Saturday, June 12, 2010

Why I'm Not Supporting Drew Edmondson for Governor

A number of my friends and relatives have wondered why I’m not supporting Drew Edmondson for Governor this year. After serving as an Assistant Attorney General for eleven years, most of those in the Edmondson era, and campaigning for him in two elections, it seemed natural that I would support his run for Governor. Well, I’m not, and here’s why.

In June of 2006, Drew called me into his office at the State Capitol and threatened me with my job if I didn’t vote the way he wanted on the Oklahoma Democratic Party State Central Committee, where I served as State Secretary. He launched into a paranoid tirade about his political enemies, dating as far back as his campaign for Congress against Mike Synar. He even shared his opinion that people dealing with mental health issues should just “get over it.” In a monologue littered with “F” bombs, he made it clear that he wasn’t interested in the facts, but was operating on raw emotion.

Could he have handled the situation differently? Sure. It was obvious he didn’t have all the facts, and that somebody had gotten him riled up. The meeting should never have taken place in the State Capitol; in fact, he said “this conversation never took place,” so it was obvious he knew better. Moreover, it should never have resulted in a job-related ultimatum. I was always careful to separate my duties as an Assistant AG from my political activities, and I expected the same from my boss.

I left that meeting with a markedly different opinion of Drew Edmondson. This wasn’t the conscientious friend of the people, in the mold of my hero Ed Edmondson, that I thought he was. This was a cold, calculating, and ruthless political operative who saw conspiracies and enemies where none existed. (The issue he ranted about never came before the Central Committee, as I assured him it would not.) This was a chameleon who could be your best friend when it suited him or your worst nightmare when it did not. Whatever the circumstance, Drew looks out for Number One, and Number One must always be vindicated.

It’s been a challenge to separate my emotions from a rational analysis of this situation. But it’s clear to me that someone with that kind of personality has no business in the Governor’s office. Sure, it’s a political position, and it’s a tough world out there. But the best leadership is to encourage others to excel in the tasks assigned to them, and creates a healthy work environment. There should be no need for a superior to stoop to threats of termination to leverage an employee, especially over empty rumors and gossip.

We also need a Governor who listens to both sides in gathering facts and making decisions, someone who doesn’t fly off the handle and jump to paranoid conclusions. He (or she) has to be able to sort out when they are being played by others for their own political gain, and look at what ought to be done in a given situation. Being the State’s Chief Executive requires better than what Drew demonstrated to me.

Furthermore, we don’t need a Governor who thinks people who are dealing with life’s many challenges should just “get over it.” Does that apply to veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome as well, or consumers who have been wronged by predators, or crime victims? All these folks for whom Drew has claimed to be a champion for all these years – was that just a sham as well? Should they just “get over it” too?

We can do better than that. And that’s why I’m supporting a better candidate for Governor.

- Walter Jenny Jr.

No comments: