What would bring leaders of Oklahoma’s Republican Party to bicker publicly about one of their own?

Kevin Calvey (R-OKC) let it be known last week that he, apparently, has it out for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, also a Republican. In response, a fellow GOP lawmaker criticized Calvey’s criticism.

On Wednesday, Calvey issued a press release calling on Hofmeister to resign in the wake of felony charges against her and others.

“Joy Hofmeister’s own words make it clear that it is best for the children of Oklahoma that she resign,” Calvey stated in the release. He was referring to emails referenced in the indictment against Hofmeister and representatives of a school administrators’ lobby and the teachers’ union, among others.

“This isn’t a case of ‘he said, she said.’ Ms. Hofmeister admits in her own emails that she and CCOSA officials planned the massive illegal dark money negative campaign against her GOP primary opponent in advance, and that this dark money campaign would allow Ms. Hofmeister to focus solely on touting her own background rather than engaging her opponent.”

Although Calvey makes a damning case against Hofmeister, his emailed statement also points out that she remains innocent of the charges against her until proven guilty.

Smalley rebuffs Calvey’s missive

In response, Sen. Jason Smalley (R-Stroud), chairman of the Senate’s appropriations subcommittee on education, admonished Calvey’s reproach in a short statement emailed to press Friday. While Smalley also emphasized that Hofmeister’s guilt or innocence remains to be seen, he said he was “disappointed” in Calvey’s request that she resign.

“We are in the middle of filing bills and preparing for the upcoming legislative session,” Smalley stated in his release. “Instead of worrying about this case, we, as legislators, should be focused on legislation to improve the education of our children, increase salaries for our hardworking teachers, improve the funding formula and other important issues. That is our job.”

Smalley as defender of education

A former member of the House as of 2012, Smalley moved into the Senate in 2014. That same year, Calvey returned to the House after failed congressional runs. Subsequently, Calvey sat on commissions mainly related to the environment and law. Meanwhile, Smalley was appointed to a member of the Education Commission of the States in 2015 and also sits on the Senate’s appropriations subcommittee for education as well as the general education committee.

In light of Smalley’s positions within education, it could be the case that he regards any attack on that arena as his ball to field. If someone cries foul against anything education-related, Smalley may seek the opportunity to turn the criticism against the critic.

Calvey as party hardliner

In a more general sense, it could be the case that Calvey merely affirms his role as one of the Legislature’s more conservative Republicans when he decries perceived wrongdoing.

According to the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper’s annual conservative index from July, Calvey exhibits a historical average of 78, while Smalley’s is 69. (Closer to 100 is considered more conservative.)

By this measure, Calvey appears more like the ideological hardliner, ready to castigate GOP members even at the potential expense of the party as a whole. Conversely, Smalley, who falls more into the middle range of the Senate’s GOP, will stand up for and defend even an embattled party member regardless, apparently, of where such an attack originates.

Of course, Hofmeister is somewhat viewed as a more education-establishment politician than many hardline conservatives would like. Calvey, on the other hand, supports school vouchers to allow tax dollars to pay for private school tuition.

Two futures, neither certain

As the 2017 legislative session creeps closer to reality, expect the majority party to either wrangle support behind common causes, which should be easy given their overwhelming dominance at all levels of government.

On the other hand, the local GOP could fracture under the weight of its own differences, which could be a little like watching multiple clown cars crash into each other in an otherwise empty parking lot.