Greg Treat makes his case for the Todd Lamb Senate vacancy
By Patrick B. McGuigan
Greg Treat wants to replace Todd Lamb, Oklahoma’s incoming lieutenant governor, in state Senate District 47. Governor Brad Henry has set a special primary election date for early next year. Most observers expect the matter to be settled that day. Talking with CapitolBeatOK, Treat emphasized experience:
“I worked for the new governor earlier in my career. I worked for Fred Morgan of the state Chamber when he was the Republican Leader at the Legislature. And, I worked for U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn in several capacities. … The mix of these experiences advocating on behalf of conservative Republican values sets me apart from the rest of the field.”
Treat recalled his first stint with Dr. Coburn as an intern in the U.S. House: “Foreign aid appropriations were among my assignments. I found things so ludicrous that Democrats and Republicans alike were able to agree on the need to eliminate them. … American taxpayers were funding a Chardonnay taste-testing program in Paris. … Then there was a Balsawood and natural rubber subsidy for one of our allies, a program that had begun in 1916.”
Later, “When I worked at the state Legislature …, I was very involved in an important bill, the omnibus bill that year for the District Attorneys. Rep. Morgan worked on that with Rep. Jari Askins.
Treat recalls, “I learned that it included language to lower the penalty for possession of child pornography. … I am not certain who put in that language but when confronted some tried to justify the lower penalty based on the fact the 85% rule, and earlier heightened penalties, that were resulting in longer sentences. I begged to differ. … I literally called Rep. Morgan in the middle of the night because it was so important and the time for considering it was approaching. So, he changed the bill.”
Later, he ran Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin’s legislative shop: “She assigned me to keep her informed and plugged in on everything going on. That was a great job, as I was permitted to join the regular meetings the Republican leadership held to strategize and plan ahead.”
Treat “focused on why Oklahoma ranked number one in the rate of female incarceration. There was some movement for creating a differential in the treatment of men and women. … I thought there was a need to provide better treatment for women in prison or in trouble, but not for a differential in sentencing based on sex or gender. …
“I learned, and suspect this is probably still the case, that 96% of those incarcerated had pled down from a higher offense. And, many of those higher offenses had included robbery or use or a weapon or some kind of violent or border-line violent act. [T]hey pled guilty because they were guilty, and through that plea agreed to an amount of prison time.”
Treat recalls experiences from work for Fallin and Coburn, including this: “I spoke once at Mabel Bassett and asked a question of the women [prisoners], and often toured both federal and state facilities working for Sen. Coburn. … I asked how many of the women had suffered from sexual abuse before coming into prison. The vast majority were honest. … It was around 60% who raised their hands. Interacting with a group of 100 women, I asked how many were married. One raised her hand. I asked how many had children, and virtually all of them raised their hands.”
He concluded, “It’s my belief we don’t need a differential in sentencing treatment of women versus men, but do need to understand the root causes of their criminal activity, and need to address that sexual and physical abuse that drove them or led them into a life of crime.”
Treat was “one of four guys who worked to convince former Rep. Coburn to run for the U.S. Senate. We drafted a campaign plan. … We had nothing against the others and, in fact, I thought that Kirk Humphreys was a tremendous guy. At first, Dr. Coburn told us no. … In February of 2004, he asked a few of us to come to his House in Muskogee on a Sunday afternoon. He told us that he’d prayed about it and felt he was being led to sacrifice his personal time and preferences to run for the Senate. He asked me if I’d be ‘willing to go into her [Lt. Gov. Fallin’s] office tomorrow and quit.’ I said yes. I talked to her the next day, gave her notice and a week and half later I left.”
Coburn “called me at 5:01 p.m. on my last day of work, literally as I was leaving the Capitol, and asked me how the campaign was progressing. I knew this campaign was going to be intense!
“That was a great campaign to be part of, to learn from. … Kirk Humphreys had every endorsement under the sun and we knew he would raise a ton of money. Dr. Coburn had his record in Congress, his ideas, his book, and an extremely dedicated group of volunteers who put their lives on hold for him.”
Treat managed the western half of the state and soon had “350 people who were volunteering for him in Oklahoma City alone – it was a movement. You know the rest. He won. After he was elected he asked me to be his state government relations liaison. I said yes and I did that for some five years.”
Treat “learned a lot about the federal overlay on the states when it comes to health care and just about everything else. We fought through the controversy in the Medicaid (S-CHIP), and the 2007 fight that raged over abortion funding.” He reflects, “Nothing seems more real to me than the life of the baby in the wound. I’ve grown convinced that all lives, every single one, are valuable.”
Treat’s key issues include “property tax reform, for starters. I believe the people spoke loud and clear in the first place when they voted to limit property tax hikes to 5% a year. But some counties didn’t get the message and now you have this mentality that a 5% annual increase is mandated or required.” He supports the property tax ideas of state Rep. David Dank.
Treat wants “a careful look at tax credits. … To be clear, tax credits are not all bad. … [W]e need to be mindful of studying if they are successful or not in producing original economic activity.”
He asserts, “Another top focus has to be pension reform. … The status quo is spectacularly unsustainable. The existing systems are grossly, even grotesquely, underfunded. … I look at it both from the issue of avoiding catastrophic costs to taxpayers and keeping commitments to public sector retirees and current workers.”
On other matters ,Treat said, “I am concerned about pressures on our teachers to ‘teach to the test.’ I’m puzzled to learn that, for example, in the Putnam City district some teachers have been told not to teach cursive writing. Because it’s not tested in the standardized instruments, they don’t teach it. That seems off-kilter to me.
“I am also concerned about the cultural problem of absentee fathers who pay little or none of the expenses to birth or to raise their own children. In my research from 2001, some 60% of live births in Oklahoma were paid for by Medicaid dollars. I want to require the fathers to pay those expenses.”
Treat and three other hopefuls are in a sprint to January 11, and a possible February 8 general election (with no partisan runoff race). The new senator will get to serve for most of the 2011 session.
Hopefuls include Carol Hefner of Edmond and local attorneys Steven Dobbs and Kenny Goza. Formal maneuvering for the seat is under way. Candidate filing will take place at state Election Board in the state Capitol on Dec. 13, 14 and 15.