Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Live Chat With the Fallin Campaign

This is a transcript of a live chat that was conducted with Alex Weintz, Communication Director for the Mary Fallin for Governor Campaign. All the questions that are listed were asked by me, except where noted:

I’m curious. What news source do you follow? That is, where do you go to keep up on current events and what not?

A lot of Oklahoma papers. Obviously, the Oklahoman, the World, etc. But she also checks out blogs.

What about television news? Does she watch Fox News more than CNN for instance?

Fox News all the way. In fact, I’ve been working for Mary for 3-4 years and rarely does she not have Fox News on.

[Andrew Griffin from Red Dirt Report]: Does she listen to any talk radio?

Yes. She's been doing interviews with Reid Mullins on KTOK for years and she lives in OKC so that's something she listens to frequently. Although as we travel around the state she listens to talk radio wherever we are we spend a lot of time in the car and on the road, so she listens to plenty of radio.

On the road we frequently tune in Rush.

Basically, as a communications team, and as a candidate, we are trying to hit every possible kind of media -- radio, TV, print, online

How about NPR? Does she ever tune into that?

She listens to that occasionally.

I did an interview with Mary last week. I have a question about an answer that she gave me. She said that for too long Oklahoma has been without a leader whose focus has been on job growth and fiscal discipline. Is she saying that Brad Henry has failed us on those fronts?

She wasn't saying that Brad Henry has "failed." But the fact of the matter is, Mary is going to treat job growth and economic development as her number one priority, and that’s going to be where she spends a lot of time and energy. Could we have had more energetic leadership on that front? Yes, sure.

[Andrew Griffin] An issue I have been following is the state's tax credit system. There have been some real problems with it - i.e. Altus bank, Quartz Mtn. Aviation. If elected governor, would Mary call for an investigation of these tax credit issues?

Basically when it comes to tax credits Mary's policy is that everything needs to work and everything needs to be open and transparent. So if something is getting a tax credit we need to know why and it needs to be generating jobs and helping the economy. If it's not accomplishing that than it is not a worthwhile investment.

[Michael Bates from BatesLine] How do you knock on doors for a statewide campaign?

You get a lot of volunteers…and you sweat a lot.

[Michael Bates] Would Mary oppose further transferable tax credits?

Again, Mary supports reviewing the system and making it as open, transparent and effective as possible. If tax credits are being transferred in a way that is not helpful to the economy and not open and transparent, then she will absolutely address that. She does support reviewing the system from top to bottom.

[Andrew Griffin] Another question I had has to do with the turnpike system. It seems to me that economic development is stunted along our state turnpikes and one wonders why this is the case. Exits are few and McDonald's is the only option out in the middle of nowhere. Does Mary see this as a problem?

Well, obviously Mary wants there to be as much development as possible along the turnpikes. Do you know why there are only McDonalds, besides the fact that Big Macs are awesome?

[Andrew] I assume it was some bidding war. People zip on by many communities, not knowing they are there because of these hermetically-sealed highways called turnpikes. I don't understand why there isn't more of a debate about the turnpike system in the state. I suspect it has to do with the attitude I got from the OTA sign engineer who told me "Well, that's the way it's always been done."

Obviously, a central theme of our campaign is jobs. That's going to be Mary's number one priority, along with balancing the budget. We think Mary has the experience, the work ethic and the vision to bring more jobs to the state, to pull us out of our current budget mess and to move the state forward. We're also going to be talking about the fact that Mary is the ONLY candidate in the race who offers something different from the Washington Way and who will stand up to the Obama administration.

Another question I asked Mary was in regards to the open primary system that they have in states such as Washington state versus the closed primary system we have here in Oklahoma....she stated that the problem with an open primary system was that, basically, a Democrat could mess with the candidates for the Republican party and vice versa. However, with an open primary system, there would be no registering of parties, as they do in Washington State, and it seems to work pretty well. Do you think she would favor such a system in Oklahoma?

I've talked to Mary about that. Basically, she is not alarmed with the way our current primary system operates, but she would certainly be open to reviewing it to make it as fair as possible and to increase participation. So to answer your question: would she be open to changing it? Yes. But that is not going to be a central focus of our campaign. She would be open to reviewing the system to make sure it is fair. She does not have any plans to change it as of now.

Oh I know it isn't something you would highlight in the campaign or anything like that. It just seems to me that the direction this country is headed, it is all about partisan politics and whose "side" is going to gain leadership. It seems to me than an open primary system, where nobody registers for a particular party, could help, not necessarily end it, but slow it down a bit. I mean, I know there are more important things for her to concern herself with and what not but this is an area that concerns me a bit.

[Michael Bates] To elaborate on my question about knocking doors: I know that state legislative candidates try to knock on every likely voter's door at least once. Obviously you can't do that for the whole state, so how does a statewide candidate decide where to personally knock doors?

