Thursday, July 13, 2006

Oklahoma Fifth Congressional District candidate forum notes.

I just got back from the Edmond Chamber of Commerce candidate forum and I thought I'd post a few notes about it.

I'm not sure why, but I thought this was just going to be a Democratic candidate forum. So I was pretty surprised when all the people with Republican candidate shirts started showing up.

The MC said that Mick Cornett wasn't going to appear, so I have no comments on him.

The first speaker was Denise Bode. Let me tell you, I had a hard time not heckling her especially when she went on about removing birthright citizenship.

Fred Morgan spoke next. Now I will say that he and Denise were very polished at public speaking. They both had their act down. I could tell that they were giving pretty much canned speeches that took no account of a Democrat being in the race. Morgan, Bode and Calvey all tried to out conservative each other. Fred's mainly running on his 12 years in the state house.

At this point, I'm remembering that I didn't take notes as to the order of the speakers. So I'm going to proceed anyway and if I get a couple of them flipped in order, please forgive me.

I think Kevin Calvey spoke next (I think it was either him or Bert Smith so I'll do him next). Calvey tried to out conservative the others by saying that he believed so much in the current "war" on terrorism that he signed up for reserve duty (and was called up to help with the hurricane relief in New Orleans). By this point the Republican rhetoric was blending together: tough on immigration, tough on terrorism, eliminate taxes, cut pork hard, be like Coburn.

I'm pretty sure Bert Smith spoke next. He wasn't the least charismatic speaker present but only because the independent candidate edged him out. What he said sounded good to me but I'm more the choir than the crowd for a Democratic candidate. The only thing I noticed was that the recitation of true Democratic credentials fell on deaf ears with this crowd. There's no doubt that Mr. Smith has a solid background in state Democratic politics but in a district where a significant number of registered Democrats will vote for the Republican anyway, being considered the "true" Democrat might not be the best way to convince people. I think he made some points with his record as a person with a military background that has differing opinions on the Iraq conflict.

Next up was Matthew Horton Woodson. He's an independent candidate and pointed out that he was the only candidate present that could assure you he'd be on the November ballot. He had a halting and somewhat confused presentation that ended up centering on certain theories about the September 11, 2001 attacks and the role of domestic influences on the events. He wants to push for a full investigation and a full disclosure of government documents that have yet to be disclosed. No one was waiting with a "special jacket" for Mr. Woodson when he finished but occasionally during his presentation I thought there might be.

As far as I can remember Dr. David Hunter spoke next. His presentation wasn't quite as polished as Bode, Morgan or Fallin but he did speak fairly smoothly. Unfortunately neither Democratic candidate has that dynamic speaker thing going. I know it's just surface theatrics, but if a candidate can't captivate the audience they have little chance of being remembered positively at the ballot. Dr. Morgan hit his high points with health care and education. He reached his most conservative when describing the need to reevaluate American foreign aid to make sure we can fix our problems at home before fixing the world. I mean that sounds like a conservative theme to me but in a world where we spend hundreds of billions in Iraq this may now be a downright liberal idea. I get so confused sometimes.

Next up was Mary Fallin. She was pretty slick and made several points with the moderate conservatives in the room. My impression is that she or Mick Cornett will get the nomination. Again, she hit the standard Republican highlights and had a jovial, practiced presentation. She'll be difficult for either Democratic candidate to beat.

And last was Johnny B. Roy. He was probably the funniest of the candidates. He is an emigrant to this country. From his description of his path to running for Congress in Oklahoma it sounded like he might be from Iraq or India or somewhere in that region. He didn't exactly say but he did give some geographic clues. He seemed different from other Republican candidates in that he also addressed health care and education. Other than that he had pretty standard Republican stands on all of the issues mentioned.

After this we were told that there would be no questions because the opening statements had used up all of the time (90 minutes). People milled around and chatted with the candidates. I got to say Hi and introduced myself to both Democratic candidates.

At this point I like both Democratic candidates enough to support either one after the primary. I would encourage all Democrats to do the same. Supporters of Mr. Smith and Dr. Hunter (the progressive and the moderate) shouldn't fight each other to bitterness during the primary. The real battle will be to put a Democrat in the Oklahoma Fifth Congressional District. The Republicans will mount a formidable and well funded campaign. And you can bet that they will all join behind their candidate and fight hard to keep this seat in the R column.