Tahlequah Daily Press


June 25, 2012

Don’t forget to vote Tuesday

TAHLEQUAH — In the Wednesday edition, readers were able to glimpse some of the opinions and ideas of four candidates for Cherokee County sheriff who responded to a questionnaire.

Incumbent Norman Fisher, and challengers Charley Batt, Clint Johnson and John Parris addressed 10 issues pertinent to voters. All four are Democrats. Randy Osburn, also a Democrat, and independent V. Kevin McFarland, chose not to participate. (The responses can still be purchased in our e-edition at www.tahlequahdailypress.com.)

Voters have serious decisions to make at the polls Tuesday, June 26. In the case of the sheriff’s race, all five men on the Democratic primary ticket have friends and family here, and some are veteran law enforcement officers. A runoff could occur, and even if it doesn’t, one of the five will face McFarland in November. This will give Republicans and other independents a chance to weigh in.

But local folks have more to consider than the county’s top law enforcement officer. The composition of two or three races has been directly affected by the state Legislature’s exercise in what many students of political science consider to be blatant gerrymandering. A look at a map detailing the new makeup of Senate District 3, which resembles a giant “G” more than an orderly geographical block, offers a picture that’s difficult to deny, even for the most partisan voter.

For Cherokee County residents, the redistricting presents the possibility we may no longer have in the Senate one of our “own,” exclusively dedicated to our interests. This is a tough pill to swallow for a county that has always sent strong, active and well-respected politicians to the statehouse, where they quickly achieved seniority and plum committee posts. Political observers point to Mike Brown as a current example; the District 4 House representative didn’t draw an opponent this time around.

The District 3 Senate seat is now held by Jim Wilson, an outspoken advocate for working people, education, and health care reform who is term-limiting out – and whose seat is now the focus of a tug-o’-war among Tahlequah and other towns as far afield as Grove. The two cities have little in common other than recreational lakes and large retiree populations. Cherokee County has one man in the race: Jim Bynum of Tahlequah, a Democrat, who will face Brian Sitsler of Westville in the primary. On the Republican ticket, Cyndi McArtor and Wayne Shaw, both of Grove, will be duking it out.

Many people who were in Wilson’s district now belong to Senate District 9, a seat held by Earl Garrison of Muskogee. Barney S. Taylor, a Muskogee Republican, is challenging him in the general. Muskogee, too, has considerably different interests and populations from Tahlequah.

Two other House races will affect certain parts of Cherokee County. In District 14, three Democrats – Bobby Jefferson, Jack Reavis and Jerry Rains – will go head to head. All are of Muskogee, but Reavis has local ties. One of them will face Fort Gibson Republican Arthur Hulbert in November. In District 86, Republicans will choose Tuesday between Honesimo Garcia of Rose and Russell Turner of Stilwell, with the victor taking on incumbent Democrat Will Fourkiller, of Stilwell, in the general.

It’s not too late to ask of ourselves, and of the candidates, whether they intend to champion our little corner of the world, or put us on a back burner to simmer indefinitely. Especially in Senate District 3, with such a diverse constituency, the slot will require a talent for multi-tasking and an ability to balance priorities that most politicians don’t possess.

Do the research, ask the questions, and above all, vote Tuesday. Saying your vote doesn’t count is a lame excuse, and besides, it’s not accurate. Elections here have, indeed, been decided by a vote or two.

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