You are right that we can’t physically knock on every door in the state and certainly Mary can't do that personally. We do have lists that help us target which doors to knock based on party registration, voter frequency etc. But when Mary personally knocks doors it usually revolves around an event in a particular area. And we depend on the local GOP organizations and our state party to support us and the other statewide candidates.

There are some communities that just want to know that, hey, Mary took the time to come to our parade and then knock on some doors afterwards. It's not even about how many or whose doors, just that she took an hour to do it and to get out into the community. And she'll do that and we hope the word gets out.

[Michael] What kind of response are you getting in Southeast Oklahoma?

I think we're getting a good response for a number of reasons. First, Mary works hard and she gets out there. She isn't just sitting at a desk in OKC or Tulsa and they appreciate that. Second, like you said, they are really conservative there and despite the fact that it's a Democratic area they do not approve of the policies coming out of Washington and the Obama Administration. Mary recently was in McAlester for a couple of events, including touring a homeless shelter the community is working together to build.

And in this race, Mary is the candidate offering something different from the Obama Administration.

So would you say that Jari Askins is a female Obama? LoL!

[Conservative Pup] Hi, sorry to be late. Pup here from Conservative Pup. How will Mary go about fighting the individual mandate to buy health care insurance, and how would she present that to Oklahomans who are strongly "in favor" of the health care bill, because they don't understand it?

First, I think we are fortunate that most Oklahomans aren’t in favor of the health care bill. It's one of the least popular policies to come out of Washington in decades, for good reason.

One of the first things Mary is going to do is to join the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the health care law. In fact, she's already asked Henry, Askins and Edmondson to do that and they have refused.

She’s also asking people to support Senator Brogdon’s opt-out clause which will be on the ballot this November.

Won’t that also depend on who ends up being our state’s next Attorney General?

Good point Otter. We figure a conservative GOP attorney general would be helpful in the cause. It will help to have a Republican AG but it’s important to note that the legislature passed a bill that would have signed the state onto the lawsuit and it was vetoed by Governor Henry. Another thing that Henry vetoed that Mary would have signed is open carry.

I don't mean to sound a bit crass here but that comment about having a Republican AG, sounds a bit like you are encouraging straight party-line voting. Do the Democrats have absolutely nothing to offer in this state? I only say that because not all Democrats are...Obamaites. For instance, our own Congressman Dan Boren seems a bit more conservative than your average Democrat.

I absolutely agree. I think it’s important to vote for candidates who are conservative, who will help to create jobs and improve the economy, and who are willing to take a stand against Washington and the Obama Administration. Period.

And regarding Democrats, Mary has always said that she thinks that conservative Democrats and independents will support her because they share the same values: a commitment to fiscal responsibility and limited government, a respect for the constitution, and support of traditional family values.

So we aren't writing off Democrats or independents, and certainly they will be an important part of this campaign.

Speaking of campaigns and Independents...sort does Mary feel about public financing of political campaigns?

The honest answer is we don’t know where Mary stands on public financing. No one has ever asked that before.

Overall, how does Mary think Governor Henry did as a governor?

Mary gets this question a lot and she usually says something like "I think Brad Henry is a nice guy" and then leaves it at that. But I do know that Mary plans to be more active in creating jobs and focusing on the economy -- and obviously they have different opinions about health care, immigration, guns, etc

What does Mary think about a school voucher system here in Oklahoma?

Mary supports school choice and charter schools and is absolutely in favor of anything that helps kids escape failing schools and empowers parents.

We were happy to have Jeb Bush here last week campaigning for us. He has done a great job reforming Florida’s school system.

What type of reforms did he put in place there in Florida that would work for our kids here in Oklahoma?

Well the big thing I think was to implement a system where good work was rewarded and there were consequences for underperforming. So teachers who did well were rewarded financially and those that consistently underperformed were not and in some cases found new professors.

[Conservative Pup] How were those results measured?

Good question Conservative Pup. Are we talking about a No Child Left Behind type system?

Results in Florida were measured by standardized tests that were designed by the state. Mary is in favor of local control and she has no plans to adopt the entire Florida system without changing it to suit Oklahoma, but we do need some sort of system in place to make sure our kids can read and write and do math. And if teachers are consistently producing students that excel in these areas, Mary thinks they should be rewarded. If they are producing students who underperform, they should be held accountable.

Do you think that school administrators in our state are getting paid too much? It seems like that particular issue is a source of tension with some people I have spoken with.

Mary has said that we spend too much money on administrative overhead and don't get enough cash into the classrooms where it actually helps our kids. She is definitely in support of ways of voluntarily consolidating administrative services and reducing expenses that way

That is where the live chat ended.

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