BY JADEN MOUNT
The following is an independent analysis of the recent elections in Oklahoma. This article does not necessarily reflect the views of Tiger Media Network.
Oklahoma is often thought of as major Republican holding with little to no room for progressive opportunities. However, Tuesday night’s results may signal the beginning for a less conservative-focused population.
Over the past few months, the biggest issue facing the state is education. Teachers across the state rallied together, protesting poor wages and large classrooms. The Republican-controlled state legislature voted down bills that would have improved the situation, instead opting for laws that took more money away from education.
Kansans are no stranger to money being taken from the education budget, as previous Governor Sam Brownback did for years due to the failed Republican Business Tax Cut Experiment. The Kansas State Supreme Court has stepped in multiple times, ruling that more money had to be invested in public schools. Since Brownback resigned his position over to Jeff Colyer, there has been a shift to renew funding to the schools.
In the initial race for the Republican nomination of Oklahoma’s next governor, runoff victory candidates Mayor Mick Cornett and businessman Kevin Stitt have both signaled support for increasing teachers’ salaries and increasing the availability of technology within the classroom. They now face each other in the August Primary for the Republican Party.
On the Democratic side, former State Attorney General Drew Edmondson won outright against former State Senator Constance “Connie” Johnson. Not a single county in Oklahoma had Johnson coming out on top, resulting in Edmondson earning 61.4% of the vote. Edmondson has also made education a top priority in his campaign as well as the expansion of Medicaid.
Perhaps the most interesting note of Tuesday, June 26, elections was the question of marijuana. In a statewide referendum on legalizing medical marijuana, 56% of voters supported the question as 43% remained unopposed. The nonprofit organization Oklahomans for Health said the medicalized drug would provide more choices for patients.
Conservative opponents of the question, including Americans for Equal Liberty and local religious leaders, have said that the vote was more for recreational use instead of medicalization.
Oklahoma will join 29 other states and DC with some form of legalized marijuana if the state legislature moves forward with the majority of public support. A few years ago, even a proposal of such a measure, would have been dismissed without a second thought.
The combination of Republicans supporting education and a majority of voters supporting legalization of marijuana are, in my view, the most progressive Oklahoma has perhaps ever been. Whether this is to be a continued trend to a more moderate idealism or only a minor shift is yet to be seen. However, the fact that such a major Republican stronghold is on this path may be the start for other conservative states to consider such matters as a priority.