Bittersweet

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It really doesn’t feel like twelve years have passed since my Senator first ran for public office. Back in 2002, we were not political people.  I mean, I had worked in politics long before we got married, but that seemed like a lifetime ago at the point when Cliff decided to throw his hat into the political ring.

In January of 2002, I was a stay at home mom of two toddlers and Cliff was a small businessman who had been on his own for a few years.

Talk about a scary shock…leaving a big company to go at it alone. Fortunately, we were either too young or too naive to care but determined to work hard and find our own way in the world.

That would be us circa 1995. Oh my goodness, the bangs…

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After seven years as a self-employed commercial real estate broker, Cliff had grown increasingly  frustrated with all of the rules, regulations and hefty taxes on small business that were coming out of our State Capitol. Mind you, he was no stranger to hard work, but he saw so many instances that prohibited economic growth and development and were an impediment to success. Night after night I remember him complaining about how the legislators making the laws affecting small business were political professionals with no business experience. And, I would tell him time and time again to quit complaining and go do something about it. Ha, right!?

So, he did. Throw his hat in the ring, win and serve three full terms in the Oklahoma State Senate!

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However, because of a twelve year term limit for legislators, Cliff’s time as a State Senator is up today. Yep, all done and it is bittersweet.

I am extremely proud of his tenure in that office. Cliff defied lots of political odds and stereotypes and quietly worked behind the scenes for the greater good. And, if I have heard it once I have heard it time and again,  they “just don’t make politicians like him.”  Well, that is true and probably because he’s not really a “politician.” Just a good man trying to make a positive difference. Or, as he likes to say, “keeping the bad laws from happening.”

In honor of my Senator and his twelve years of public service, I thought I would write about some of the good, the bad and the ugly from his time representing the people of Senate District 40. So, here goes!

The good.  

There was a lot of good!

Man, did we get to know some seriously awesome people! There were the lovely and gracious people we met while campaigning on their door steps and in the district….The individuals and constituents who came to the Capitol throughout the years and the kids who cycled through as pages and students who are now adults. Gulp. So, so many wonderful people. Our lives have certainly been enriched by their very acquaintance and I am most grateful.

Here are a few photos I found on my computer in no particular order..

Special friends in the district.

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Friends and campaign volunteers. These two met during the 2002 campaign and are still together.  Gotta love those campaign romances!!

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Would not have survived a single campaign without my right arm, Whitney!  Love this girl. She’s now married with three kids of her own.  I am old.

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Here’s the Senator speaking Cherokee with the Heisman winner like its no big deal!

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These young men are now in college.

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For some reason, this pic with Miss Oklahoma and Miss America always makes me smile!

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Who doesn’t love a parade, right?!  Even in the rain!

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Anyone who volunteered on that 2002 campaign knew Jim…

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And, Sharon…my heart is full of happy memories thinking about the wonderful people from that first campaign. We were blessed with a little army of awesome that year!

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Cliff looks so “official” in this next one, but what makes it really special is the gentleman sitting behind him. Senator Myers and Cliff were both “Freshman” Senators together and seat mates on the floor. He passed away a few years ago. Good man, lovely wife, beautiful family. Just another example of the special people we have met on this journey.

The Senator reads...

Which leads me to the lobbyists, politicos and the savvy men and women who work for the politicos. These people are animals I tell you, but always fun to be around. I would add that you often hear the stories about back stabbing and political posturing that goes on in politics, and don’t get me wrong, I could write a book about all that. It happens. But, there are also some truly smart, savvy and super loyal people in this business as well.  I cherish our friendship with these men and women and have learned so much from them…

First friend in the Oklahoma State Senate…

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The Governor…elected in the same 2002 election cycle. He was also pledge brothers at OU with the best man in our wedding.  Small world!

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Fellow Senate Wives….

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And, Senate colleagues…..

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Love this one from our annual tradition of inviting Legislators over for dinner during session.  Clearly, this was a fun one!

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Safe to say they get along nicely…most of the time!

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And, a favorite member from the House who went on to bigger and better things. The Senator regrets not wearing a tie that night! I regret not being in that photo!  Such a sweetheart!
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Quasi serious Senate leadership pic…

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A swearing in ceremony.

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These two…

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I am at a loss for words.

Vice Chairman and Chair of the Senate Energy Committee. Good things happened for the Oklahoma Energy Industry on their watch. There are probably lots of fun captions for this photo, but none suitable for print!

