Editor’s Notebook: Ads backing eye care ballot measure released, and The Oklahoman offers good words for two defeated Republicans

OKLAHOMA CITY – From an editor’s notebook, television ads will soon be on your screens (if not there already) backing an initiative to open up eye care choices, the state’s largest newspaper gives a shout-out to a losing statewide candidate, and then does the same for a defeated legislator. 

On Friday (September 7), the “Yes on 793” campaign launched their first television commercials aimed at convincing voters, in the words of a press release, of “the need to increase access, affordability and choice for eye care in our state.”
Campaign Chairman Tim Tippit said in a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations, “Allowing retail stores to offer eye care services such as eye exams and eyewear will work to improve access to affordable and convenient eye care for patients of all ages and incomes. Even more, this will bring down the cost of eye care for consumers and increase options for all Oklahomans. 
“State Question 793 would let optometrists’ practice in retail stores, such as Costco, Walmart, Target and others — just as they do in 47 other states. Once again, Oklahoma is losing a border war to Texas, Kansas, Arkansas and other states who have this option.” The television spot can be viewed here: (https://yeson793.com/vote-yes-on-state-question-793-video/)

Opponents of S.Q. 793 have attacked the ballot proposition and retail giant Wal-Mart, which would be a natural location for expansion of eye-care services at lower costs. In recent releases, foes specifically shot at policy assertions about practices in other states. Alex Weintz, spokesman for Oklahomans Against 793, has touted in several press releases the opposition of many state eye-doctors to the ballot question.
Weintz also stressed, early this month, anti-793 efforts from the powerful AFL-CIO, Oklahoma’’s largest labor union. Weintz formerly worked as press secretary for Governor Mary Fallin.

Tim Tippit of the pro-793 campaign also characterized, in his statement to CapitolBeatOK, the new support advertising as “a robust statewide media buy. The opposition continues to mislead the public with false claims. Oklahoma eye doctors have spent all their time attacking the free market and maligning fellow optometrists to protect their bottom line at all costs — even if it means less access to care and higher prices for Oklahoma patients. The mistruths and fear mongering have been disappointing to say the least. 
“It is imperative that we make every effort to provide factual information on the need to change this outdated, special interest protection and allow Oklahoma consumers the access, affordability and choice enjoyed by 47 other states. We need State Question 793 for children, families, seniors and all citizens.” 

The Oklahoman, the Sooner State’s second largest newspaper, offered a subdued but welcome (at least by this writer) tribute to the candidate who finished a close second in the race for Commissioner of Labor. 
In the weekly “Scissortales” for September 1, the editorial writers reflected: “Cathy Costello has a passion for improving mental health treatment in Oklahoma. It’s personal — her late husband, former Labor Commissioner Mark Costello, was stabbed to death in 2015 by their son Christian, who had battled the disease for many years.

“Cathy Costello sought to replace her husband that year as interim labor commissioner but wasn’t chosen, so she set her sights on winning election to a four-year term this year. That bid, which saw her put a half-million dollars of her own money into the race, ended this week with a loss in the runoff to become the Republican nominee.
“In selecting someone else for the interim post three years ago, Gov. Mary Fallin said of Costello, ‘I hope she continues to be an important state advocate for mental health issues.’ We second that today.” (https://newsok.com/article/5606793/oklahoma-scissortales-help-wanted-outsiders-preferred) 
I commend the editorialists for lingering, briefly, over Cathy, her campaign and her service.

In the closing days of the recent runoff contest, the candidate who ultimately finished first on August 28 produced and placed on the air savagely negative spots against Costello, focusing the “buy” on television news programs.
The ads managed, in just seconds, to attack Mrs. Costello’s role in her husband’s businesses (saying she was taking credit for things someone else did). The ads even attacked her experience as an educator, making a big deal out of the fact she was not certified.
There was a time when fact-checkers at television stations would have advised against broadcasting such content for prudential reasons, but those days are long gone. 

