Former Governors’ Advice For Oklahoma Voters

Friday, November 2nd 2018, 9:50 pm
By: Alex Cameron

Voters have a big decision to make next week, as the state selects a new governor for the first time in eight years.

Five people with a vested interest in that selection are the state's former governors, and they recently came together and spoke candidly, as a group, with News On 6 about the election.

Oklahoma's living ex-governors, four Democrats and one Republican, didn't name specific candidates; instead, they talked about the qualities voters should look for, at what they feel is a critical juncture in state story.

"I've never been more concerned than I am right now about our state," said David Boren, a Democrat who was governor from 1975 to 1979.

Boren's not alone in that assessment. They all say the partisanship at the state Capitol and inability to work across the aisle is like nothing they've ever seen, and cannot continue.

"If you're going to get anything done," said Republican Frank Keating (1995-2003), "you need both parties -- you've gotta have both party buy-ins."

"Just arguing, debating, attacking...that ain't gonna do it," stated Democrat George Nigh (1979-1987). "You have to work together."

Obviously, individual lawmakers bear some responsibility for working together, but these men say, it helps a lot to have the right kind of leader in the governor's office.

"The kind that can bring people together, unite Oklahomans, unite Democrats and Republicans," said Democrat Brad Henry (2003-2011).

In addition to needing someone who can bring people together, the former leaders say voters should care about details -- listen for specific reform and investment plans.

"What are the areas where that candidate wants to make investments and wants to spend our money?" asked Gov. Boren. "Is it the right areas in which we should be investing?"

Gov. Keating says recent leadership has dropped the ball, especially when it's come to education.

"So, what has happened?" Keating asked rhetorically. "What's happened is this: the kids don't know how to read, the kids don't have science and math proficiency -- stem proficiency -- that they should, and we shouldn't tolerate that."

The men say the next governor must refuse to accept mediocrity and swear off partisan politics as usual.

"It is about courage and about leadership," said Democrat David Walters (1991-1995), "and about having the guts to step up and to be unpopular and risk re-election in order to do the right thing on behalf of all of Oklahoma."

A uniter, with a detailed plan, and the political courage to push it through. That's who Oklahoma's five former governors say is the right person to be Oklahoma's next governor.

Read Also: Former Governors Discuss Oklahoma’s Future