Friends in the Federal delegation who were always a good source of support, advice and institutional knowledge…

Senate Delegation

If you are from Oklahoma…this next one is just cool for historical purposes, regardless of your political party. And, it was taken at a fundraiser we held in our home.  Double cool.

Before the Shellacking

A few notable highlights along the way…

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Love the look on Cliff’s face in this one!

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Oh my goodness. Kathy.  Where to begin…

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Kathy has been Cliff’s right arm and my sister wife (Ha!) at the Capitol for a while and she is family.  I love this woman for so many reasons and always will.  She is just salt of the earth and she has Cliff’s back.  Believe me, you need someone watching your back down at that marble palace!

We have also had some really great opportunities during this time that I cherish. Cliff attended a handful of legislative conferences and the kids and I tagged along. For me, as a mom, this was probably one of the highlights.

Williamsburg and Charlottsville, Virginia

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Chicago

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Puerto Rico

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Hawaii

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Memphis

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Pretty neat stuff. I hope they learned something!

The Bad
Campaigns and opponents. Yep, we had a few of those.

2002  A six way primary election, a run off election and a general election. I’m exhausted simply remembering that inaugural foray into politics.

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2006  A general election with a self funded and fairly well known opponent.

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2010  The best kind of opponent. She dropped out before her name went on the ballot re-electing my senator before the primary. Couldn’t have dreamed that one up any better!

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All of that is just the nature of the beast and I will write a book about it some day.

The Ugly

There wasn’t a whole lot of ugly…but what there was …well, it is still fairly raw and I think I will just save it for my book.  Lets just say it involves some slashed tires, cut cable, punctured radiators and threats against our family.  Sounds like a scary movie, right?

So, there you have it. Twelve awesome years in a nutshell!

I think our son (pictured below in 2002) summed it up best yesterday when he sent a sweet text to his dad knowing that today would be bittersweet. He said, “ For the last 12 years I’ve been proud to say to people that my dad was a state senator and a successful and loved one at that…You actually did work for the community and made a change.  Now, it’s on to the next job.  Whatever you do dad, you’ll excel at it because you do great things and people love you.  Just remember that whatever you do, make sure you are doing what you love.”

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Out of the mouths of babes.

Needless to say, nostalgia is hovering over our house today.  I am eternally thankful for countless opportunities, lessons and friendships that Cliff’s public service has provided.  We have all learned so much from so many.  But, most of all, today, I am simply proud of my man and excited for what the future holds.

Date night

IMG_1826Thought I would have a little fun tonight and blog with the Senator while he and I watch the President address the nation.  We tend to do this a lot, not just when the President is speaking, but during an election or a political convention or the State of the Union address.  I guess we are just political junkies and this is our special time?  

Regardless, I have written a little bit about it before, here and here.  

So, tonight, here is my disclaimer.  I am not a big fan of our President.  He was not my candidate in 2008 nor was he in 2012. But, I am a very patriotic American and I have the utmost respect for our country, the constitution and the way we elect our leaders.  So, for the first two or maybe even three years of this presidency, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  But, it seems clear to me now (and, most of the country for that matter ) that he has failed to lead, failed to govern, and failed to inspire.  

That said, the Senator and I are watching tonight because at the end of the day, we love our country, he is our President and we are living in very perilous times and feel it is our duty (after dinner and homework)  to be informed and engaged. So….

Here is what we expect to hear: “This is Bush’s fault, but I’ve got this.”  His rhetoric will be broad with few specifics OR, he will give the world via his televised speech our military playbook down to who we are going to bomb and when.  The President will try to calm everyone down, appeal to his base and shape his legacy with words – because dad gum he can give a great speech!  But, actions speak louder than words, and he is paying for his lack of inaction over the past six years in this case.

Here is what we want to hear:  “I am going to ask Congress and our allies in the region to help us formulate a solid plan to deal with this threat to our country and the International community. Heads will roll, people will pay for these atrocities, and we will prevail.”  

One can only hope. 

Let’s see what he has to say!  Shall we? 

In full swing…

So you still have a land line and that phone has been ringing off the wall lately with the most random of calls. Political candidates are sending out automated messages to ask for your vote or the political pollster is calling to see if you would be willing to answer a few questions about a race in your district. Sound familiar? If you vote, it should! 

