Just give me a home, where the buffalo roam…

A few weekends ago, the Senator and I woke up at dark thirty and headed North to the Tallgrass Prairie in Osage County for a little adventure. About this time each year, the Nature Conservancy rounds up the “Bison” who live on the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve to get an accurate head count, provide them with vaccinations and tag any newborns who were born during the year. In order to keep the numbers manageable for the land, some are then sold at auction (think bison burgers) and others donated to Native American tribes up North who also herd these animals on their land. The fate of each individual bison is based on their sex and age when they are rounded up annually and their tag is scanned as they go through the chute.

It was a very high tech operation, but it’s not a very pleasant process to watch. And, they give you that disclaimer right up front! The first bison I watched come through the chute had lost his horn and there was a lot of blood. I don’t have a picture of that.

If you noticed I swapped out the word buffalo for bison there’s a reason for that! The animals who roam the great plains of North America are technically called “Bison,” while the term “buffalo” refers to the Water Buffalo found in Southeast Asia. I’m not sure I knew that distinction, but then, this road trip was already a learning adventure! The folks at the Nature Conservancy shared so much information with us about the Tallgrass Prairie and their efforts to restore the land and its inhabitants back to the original factory conditions, it felt like we earned college credit.

It was fascinating to watch the process. It was also windy and cold up on the prairie but not for the bison. They are equipped with the thickest of coats.

A huge shout out to the folks at the Nature Conservancy for sharing their admirable work with the public and to my dad, for arranging our educational field trip. Ending the day in Pawhuska truly iced the cake. Especially when you befriend a cute dog at the local watering hole.

If you’re looking for a fun activity in northern Oklahoma, not far from the Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile and Pawhuska, take a drive through the tall grass prairie where you might catch a glimpse of the American Bison who reside there.

The Oklahoma Governor’s Race

My View from the Cheap Seats

I have had my eye on the Oklahoma governor’s race for quite some time and in my opinion, there is a very real likelihood that seat could change hands. Let me explain.

I first met our Governor, Kevin Stitt four years ago when he took out two well known political candidates in the Republican primary. I wrote about my first encounter with Kevin and his wife Sarah, HERE and I stand by that account. He was going to be the breath of fresh air that Oklahoma desperately needed. Successful businessman, no political experience but quick thinking and a visionary. His goal to turn Oklahoma into a top ten state was admirable and he could articulate what needed to change in order to move that ball down the court. 

But politics and state government are a far cry from the boardroom and Stitt made some initial political missteps that have now come home to haunt him. I have narrowed it down to these four, fatal mistakes: 

1. He appointed his friends with little or no political experience to cabinet level positions. 

While it is smart to appoint qualified people you trust to high level / key spots in government, if they lack a fundamental understanding of how the bureaucracy works, they are bound to make mistakes. And they did.  Here are a few: 

Tourism Controversy

Covid Relief Controversy

More Covid Controversy

Cabinet Controversy

CLO Controversy

2.  He picked a fight with the Tribal Nations who call Oklahoma home .

When Stitt decided to write an op-ed in his home town paper (July 8, 2019) shredding the tribes and the gaming compacts, he made some powerful enemies. Oklahomans take pride in our native heritage and history. It is a part of who we are as a state. There are countless community partnerships where the tribal nations are involved and committed to making our state better place to live. We live together and work together. There has always been a symbiotic relationship between the state and our tribal nations, until Kevin Stitt severely damaged that tie. The smart move would have been to invite the Tribes over to the Capitol for a critical conversation about re-negotiating the gaming compacts that were set to renew…just saying. 

3. Primary Endorsements

Why in the world would a sitting Governor get involved up and down the ballot of a Republican Primary. Stitt campaigned and/or endorsed at least four candidates in the Republican Primary. Not only is this bad form, but you anger those Republicans who might be supporting “the other guy.” I believe they used to call it the Reagan rule? and Stitt broke it.

4. Campaign Malpractice

It is a fact that there were multiple outside entities who have spent around $20+ million dollars running negative ads against Kevin Stitt. That is a LOT of dark money.  Regardless, a candidate can not allow their opponent to define them – even if they happen to be 18 points ahead in the polls like Stitt was last Summer. Polls are simply a snapshot in time, and the initial silence from the Stitt campaign provided his opponent an opportunity to define him and close the gap. I don’t know who is running the Stitt campaign but they called in the calvary. Can’t remember a time when the Republican Governor’s Association had to spend money in Oklahoma!

Election Day in my state will be interesting to watch. I wonder if the the red wave happening across the country will be big enough to pull Kevin Stitt across the finish line… the Senator and I have a bet on this. Will let you know who wins! 

Oklahoma Politics

A Bellwether Race to Follow?

The race between incumbent Carrie Hicks (D) and challenger Mariam Daley (R) for State Senate District 40 is one to watch. This seat was held by Republicans for decades until Ervin Yen (R) was defeated in the 2018 Republican primary by challenger Joe Howell. I believe there were several reasons that seat flipped:

1.The Republican challenger, while defeating an unpopular incumbent in the primary, did not campaign (or was not capable of campaigning). Republicans wanted change, but in doing so, they did not put their best foot forward for the general election cycle. The quality of candidate matters.

2. It was a midterm election year – meaning whichever party is in the White House (in this case Trump and the Republicans), the midterms typically swing toward the opposite party. The American people’s own version of checks and balances.

3. The 2018 election cycle in Oklahoma was ripe for candidates with educational backgrounds. Education was THE hot issue.

Enter Carrie Hicks. A young mom of three, classroom teacher, (and former contestant on the Bachelor), Carrie pounded the pavement and talked directly to voters about education. Her message was relatable and relevant. It was the perfect storm. In fact, that election cycle saw more teachers elected to serve in public office than ever before.

This year, a Democrat (Joe Biden) is in the White House, the Democrats control the Congress and a red wave is brewing. If this is really a thing and happening as the polls indicate, SD40 could flip back to a Republican held seat. While the state of education is always an issue in Oklahoma (and that is a story all to itself), topics like inflation, the economy and crime seem to be top of mind to most voters. I would even predict CRT, gender and abortion enter into the conversation before election day. This is Oklahoma after all.

Hicks has the built in advantage of incumbency in terms of fundraising and name ID, but during her four years of public service she has been fairly quiet in the district. Her challenger, Mariam Daly knows the red wave is coming and if a Republican is ever going to reclaim that senate seat, this is the year. (Although, the heated gubernatorial race which has caught the attention of national media might get in the way.)

Joe Biden and his inflationary policies are still at the top of mind for most voters and Republicans are enthusiastic to push back. Will that transcend this far down the ballot? Your guess is as good as mine, but SD 40 will be a solid seat to watch on election night if that is the case.