For the past three weeks, the Tulsa World has been hosting a governor’s debate in written form.
The campaigns of Republican candidate Kevin Stitt and Democratic Party nominee Drew Edmondson have supplied arguments for their candidates on the critical questions of education improvement, economic growth and leadership. In today’s paper, the candidates themselves make their closing arguments to the voters of Oklahoma.
Both are promising the same thing: change.
Edmondson says Republicans have had complete control of the state Capitol for eight years, and the results have been four-day school weeks, teachers fleeing to other states, overcrowded prisons, sick hospitals and sicker people.
Stitt looks at an even longer swath of Oklahoma history and says we’ve elected the same group of people with the same inside-the-Capitol resumés for generations, and we find ourselves in last place in all the lists where we should be first.
The two sides agree on the direction — change — but largely disagree on strategies for getting there. Edmondson favors more state revenue; Stitt insists on making government more efficient. Edmondson wants to accept Medicaid expansion money; Stitt does not. Neither favors forced school consolidation or vouchers.
Edmondson has an experienced insider’s knowledge of how state government works.
Stitt has a young outsider’s willingness to try different things.
Edmondson served 16 years as Oklahoma’s attorney general. His work led to the establishment of the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, more than $1 billion to underwrite Oklahoma health projects.
Stitt started with $1,000 and a computer and built Gateway Mortgage Co., a 1,200-employee company that originates $6 billion a year in mortgages.
Edmondson will almost certainly be working with a Republican-controlled Legislature, which would work to frustrate his agenda from Day One.
Stitt would be working in a foreign environment. He’s never crafted a piece of compromise legislation; indeed, until he was a candidate, there is no evidence he ever voted in a governor’s race until his name was on the ballot.
The choice won’t be easy for Oklahoma voters, and we can make arguments either way; but on balance, we give the nod to Tulsan Kevin Stitt. We think he has the energy and creativity to change Oklahoma.
To be frank, when we first talked to Stitt during the Republican primary, we had reservations about his lack of political experience and his tendency to fall back on practiced lines when he didn’t have anything better to say. He wasn’t our first choice.
But we’ve seen him grow significantly wiser to the organization and practices of state government in a short period. He has spent his campaign time listening to the people of Oklahoma and has come away with a pretty good idea of what they’re looking for.
We agree with Stitt and Edmondson that Oklahomans expect better results from the government they’re paying for. We think Stitt has the better chance of making that happen.