Briefly on the matter of certification — desirable but not absolutely essential — I offer some insights. 
A woman whose politics is different from mine (she is liberal, I am not) was and is the best social studies teacher with whom I have ever worked at any level of education (elementary, secondary, college). I have ten certifications in varied areas and found my time in the OSU College of Education useful. Still, I often marveled (in two separate teaching stints alongside my younger friend) at both her knowledge of history and her ability to bring out the best in intellectually-challenged children, as well as economically-disadvantaged students. 

I learned a lot from her (she kindly credits me for some methods, as well), and have often employed her approaches (which I did not learn at OSU) in my classrooms.
A busy life and children has kept this wonderful educator, who will remain nameless for now, from garnering the sort of formal credentials many assert are essential to classroom success. I mention her story because I know that for people like her and Mrs. Costello, the present attacks on uncertified (and/or emergency certified) teachers are unfair in the extreme. Marginalizing anyone willing to enter into teaching is counter-productive to professed efforts of the education establishment to put a capable teacher in every classroom. 

Returning specifically to Mrs. Costello, in a personal column late in the runoff portion of this year’s Republican race for labor commissioner, I begged (in the aforementioned essay, not in a personal communication) Cathy’s foe to stop running the aforementioned negative ads. Polling data must have shown the messages were “working” and that seems to define all things, these days.
Back in the June 26 primary, Mrs. Costello garnered 181,657 votes (43.26 percent) to 150,847 votes (35.92 percent) for the second-place finisher, who qualified for the runoff because a third hopeful snagged 87,446 votes. Then, in the runoff race, Mrs. Costello garnered 138,181 votes (47.66 percent) to her foe’s 151,766 votes (52.34 percent). 

One last time, and absolutely for the record, I wrote three days before the runoff that the late Mr. Costello and I each “felt unusually blessed by the respective ladies we married. He often said he had ‘married above my station’ in finding a companion for life. In both his case and in mine, good women were central to our successes as workers, our endeavors as fathers and as friends.
“Cathy, he said, was in most things his first and most important adviser – the person he considered most crucial to his professional business successes and his personal familial duties.”

From the first time we met eight years ago, Cathy and I have traded stories about teaching and parenting, the things we most have in common. Another attribute that drew me to her was her singing voice, which is gently operatic and, I have dared to say, angelic. None of these past exchanges with Mrs. Costello were feigned or in the least contrived. 
Now, general election voters must wrap their minds around a Republican standard-bearer – likely the front runner – who is a close ally of powerful labor unions and a dedicated proponent of higher taxes and increased government spending. Nonetheless, hope springs eternal, even toward those in public life. 

(As I pointed out in my earlier commentary, the community newspaper I run did not endorse Mark Costello in the 2010 primary, yet I became  one of his biggest fans.)

In the November general election, that GOP nominee will face both Democratic nominee Fred Dorrell — who won his party’s nod outright on June 26, with 269,605 votes (73.43 percent of the total cast) – and Independent hopeful Brandt Dismukes. 

In the same “Scissortales” editorial that touched on Costello, The Oklahoman bid farewell to state Rep. Bobby Cleveland, another Republican stalwart negatively impacted by union dollars and organizational power. Cleveland was one of many Republican candidates who lost after teacher unions (facilitated in several instances by school district practices) targeted them for defeat (https://capitolbeatok.worldsecuresystems.com/reports/bixby-superintendent-says-turnout-push-was-simply-a-reminder-district-patron-believes-it-was-imprope). 

The editorial noted that Cleveland, from Slaughterville, made corrections reform a priority during his 10 years in office: “He has pushed to allow inmates sentenced to ‘85 percent’  crimes — those that require 85 percent of the sentence be completed before parole can be considered — to accumulate good-behavior credits throughout their time behind bars. He has suggested the state reconsider the length of sentences for some nonviolent offenders.
“In the closing days of the 2017 session, Cleveland tried to get reassigned to his committee several reform bills that were being blocked in another committee. He also has worked to clarify the state law regarding when felons may become eligible to vote. … Cleveland lost the Republican runoff for his House District 20 seat, meaning it will fall to someone else to champion criminal justice reform. Here’s hoping that happens.”