In an unprecedented move, Tulsa County Chairman, Mike Ford, is now adding his own roster of delegates to the county convention, scheduled for March 25th. The move clearly undermines the authority of the precinct committees to select their own delegates to the county convention.
In a letter sent out within the past hours, Ford declares a major failure to organize the county's several hundred precincts. Participation is fair below any in recorded history for Tulsa County. Yet for this reason, he believes only he can fix it by picking a bunch of his own 'delegates' and imposing them upon the county GOP, in a clear violation of party structure, orderly process, and mandated deadlines. He does not require them to hold a precinct meeting and be elected properly. There will be no open vetting process.
Ford came to power by promising to call County Committee Meetings every 3 months. that County Committee is the supreme authority of the Tulsa GOP, whenever the convention is not assembled. Yet this was a complete lie and never attempted. Ford has waited until the last minute to declare this latest round of dictatorial acts.
Ford initially undermined and usurped the authority of the precincts to organize their own biennial precinct meetings within each precinct. It is a move that has decimated the participation in Oklahoma City and led to a series of losses both in grass roots organization and electoral losses in the November general election. The Democrat Party won 2 house seats which were historically Republican.
Mike Ford selected his wife, Stephanie, to chair the credentials Committee. With this power, she will be able to present her own report to the convention body, as the authorized and recognized list of credentialed delegates.
Mike Ford is now claiming that his county organization did such a poor performance in building the precinct relations, precinct partnerships, and encouraging precincts to reach out within the neighborhoods; that he must now be given dictatorial control of the selections of delegates. As he adds his own hand-picked delegates in each precinct, it will deplete the voice of the duly authorized and parliamentary selected delegates who followed the rules.
This effort was attempted in 2007 and again in 2012. Both times it was ruled out of order by the convention.
Each organized precinct which followed the rules and met within the deadlines required, selected and named their delegates. That is completely in the authority of the precinct. The precincts still hold the explicit power to remove any of their delegations. It is clearly something required, now.
Last year, Mike Ford specifically attempted to remove all of the delegation from Broken Arrow's Precinct 456. It is perhaps the most effective and organized precinct in the county, but Ford had ordered them to scrap their own precinct meeting and go meet in another location of his choosing, in another House District.
The delegates at the County Convention voted then to overrule his actions and restore the 7 delegates to the 2016 convention body.
Here is the letter Mike Ford sent out, today.
Important Notice to Current and Former Tulsa Delegates Regarding Participation at the 2017 Republican Party of Tulsa County Convention:
Like many other counties in OK, our turnout for Precinct Meetings was extremely low this year. Traditionally, we make very few exceptions to our Delegate roster after the Precinct Meetings. However, we encountered what can only be described as "unprecedented" challenges (see below) resulting in hundreds of Tulsa Republicans not receiving notifications about these meetings. Since the meetings, we have heard from active Tulsa Republicans who have been with us for many years, they never received notification about this year's meetings, or they were misinformed.
This left me with a difficult decision to make. Do we go with a small number of Delegates to the Convention and deny the participation of so many fellow Republicans into our process, or do we open up the process and have a "growth-minded" agenda where we welcome in those who (by no fault of their own) did not receive proper notification?
My decision, after carefully examining our State Party Rules, and also seeking counsel from former County and State Chairmen, Executive and County Committee Members, and Conservative Activists around the state, was to open up the process with a limited window in order for those who did not receive their notifications to have an opportunity to join us on March 25th as Tulsa Delegates.
This image (below) was used on post cards, sent this week to hundreds of 2015 and 2016 Delegates who (for whatever reason) did not attend their meetings this year on February 16th.
Below the image a summary of a Committee Report I sent to our EC members to inform them of this situation and detail the efforts I used to notify Tulsa Republicans about the Precinct Meetings, as well as the unique *challenges we faced. I realize that some (who attended their official Precinct Meeting on February 16th) will not agree with my decision, but I urge you to read the report below before making up your mind, and put yourself in the shoes of these good people.
1. Robo calls were arranged to call and notify almost 900 numbers of precinct attendees from the last 3 years.
*Less than half of our targets were contacted. Although I submitted almost 900 numbers to Broadnet, less than 400 robo calls were completed, according to the report. Because FCC laws prohibit robo calling of cell numbers, the provider would not take a chance on getting fined, even though I made the case that Delegates have voluntarily given us their numbers. Almost 500 potential delegates did not receive the intended call.