And, because today is the last primary election day for the 2014 campaign cycle, (Yes, it is an election year!) I did some reading up on a few of the races across the country because I’m just weird like that. Let it be known that the polls are showing Governor Cuomo in New York refuses to acknowledge he has an opponent challenging him from the left ( no surprise there) and that Scott Brown should handily win the Republican Primary for Senate in New Hampshire, but by how much is hard to say. Fair enough. We’ll see how it all shakes out tonight and if these polls were accurate or not.

Polls are fun to follow but candidates use polling for lots of different reasons.

Polls can be conducted generically at the beginning of a race to learn about what issues are important to the public, or in this case, the primary election voter.

For example, if you were running for the Republican nomination for state senate in Oklahoma (ha), you would conduct your survey using information only from registered republican voters in your district who have a good voting record (meaning they show up to vote in the primaries). Why is this important? Because if they have turned out to vote in the last primary and the one before that, and the one before that, the chances are pretty good they will turn out again, making them a “likely voter.”

How would someone like me or a candidate have that information? Well, you might not be aware that your voting record is also of public record and while I wouldn’t necessarily know how you voted, I would know your age, gender, address, party affiliation and how often you chose to exercise your right to vote. Yep. All public record and used by every candidate….or, at least the savvy ones.

But, I digress.  Back to the fun stuff…

Once you have a list of all the good Republican primary voters you would target, you ( well your campaign consultant and or pollster) would craft some very strategic questions to ask them. These questions might go a little something like this:

Do you think things in Oklahoma are going in the right direction/wrong direction?

What issues are most important to you? a) education b) jobs c) taxes d) abortion e) other  (Remember, this is for a Republican primary.  The questions would be very different for a Democratic primary or a general election.)

If other, please indicate that issue now.

In a Republican primary, do you tend to vote for the more conservative candidate or the more moderate candidate?

How likely is it that you will be voting in the primary election on August 26th? Very likely? Most Likey? Somewhat Likely? or I never miss a primary election?

And, for those of you who state you never miss an election? Don’t worry, the pollster knows whether you are telling the truth or not! They have that data too.

You get the idea.

You might also throw in a few other hot topic issues just to see how strongly people in your district feel about them. This year in Oklahoma, those two issues were the repeal of Common Core (federal education standards) and fighting federal overreach… Safe to assume there’s not a lot of love for the federal government out here. 

If you were really on top of your game, you might ask about a potential negative you have that could hurt your candidacy or even a question about your opponent(s) potential negatives. This is the evil part about campaigns but it really helps to know what can and will be used against you and more importantly, how well it resonates with the voters….or, not.

Then, as a candidate, you would take that information and craft a message geared toward these “high turnout” primary voters who will certainly show up to cast their vote for you ( with the help of your effective Get Out The Vote plan). Because, at the end of the day folks, that is what wins elections.

Some polls, like the example I used, are actually legitimate fact finding instruments and can be invaluable for a political candidate in crafting an effective message. Other types of polls, often referred to as ‘Push Polls’ are intended to sway the electorate or hurt a candidate.  More on those later.

However, what the pollsters don’t tell you is how they can manipulate the message by the questions they ask, or the data they choose to release.  They also don’t tell you that a poll is typically based on a sample of 300 – 500 voters.  Shocking to think that only 300-500 people are determining what the election themes will be or which candidate is in “the lead.”  

Also top secret – if you’ve ever been polled, your answers usually come back to find you during the course of a campaign. But, I’m gonna leave you hanging on how that happens!  Hint- this photo was taken in 2002 of my Senator calling some Republican voters who polled that they were “likely” to vote for him in the primary.  

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Just thought I would share a little bit of my experience with political polls during this election cycle which is clearly in full swing! 

Bringing it up to speed

Can’t believe it’s been almost six months to the day since I have posted here but it certainly wasn’t for lack of something to say.  Quite the opposite actually.  So much has happened since March that I thought I would do a brief re-cap to catch myself up to speed. Ha.

Our daughter wrapped up her first season playing club volleyball.  What a great experience and so many new friendships made along the way. I have to admit, Volleyball moms are cool.

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The Senator finished serving his third and final term in the Oklahoma State Senate. So much to say about that.

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Somewhere amidst the chaos, I managed to attend a Conference in Colorado celebrating moms.

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Some dear friends in this group!
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I agreed to chair a fundraiser with my best friend because I didn’t have enough going on…

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Our son graduated from high school in May.

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And, our daughter picked up a few awards at her 8th grade graduation.

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The Senator ran for a state wide office and lost.  Much more to say about that too.

Billboard Tues

Then, we went to the beach.

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And Belize.

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Our son went off to college.

