Patrick B. McGuigan
The Oklahoma County Republican party drew an enthusiastic crowd of party loyalists and donors to the annual Lincoln/Reagan dinner last weekend. Keynote speaker Dick Morris led a lineup of speakers, including Governor Mary Fallin, who sought to get the conservative base fired up and focused on politics as the 2012 campaign season intensifies.
The Republican event came early in a wave of events for the two major political parties, aiming toward this spring's state conventions and the national party meetings this summer.
Morris enthusiastically endorsed conservative proposals to slowly phase out the state's personal income tax. He described as “brilliant and unbelievable” a vision to “earmark revenue growth to support income tax reduction.”
Morris recently participated in several events marking National School Choice Week. He said the increasing strength of parental choice options are part of “a wholesale shift away from unions and toward parents and children.”
Saying that speakers at political events “always say this is the most important election. In this case, the country is at stake in 2012. If we reelect this guy [Barack Obama] we will not recognize our country in another four years.”
Morris was particularly passionate about what he described as a “debt implosion cycle” facing the United States and world markets, pointing to previous cycles in modern history where growth of debt and spending came before a severe economic crisis, as in the 1840s, 1890s and the 1930s.”
Morris was sharply critical of the incumbent president, Democrat Barack Obama. In an interview with CapitolBeatOK, Morris said that once Republicans have a nominee they should make “one issue the entire focus of their message: the economy, the economy, the economy.”
In addition to this appearance at the local GOP event, Morris spoke at a business leaders luncheon Friday (February 17) sponsored by Americans for Prosperity (AFP). State AFP chairman Stuart Jolly guided Morris around Oklahoma City.
The affable Morris, who spoke for 40 minutes, greeted attendees and thanked them for coming, obviously relishing the opportunity to meet with many in the crowd. A longtime Democrat and one-time key political advisor to Bill Clinton, Morris moved toward Republicans in the late 1990s. He is now one of the most popular speakers on the conservative circuit, and a frequent guest on television and radio broadcasts. He is the author of 14 books, including 10 New York Times best-sellers.
Governor Mary Fallin, “introduced” via video by a facsimile of President Lincoln, helped get the crowd warmed up before Morris' speech, bragging to him Oklahoma was “the reddest of the Red States.” Fallin touted the state's recent good economic news, including the largest surge in sales tax revenue in history, and the third best job growth rate in the United States. Fallin, who had met with Morris earlier in the day, told him, “Our work is not finished. We plan to work hard so we can continue to live in the greatest nation on earth.”
Master of Ceremonies for the Lincoln/Reagan Day Dinner was county chairman Matt Jackson.
He and state chairman Matt Pinnell collaborated in presentation of honors to Republican activists. Bill Price, a former U.S.
Attorney and the party's standard-bearer in the 1990 election, was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award. Price has led the state School Choice Coalition in recent years, propelling the Sooner State in recent reforms. Marilyn Sullivan was named Volunteer of the Year.
U.S. Rep. James Lankford offered an invocation. The pledge of allegiance was led by a Cub Scout from Pack 120. Tara Scott sang the national anthem.
After Morris' rousing address combining criticisms of President Obama with expressions of confidence about the November general election, the party faithful participated in a live auction of various events, including an opportunity to join Morris at one of his New York City broadcast interviews.
Presenting sponsors for the country GOP event were Josephine Freede, Oklahomans For Energy, Greg and Debra Wilson and Miles Hall. Carol Hefner organized the event, which drew a crowd of several hundred people to the Marriott Hotel banquet facility on Northwest Highway.
Republicans across the state typically hold events on or around the February 12 birthday of Abraham Lincoln, the first member of the party elected president. Across the nation, many local party organizations have in recent years added the name of Ronald Reagan to such events, honoring the most successful Republican presidency of the modern era. Reagan was born 101 years ago, on February 6.
Late winter and early spring of even-numbered years bring a wide range of political activities in Oklahoma and other states. The events take on added intensity this year, with Oklahoma's March 6 primary part of a “Super Tuesday” set of votes that could prove crucial in the Republican nomination fight.
Republicans held precinct meetings early this month. The Oklahoma County convention will be March 3; Tulsa County Republicans will gather on March 24; other county convention dates vary widely.
Congressional district conventions are March 31 or April 14; the state Republican convention will be May 11 in Norman. The Republican National Convention will be August 27-30 in Tampa Bay, Florida.
Weekend before last, Oklahoma County Democrats held their annual Medallion Dinner.
Democrats are organizing for their 2012 state convention on April 13 and 14. Activities will include the annual Carl Albert Dinner, named in honor of the late U.S. Speaker of the House.
The Democratic National Convention will be September 3-6 in Charlotte, North Carolina.