Columbus weekend campaigning: Coyle on the trail, Lankford secures endorsement, grassroots excited

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 11-Oct-2010

Voter registrations closed last Friday after both major political parties made a final push to gain new adherents for the November 2 balloting. Columbus Day weekend brought an intensification of neighborhood and city-area organizational efforts.

Meanwhile, in one of the marquee match-ups, the Fifth District congressional joust, Republican nominee James Lankford secured the endorsement of the state’s largest newspaper, while Democratic candidate Billy Coyle intensified his efforts, including a focus on senior citizens.

Coyle campaigned non-stop last weekend, reaching out to both traditional party constituencies and retired voters. In an interview, Coyle said, “I’m taking social security very seriously.” Saying he opposed ideas to privatize the retirement program and did not think raising the retirement age to “70 or 72” was good policy, Coyle said, “the first thing we need to do is stop spending the social security money on other things. Leave it there.”

Coyle continued, “Tom Coburn says there’s a lot of fraud in our federal systems. Step one is to deal with fraud.” Noting that “a lot of people are solely dependent on Social Security for their retirement,” Coyle said the system’s solvency must be protected.

In a related issue of concern to senior citizens, Coyle said “people should be able to choose their own doctors and not have that decision made for them by bureaucrats.” In countering fraud, Coyle promised, “I’ll work with the Attorney General to take care of our seniors on health care issues.”

In a speech at the Del City Community Center Saturday morning, Coyle reiterated his trio of key themes: jobs, energy and veterans. On the latter, the Marine Corps veteran lamented recent news reports of higher suicide rates among soldiers returning from overseas deployments. Concerning reports that some veterans have trouble accessing educational benefits, he observed, “There’s a lot of pressure on these men and women. They should not have to wait for their benefits when they return from war.”

Lankford’s supporters, meanwhile, were thrilled when The Oklahoman, in Sunday’s editions, endorsed him.

While stressing strong multi-issue conservative themes throughout his candidacy, Lankford emerged from the primary process with a plethora of followers on “social media.” He has not rested on his organizational laurels, building a position as the top Oklahoma candidate of the year in social media outreach, according to many news reports and analyses. Last weekend, he appeared at events around central Oklahoma.

In a Columbus Day email interview with CapitolBeatOK, Lankford responded on social security issues:

“Democrats nationally are trying to change the subject from debt and spending to Social Security. It is the same tactic used in previous elections to distract senior adults. It is unfortunate that my opponent has chosen to follow other Pelosi Democrats around the nation in trying to fight against solutions for Social Security. 

“Each year politicians squabble while the American people grow more frustrated that we cannot have an adult conversation about the long term health of Social Security. 

“We should create a Bipartisan Congressional Panel to discuss solutions for Social Security starting next year to work out options for the future. We must keep the promise of Social Security to those in and near retirement. But, for younger Americans we must work together to develop options for entitlement reform.”

Lankford concluded, “At the current rate of spending in Congress, younger generations are being obligated for our national debt and they are facing a future with limited or no funding for Social Security. Simply ignoring the problem and demagoguing the issue will not work any longer. We must stop playing the fiddle while the future of our youth burns.”

In related political news, the pace of broad-based campaigning continued to pick up in the past week. Over the Columbus holiday weekend, candidates at all levels sought popular support at rallies, in a rising tide of television advertisements and early newspaper ad purchases. The grass roots emphasis for both parties was on old-fashioned “retail” campaigning, networking, good food and fellowship.

Saturday (October 9), state Democrats held Campaign Fest 2010 at the George Krumme Center) on Lincoln Boulevard. The event ran all day, from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Speakers included party nominees Jari Askins (governor), Kenneth Corn (lieutenant governor), Billy Coyle (Fifth District) and other hopefuls. The event was sponsored by the veterans committee, Federation of Democratic Women, Young Democrats, Stonewall Democrats, the Central Labor Council and the state committee.

Saturday evening at Will Rogers Park, local Democrats gathered for a “Party in the Park” facilitated by house district organizers. Dana Orwig, hopeful in House District 87, was featured at the event along with Brittany Novotny, the nominee in District 84, incumbent legislators Andrew Rice and Al McAffrey. Object of the event was to “socialize, get campaign gear and have some fun,” the organizers said. One of the organizers said, “Turnout was great as folks came to enjoy the music, the fellowship and the opportunity to speak directly to candidates running for office in their area. Our candidates enjoy meeting people and speaking to the issues that are important to them.”  

On this Columbus Day (Monday, October 11), the Republican “OK Victory” group planned to hold an evening rally at the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame on North Lincoln Boulevard. Gary Jones, the former state GOP chairman who for the third time is seeking the position of state Auditor & Inspector, will cook hamburgers in the parking lot of state Republican party headquarters across the street. Assisting Jones with the burger flipping is Robert Hefner IV, whose wife Carol is said to be considering a run for the state Senate.

State Republican party chairman Matt Pinnell, exuding confidence about the campaign, planned to hold grassroots precinct training after Monday evening’s rally, with a practical focus aimed at precinct leaders throughout the Fifth Congressional District.

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, heavily favored for reelection, is  featured speaker at the OK Victory gathering. Pinnell, in an email before the weekend events, said, “We are less than 4 short weeks away from election night and the team at OK Victory 2010 is hard at work making last minute preparations.”