Like the old saying goes, “you can take the boy out of politics, but you can’t take politics out of the boy.” Although I am no longer in the game, I enjoy sitting on the sidelines and observing politics at the local, state and national level. In its coverage the day after the run-off election, the Transcript included a quote from defeated Sheriff candidate Mark Hamm. In lamenting his loss, Hamm stated he was upset with the “negative campaigning” in the run-off. Hamm is a good conservative man, but I think he is mistaken when he lays the blame for his loss on his opponent’s alleged negative campaigning. Joe Lester, who in the interest of disclosure, I did endorse in the run-off, sent out a mailer informing voters that Hamm had a bench warrant for his arrest due to an unpaid ticket arising from a traffic accident in Oklahoma County. Hamm and his supporters may want to characterize this as negative campaigning, but to concerned citizens and voters, this information – which was first reported by a local newspaper – is helpful in making a determination on whom to elect to oversee law enforcement in Cleveland County. In contrast to some of the many campaign smear ads we have seen in many local elections over the last dozen years or so, this issue – an outstanding bench warrant on an unpaid ticket, was very much legitimate and relevant to the race. A bench warrant is only issued after one fails to obey an order of the court. And the sheriff and his deputies are the ones who actually serve the warrants. So in a race to determine who is better qualified to serve as our next sheriff, it is completely reasonable for a candidate to draw a contrast between himself and the other candidate where his opponent has failed to obey an order of the court and has a warrant for his arrest. In fact, had Joe Lester’s campaign advisors not done it, they should’ve been held liable for political malpractice!
I think the real blame for Hamm’s loss was because his campaign advisors turned the run-off into a “Moore/South OKC vs. Norman” battle. Perhaps they were banking on a higher turnout in the northern part of the county because of the run-off in Senate District 45. But Hamm’s campaign underestimated Joe Lester’s hard work and perhaps more importantly, the voter fatigue of the “north vs. south” politics in Cleveland County. Inside local Republican circles, there were even rumors of campaign surrogates telling voters not to vote for Joe Lester because he was beholden to a local Republican activist from Norman and a certain former OU football coach also from Norman. In the end, Republicans in Cleveland County – both in the northern half and in the southern half – rejected the geographic warfare and cast their votes for the candidate they felt was the best for the job. Joe Lester, by virtue of his outstanding background and experience in law enforcement, won the majority of the vote. Perhaps this preference for the candidate with the most experience and readiness to lead from day one will be a trend that continues in the upcoming Presidential Election. At least Republicans sure hope so!