, who ran a close third (barely behind businessman Donald Trump) in Monday's Iowa caucus.
Sens. Larry Boggs, R-Red Oak and Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, joined 17 GOP members of the state Legislature who had previously announced their support for Rubio.
NOTE: Photographs from the recent dinner at the governor's mansion were taken by Travis Caperton, LSB photographer.