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Our daughter is now in high school.

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It has been a wild and crazy six months but the dog survived, so that’s something!

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Family

Today was my Mother-in-Law’s 88th Birthday, and to think I nearly missed it because I have been in Dallas all weekend for a Volleyball tournament is just…well, completely and totally unacceptable! Seriously, she is THE best and I am grateful.  Not only because she birthed the love of my life, but also because she has been the most loving, generous and doting mother, grandmother and mother-in-law to our little family.  And, we just love her to pieces!

One of my favorite photos of these two.

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I think it was taken in 2010…but honestly, they both look the same so lets just pretend it was taken today, on her birthday!  I wrote a post about her a few years ago. Nothing has changed except I am so very grateful for every day she is a part of our lives.  Happiest of Birthdays LaLa! We love you to the moon and back!

Let the Games Begin!

Today marks the first day of the Legislative Session, but, last night a handful of my Senator’s colleagues got together to watch the Super Bowl.

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It was really fun to be a fly on their wall and hear about the various political races taking shape and some of the legislation in front of them.

If these guys are any indication, it is safe to conclude that Central Oklahoma and Owasso are very well represented!

Let the Games Begin!

The Speaker’s Ball, a Re-Cap

Last night was the Speaker’s Ball and the unofficial kick off to the legislative session! Man, was it fun!

I seem to write about this event every year because it has the feel of a back to school night.  Okay, maybe not a back to school night, but possibly that high school reunion where you have lost twenty pounds and are feeling good about it! But, what would I know about that!  Seriously though, the mood in the room really is full of anticipation and excitement for the upcoming session, everyone is dressed up and happy to be there!

The very first time my Senator and I attended this event,  I think he was one of two Republicans in the room. I was the other one, but only because the other side had been in control of both legislative bodies and the Governor’s mansion for decades. No surprise, considering this was before term limits had kicked in and prior to the Republican revolution in our state!  Technically, we weren’t very red.  All of the members present had been serving with each other for a very long time and knew each other very well.  Talk about being the new kids on the block! Even though many of my Senator’s colleagues were shocked we wanted to attend, and the other side thought we were nuts, it really was fun!  Fun as in there were no speeches, no political rhetoric, just a good band, bar and enough food and fellowship to go around. Plus, we made some new friends too.

The Senator and I continued to attend this event, and as the political demographics changed so did the party’s theme and venue.  There have been some festive years…

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and some different variations on festive….one Ball held a charity auction which was a nice twist, another had the feel of a high school prom which was different but interesting!

Then, there was a weird year, before my iPhone was handy to snag a photo darn it!  At that notable Ball, the Speaker gave a political speech at great length on a stage surrounded by GO GO dancers.  I kid you not!

One might think he had had too much to drink when he started talking about being frugal and stealing towels and soap from hotel rooms, except it was a dry event.  In fact, he spoke for so long that most of the crowd sauntered upstairs during his speech to “party” with the fire fighters who were in town for a convention!

Another year had a Las Vegas feel with moving statues that spewed water into a fountain, theater lighting and a buffet, combined with political speeches, long lines and no where to sit. But, who needs to sit when you’re in Vegas!

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I remember hearing comments from political veterans of this event on how the times, they were a changing!

And, that was certainly true last year!  What an about face! Aside from this being the most beautiful party I may have ever been to in terms of decorations…

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and flowers…

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oh, and the fun friends…

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The crowd was even treated to a mini concert by Diana Ross!  I wrote about that lovely event over here.

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What a once in a life time to be up close and personal with an American icon!

This year was no different!  Same Speaker, same incredible flowers…

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And, lots of fun friends…

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Oh, there was also a ton of networking taking place and a lot of dialogue about legislation and the upcoming session and, I imagine there was lots of talk about the 2014 election cycle…especially since the Speaker is running for the US Senate!

And, it wouldn’t have been complete without a celebrity – this year it was Gulianna Rancic, a breast cancer survivor who spoke as a tribute to the Speaker’s wife, also a breast cancer survivor. Oh, almost forgot to mention the Las Vegas style entertainment with Cirque Inversion.  No photos or video to share due to the fact my jaw was on the floor watching them do their “thing!”

One “thing” does remain consistent for me about this Oklahoma tradition and that’s the festive atmosphere! Regardless of who the Speaker is or the political party in charge, you are seeing friends from across the state who you haven’t seen in a long time and people you share a special bond of public service with. And, for that,  I feel truly blessed.