2. Multiple email notifications (Mailchimp mass emails) were sent.
*The Tulsa GOP has been experiencing the same problems the OKGOP (and other organizations) has with mass emails, where many people are saying they are no longer receiving our emails. Although our email subscriptions have increased over the last year, our open rates have not improved. We believe the low open rates are directly connected to the new exceptions Gmail is using to sort SPAM and promotional emails for their customers.
Most mass emails (Mail Chimp, etc) are now automatically sent to the "Promotions" folder instead of primary inboxes. It is possible at least half of those (THOUSANDS) who have signed up for Tulsa GOP emails did not see the precinct meeting notices, and are not seeing our emails anymore unless their settings are customized, or they know to check their promotions tab.
3. Facebook postings and event creation on our page.
4. Website info, including a new "2017 Precinct Meetings" tab.
5. Press Release sent two weeks before the meetings, and I also sent follow up messages to a several reporters. Primarily, the Tulsa World has been one of the best resources for us since they began advertising the precinct meetings a few years ago in the Political Notebook, the Sunday before.
*Tulsa World's Randy Krehbiel promised to include it in the Sunday Political Notebook the Sunday before the meetings, as usual. However, Tulsa World Sunday (2/12/17) listed our precinct meetings as taking place on SATURDAY NIGHT (2/18/17). There was nothing Randy could do at that point. He apologized and said he would get it fixed, but you can't put that genie back in the bottle. The damage was done. Many of their readers read the Sunday edition, exclusively.
Due to the misprint promoting "Saturday night meetings," this caused a lot of confusion and likely turned off anyone who read it. It would have been better for us if they had mentioned nothing at all.
6. Interview and promos on KRMG (Tulsa's most listened to radio station), with Russell Mills went well, regarding precinct meetings. I explained the entire process, which was broken into several segments. I was very specific about those who could not attend needing to contact us before the meetings if they wanted to be a delegate.
*Unfortunately, it was brought to my attention that their news update cycle (played every 15 minutes) stated that "those who could not attend their precinct meetings could still become a delegate by contacting us" via info on the website. This update did not communicate the "cutoff'" of 6:30pm, and was repeated every 15 minutes, all night long until late. We had many responses by email late that night and the following day.
7. *One of our central locations, Riverview Baptist Church (Bixby), was not open when the Facilitators and Delegates arrived. After waiting for several minutes, and with nobody from the church showing up to open the facility, the crowd went to a restaurant across the street to hold their precinct meetings. This caused an understandable amount of confusion for some who were supposed to meet there, and it is hard to tell how many people were ultimately affected.
It is my opinion that, in the best interest of our County Party, and with the goal of expanded growth and participation in mind, we must open up this process again (with a limited, orderly window) to properly inform those who likely would have attended their Precinct Meetings on February 16th, but did not receive notification for whatever reason, or were misinformed or confused by the local media, and to allow them to become Delegates to the County Convention. For us to close down the process and deny (potentially) hundreds of local Republicans the opportunity to participate this year would be irresponsible, stunting the growth of our County Party, as there is no Delegate or convention process for 2018 (off year).
Points to Consider
1. My job is (above all) to "serve and advance the best interests of the welfare of the Party...," and also to organize County Conventions, "not inconsistent with the State Party Rules." In short, I have to do what is in best for our Party's growth and success, including productive conventions, without straying from the Rules.
2. The rules do not specifically instruct us as to what qualifies a Delegate to the County Convention.
3. The Official Call from the State Party specifies that all Precinct Meetings and County Conventions must take place on or before March 25th, 2017.
4. "The County Chairman shall be the executive officer ... of the Republican Party of the County ... shall be responsible for the enforcement of these rules ... carrying out the directions and resolutions of the County Committee ... assist in all state and RNC campaigns and shall have general supervision over all Republican Party activities, functions, and campaigns within the county ... shall be the executive officer of the county delegates to any district or state convention" according to Rule 6 (b) 2 & 5.
5. I have no intention to run for re-election, and no candidates have announced intent to run for County Chairman or Vice Chair, which plays a significant role in my decision. If there were candidates openly and actively running for these positions, I would not pursue any action to grow the delegation, in order to avoid the perception of interference with those elections. As it stands now, there is no "dog in this hunt."
