Race for Todd Lamb’s Senate seat: Passion vs. experience?

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 28-Dec-2010

In the upcoming special election primary for state Senate District 47, the seat being vacated by Todd Lamb, Greg Treat has gained the endorsement of U.S. Senator Tom Coburn. The other leading candidate, Carol Hefner, has fared well in debates with Treat and her other foes, and secured a conservative political action committee’s endorsement.

In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, Dr. Coburn said: “In the special election for Senate District 47 on January 11, I am proud to endorse Greg Treat. Greg has worked with me for several years and I know he is committed to limited government, passionate about pro-life issues, and dedicated to making Oklahoma a better place to work and raise our families.

“The voters of Senate District 47 can trust that Greg Treat has the courage and integrity to fight wasteful spending, hold politicians and bureaucrats accountable to taxpayers, and do what is right and best for the long term future of our state. On Tuesday, January 11, I encourage the voters of Senate District 47 to elect Greg Treat to the Oklahoma State Senate.”

In a Dec. 23 press release sent to CapitolBeatOK, Treat said, “I am proud to receive the endorsement of Dr. Tom Coburn in my candidacy to represent the voters of Senate District 47 at the State Capitol. I have worked side by side with Dr. Coburn over the years and admire his principled, uncompromising approach to life and politics. I am humbled by his support and will continue working hard to bring that same principled approach to the State Capitol while representing the people of Senate District 47.”

Hefner joined Treat and Kenny Goza of Oklahoma City, another candidate, at last week’s meeting of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action. Each of the trio stressed conservatism and agreement with electoral trends in Oklahoma.

After the Wednesday (December 22) debate, members of OCPAC gave their endorsement to Hefner. This week, in a regular communication with members of his group, provided to CapitolBeatOK, OCPAC’s Charlie Meadows said each of the trio took “a strong position on nearly every issue.”

Meadows complimented Hefner, saying she “is very personable, passionate and an excellent communicator.” Meadows said Hefner “also comes across as a person who is kind, but will not be pushed around by the lobbyists or the good ole boys who have for too long bullied weak lawmakers into bad votes.”

Not present at last week’s debate were Todd Brawley of Edmond and Steven Dobbs of Oklahoma City.

Treat is an experienced political technician who played an important role in statewide Republican “Victory” organization this fall. He was part of a group who encouraged Coburn to return to public life in his 2004 Senate campaign.

In his interview with CapitolBeatOK, Treat stressed his public policy experience as a strong argument for his election, saying:

“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.”

Hefner is the wife of Robert Hefner IV, a successful businessman. Months ago, after deliberating on the expected victory for Lamb as he sought the state’s number two political post, Hefner began quietly organizing and walking neighborhoods in the district. She filed necessary paperwork with the Ethics Commission and began raising money in the fall.

In an interview with CapitolBeatOK, Hefner said the early reaction to her preparations for campaigning have convinced her, “The voters are interested in supporting someone who has not already been in politics, in elected office. And, I’ve been encouraged they also seem to be looking for a woman who is worthy of support. I think that’s me.” 

Hefner has been drawn into public policy increasingly in recent years as an active Republican volunteer, and a visible member of the Oklahoma chapter of Americans for Prosperity.

The January 11 special election is a Republicans-only non-runoff primary (no Democrats filed, and runoffs are not required for special elections).

The election will fill the vacancy created when state Sen. Todd Lamb submitted formal resignation from the post, as a result of his election as lieutenant governor.

Lamb will take the oath for the statewide position on Monday, January 10.

Senate District 47 covers parts of Northwest Oklahoma City and parts of Edmond.