OKLAHOMA CITY — A Claremore lawmaker said he wants to make the executive branch more efficient and effective by overhauling how voters choose their top two leaders — the governor and lieutenant governor.
Currently, candidates for the posts run independently of each other. That has resulted in voters selecting leaders who clash over starkly different political ideals and agendas, said state Rep. Mark Lepak, R-Claremore.
“They don’t necessarily have to see eye to eye at all,” Lepak said. “To me a governor and a lieutenant governor on the same ticket gives you the opportunity to vote on a policy that is consistent.”
Lepak is pushing a measure that would require future gubernatorial candidates to choose a lieutenant governor to serve as their running mate. Lepak said the concept would be similar to national elections, where presidential contenders choose the vice president to run on their ticket, he said.
If a governor were to die in office, Oklahoma voters would be assured that the state’s second in command would embrace similar policies, which would strengthen accountability and effectiveness, Lepak said.
“I think that’s what people expect when they vote for the top branch executive structure,” Lepak said.
For years, Oklahoma voters have chosen governors and lieutenant governors who are from different parties or who serve in the same party but disagree on policies, said former state Rep. Joe Dorman, a Democrat, who launched an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2014 against current Gov. Mary Fallin.
“(Conflict) is just inevitable when you’re not serving as running mates,” Dorman said.
Lepak, for instance, pointed to last year’s falling out between Fallin and Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb.
Lamb announced he was resigning from the fellow Republican’s cabinet, where he had served as small-business adviser. Lamb said at the time that he couldn’t support Fallin’s plan to broaden sales taxes.
A spokesman for Lamb, who currently is running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, did not respond to a call seeking comment about Lepak’s proposal.
But Fallin, who is serving her final term, said in an email she supports it.
“It would be very helpful for the governor and the lieutenant governor to be on the same page, especially when the state is facing challenging issues,” she said. “The governor deals with critical and pressing issues, and it would be nice for the governor to have the lieutenant governor on the team helping develop solutions.”
While Dorman said Lepak’s proposal isn’t a guaranteed fix, it’s important for governors to have someone they can trust serving under them. When the governor leaves the state, the lieutenant governor becomes chief executive, he said.
“It certainly hampers your ability in serving in office if you can’t trust your lieutenant governor (to serve) as governor,” Dorman said.
Dorman said the current system works, but he said Lepak’s proposal probably would make government more efficient.
“For the ability to get an agenda accomplished, you would certainly hope if they’re running mates that they would share the same goals,” he said.
Ultimately, it would be up to voters to approve the change in November if the measure first garners enough legislative support to be placed on the ballot.
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.