Shade Oklahoma’s red a bit darker.
The state’s Republican Party claimed unprecedented victories Tuesday culminating with U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin’s gubernatorial win over Democrat Lt. Gov. Jari Askins.
Oklahoma voters and politicians said the results illustrate strong disapproval of President Barack Obama’s administration and the need for government leaders to refocus on fiscally conservative principals.
Republicans will now control both of the state’s legislative houses and the governor’s mansion for the first time since statehood. Fallin’s victory joins voter approval of several conservative-backed state questions and other down-ticket races that the GOP captured.
Fallin said the GOP gains are a result of voters who are not happy with the status quo and wanted a departure from polices backed by Democrats on the federal level. She pledged to respond by making government smaller and cutting spending.
“We are going to right-size our government,” she said. “And when Washington does things that hurt our economy or takes away our personal rights or freedoms, you have a governor who will stand up to Washington.”
Fallin and Democratic candidate Askins both campaigned heavily on conservative issues. But several politicians and voters agreed the strong momentum that the Republican Party carried nationwide helped boost the gubernatorial outcome.
Pauls Valley resident Dave Cunningham, who has voted both Democratic and Republican in the past, said he cast his ballot for the GOP’s gubernatorial candidate this time around. He said he wanted a candidate who would be different from Democratic Gov. Brad Henry.
“Fallin seemed the more conservative candidate,” he said.
Voters also delivered a strong rebuke of Obama’s signature policy achievement Tuesday with the approval of State Question 756. Legal experts said there would be minimal impact from the ballot measure, which changes the state’s Constitution to opt out of provisions of the federal health reform legislation, because federal law would still overrule state law.
However, some argue it sends a message to Washington, D.C. that most Oklahomans are not happy with the bill.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who handily won his reelection bid, said the anti-Obama movement is largely responsible for the high turnout for Republicans within the state and nationwide.
“It is a disavow of the policies of the present administration, and it is important to note that confidence in government is earned by standing on principals, not through words,” he said.
“This is about recapturing the American dream and making hard choices to secure that our children and grandchildren will have the same opportunities that were afforded to us.”
Ada resident Jim Richardson, who voted for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., during the 2008 presidential election, voted for Askins on Tuesday. Richardson, who is a teacher, said he viewed Askins as the more pro-education candidate.
Richardson said he disapproves of Democrats on the federal level, but he said Askins was conservative enough to earn his vote. However, after he cast his ballot Tuesday afternoon, he correctly predicted that Askins would not be able to overcome the Republican wave.
“I think too many people will think they have the same platform,” he said referring to Askins and Obama. “They just tie them together.”