SD 44

It now appears the citizens of Senate District 44 have a second-consecutive state senator on the wrong side of the law.

State Sen. Ralph Shortey (R-OKC) is facing three charges relating to child prostitution, and the evidence made public seems quite damning. In addition, the FBI and the Secret Service have acknowledged a role in the ongoing investigation.

Shortey resigned on Wednesday.

In 2013, Sen. Shortey’s predecessor, former Democratic Sen. Debbe Leftwich, received a one-year deferred sentence after being charged with bribery.

Two state senators, two parties, two big embarrassments for voters.

The time to look forward

I must admit the temptation to tell voters “you blew it” is almost irresistible. You see, I ran against Shortey in the 2010 Republican primary. In fact, I came up a mere three votes short of winning the primary outright. (You can check the math here.)

Unfortunately, I was not able to hold on, and Ralph won in the run-off election. Oh well. This is not the time to look back but rather the time to look forward.

No doubt there will be a number of candidates rushing to put their names in the hat for this seat. One candidate has already announced (political opportunism waits for no one). I’ve personally talked to another who most certainly will run.

No doubt there will also be a significant amount of resources poured into this race from both major parties — Republicans eager to retain a seat they have redistricted to be more favorable to their candidates and Democrats eager to reclaim a long-time Democrat seat.

Citizens in SD 44 deserve better

The citizens of SD 44 clearly deserve better representation than what they have received over the last 12 or more years (spanning both Shortey’s and Leftwich’s terms). But the voters of this predominantly south-Oklahoma City district deserve more than just a senator who won’t end up a felon. They deserve a senator who will put their interests and the interests of our state ahead of partisan politics.

These voters deserve a senator who can break away from the usual Democrat mindset of never identifying a government program that is wasteful, inefficient or no longer needed; who can resist the temptation to constantly support “taxing the rich” (which often ends up hurting the poor); and who isn’t so beholden to teachers’ unions that they would rather trap poor children in failing schools than offer them a way to obtain a better education.

But they also deserve a senator who can reject the Republican urge to deny anyone who isn’t a straight, white, evangelical Christian male full access to their civil liberties; or who can’t realize that mindlessly slashing budgets is a poor way to manage a state; or who doesn’t understand that being “pro-business” isn’t necessarily being pro-economic growth.

They deserve a senator who believes in the creativity and ingenuity of Oklahomans and who will commit to helping build an educational system that will allow that creativity and ingenuity to flourish. They need a senator who understands that real sustained economic growth won’t occur by tinkering around with the tax code, or by offering tax credits to large corporations, but by creating an environment that encourages people to start and grow successful businesses in our state. They deserve a senator who can identify the proper functions of state government and then work to fund those services adequately. They deserve a senator who recognizes that protecting existing companies and unions from competition hurts our economy.

And they deserve a senator who understands that allowing people to be free — free in the way they live their lives, free in the economic transactions they engage in, free in who they choose to love, and free in how they choose to educate their children — always leads to greater human flourishing and greater economic growth than constant attempts to regulate such things.

All hands on deck

In short, the voters of Senate District 44 deserve a third alternative. They deserve a senator who recognizes we need everyone — gays, straights, Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, rich, poor, blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, employers and employees — to move our state forward.

It’s my sincere hope that the voters of SD 44 will have the opportunity to elect such a state senator. I doubt, however, such a candidate will emerge from either of the two major parties. He or she will almost certainly have to run as an independent or as a Libertarian (the only other party recognized on Oklahoma ballots).

More importantly, if given the opportunity, I hope voters will send a message to the two major parties that “politics as usual” has ruined our state. It’s time for a new path, one that recognizes that the talents and abilities of our people will lead us to the future we want. Voters need a senator who will work to free those talents and abilities to accomplish the dreams we have for our state.

It’s time for all hands on deck if we are to right this ship.