Because Pam Pollard and Robert Aery have announced their intent to run for State Chair, this definitely impacts both of them. I reached out to both and explained the situation. Both agreed with my inclination to open up this process.
6. I also sampled the opinions of a few members of this committee, the Chairs of the Credentials, Platform and Rules Committees, other County Chairmen in OK, former County and State Chairmen, and the OKGOP's attorney, for their opinions and interpretation of the Rules. I encountered no dissenting views and no precedents were mentioned that might impact this situation.
7. Not including those who applied for acceptance after 6:30pm on February 16th, the number of Delegates elected at their precinct meetings is right under 400. Tulsa leads all other counties in possible Delegate votes at the state convention this year with 324. Because we usually average (turn out) about 20% of our county's total delegation to OKGOP conventions, it is very likely we will be under-represented this year if we do not act.
8. In 2018, the OKGOP is in a literal "off year" regarding Precinct Meetings, Conventions and the opportunity to attract and incorporate the concept of Delegates to become involved in a traditional manner. If we do not reach out and attempt to establish Delegates in these unrepresented precincts, we will have no activists listed in those precincts during the 2018 election cycle, which will be critical to the GOTV process in an election year with a U.S. Congressional race (post-Bridenstine era begins), most state races (including Governor), all State House Races, many State Senate races, and several Tulsa County races on the ballot.
9. Many County Parties around the state interpret (incorrectly) the term "open delegation" to mean they (County Chairmen and/or various Committees) may add Delegates to their Convention roster at will. While this is not the proper interpretation of the term "open delegation," this practice is used very commonly, and the Credentials Report is never challenged at the State Convention, based on this practice. This sets a relevant precedent for us to consider. If Tulsa's delegation were to be challenged at the OKGOP Convention, based on the measure I'm suggesting, it would also bring into question every other county who adds Delegates to their roster without the qualification of being elected at their Precinct Meeting. Ultimately, we would not be able to conduct business, if such a challenge prevailed.
10. Yes, there will be a handful of people (small minority) who will have a fit if we open up the process and grow the delegation, regardless of our intent or what is best for the Party. We cannot make decisions based on presumed objections from those who may have a right to voice their opinion, but who do not have the best interest of the Party (as a whole) in mind, and who do not share the responsibility of leadership with us. We have the responsibility to be fair, deliberate, and growth-minded.
After studying our Party Rules extensively, it is my interpretation that the organization of the Precinct Meetings, and the direction of our Credentials process for Tulsa Republicans becoming qualified Delegates to the County and State Convention, is ultimately at my discretion, with your advice and recommendations, primarily to issue the "Call to Convention" collectively (which we already did), not to be inconsistent with Party Rules.
There are no rules to guide us on this situation beyond that primary "Call to Convention", but the authority and responsibility to govern the process beyond that rests with the executive structure of the organization. The County Committee definitely has the authority to create county policy in these and other matters, and WE (as myself and most - if not all- Exec Comm members are CC members) should at some point finally take the opportunity to develop County Rules (which I gave this Committee the opportunity to do at the onset of my term). However, a CC meeting is not logistically practical or necessary at this point to begin that process. Time does not afford us that path.
This decision and responsibility, of course, is a slippery slope that should not be taken lightly, because this does indeed set a precedent that future chairmen and committees will consider and reference. It is absolutely necessary (in my opinion), with fairness in mind, and only in the best interest of our Party. Furthermore, it poses another case for the need for not only County Rules, but an opportunity to amend our State Rules and clarify policy which should not be left open for interpretation. Perhaps the silver lining in this is it will prompt a reaction to finally modernize and clean up our rules, which will help govern our Party and reduce divisions and arguments among us.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns. I'd be happy to discuss this matter with any Tulsa GOP activist or volunteer.
Thank you for your time and participation!
Mike Ford - Chairman
Republican Party of Tulsa County
We will have a few very special guest speakers addressing the convention, including (but not limited to) U.S. Congressman Jim Bridenstine, State Auditor Gary Jones and Corp. Commissioner Dana Murphy this year! We will have lunch items catered in for a reasonable price, and our Trump gear (shirts, hats, stickers) will be back in stock for fundraising!
There is a $10 Delegate fee, which helps to cover the expense of renting the facility and all related expenses. The Guest fee is $5.00, and guests may attend without becoming a Delegate, but cannot vote and must be seated in the upper section during voting times.
Join us! Let's gather, celebrate our 2016 victories, and prepare for a bright future!