I live in one of the reddest states in the country – Oklahoma. Every single county went to Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Many Oklahomans held little hope for change in the midterm elections, but there were some promising signs.
Voter turnout for the primaries was high, likely due to a state question that would legalize medical marijuana. Legalizing medical marijuana passed and people started to wonder if maybe this meant a change in the political climate too.
A big race in the midterms was the Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner (OCC) race. With all of the earthquakes linked to fracking, many were hoping for a change in leadership.
Bob Anthony ran for his fifth consecutive six-year term. Anthony has been the corporation commission in Oklahoma almost my whole life.
The OCC is in charge of regulating industries deemed necessary for public welfare. These tasks include regulating utility companies, overseeing oil and gas drilling, and wastewater disposal.
Historically the OCC has been very industry-friendly. Even as Oklahoma has record-breaking earthquakes which have been directly connected to hydraulic fracturing, Anthony continued to deny the link between fracking and earthquakes.
Hope for a change came when Ashley Nicole McCray won the Democratic nomination for OCC. McCray had her own dealings with the OCC as an environmental activist and didn’t feel like they had the health of Oklahoma’s citizens at heart.
“I actually met Bob Anthony, my opponent, last year,” McCray said. “And it became very apparent through that interaction that he did not have a concern for the voice of the people of Oklahoma. He did not care about ordinary citizens and he was not fighting with the actual science that linked the injection wells to earthquakes.” – Ben White via NONDOC
While everyone knew McCray had a big fight ahead of her, we kept hope that she could beat Anthony. Most of us had experienced the earthquakes. How much longer could we let this dangerous situation go on?
Early voting had not been popular in Oklahoma because lines to vote haven’t been an issue in the past. This year we had record numbers of people voting early. With this increased voter turnout did it mean change for the state? It did, but not for OCC.
Anthony received over 60% of the vote. Oklahomans decided another six years of a corporation commissioner that denies science and allows poor drilling practices to continue to rattle the state, literally, was ok.
Another big blow came when Kevin Stitt, the Republican candidate endorsed by President Trump, won the governor seat.
He takes the seat term-limited Mary Fallin left. She left being the most hated governor in the U.S. Yet, Stitt’s platform is more of the same.
Education was a big issue in Oklahoma after the state saw a 9-day teacher strike for more funding and teacher pay. Stitt was endorsed by Senator Tom Coburn, who worked against these increases. Stitt made it clear that he was against raising the production tax to help fund education.
Even some in the oil and gas industry in Oklahoma indorse raising the production tax to help fund education.
“It’s like we should all bow down and worship them for taking our resources on the cheap while our schools are bleeding teachers and our infrastructure crumbles,” says Mike Cantrell longtime financier and oil production expert.
It was a close race, but again big oil won…again.
A bright spot came from a district that flipped a 44-year Republican stronghold. Kendra Horn beat they Republican incumbent Steven Russell. Horn is against expanding offshore drilling and believes we should have tax credits for solar and wind energy. Overall she is a win for the environment.
I continue to hold onto the hope that my neighbors will see that allowing deregulation of a polluting industry puts our air, water and land at risk for more dangerous earthquakes. But change comes slow in Oklahoma.