Could someone like Bellmon be elected today?
Could Henry Bellmon, a plain-spoken, no-frills candidate get elected today in this time when many candidates seem to rely mostly on quick sound bites and campaign consultants?
Yes, says Larry Stein, who worked for the Oklahoma Republican Party when Bellmon sought his second gubernatorial term in 1986, served as a deputy press secretary for Bellmon during that term and also covered him as a reporter.
“If he was 50 years old, 55 years old today, he could win a governor’s seat in Oklahoma because of the wealth of experience and knowledge that he brings,” said Stein, who now is chief deputy for Oklahoma County Assessor Leonard Sullivan.
Bellmon, who was Oklahoma’s first Republican governor, died last week at the age of 88. Many said Bellmon, who served two terms as governor and two terms as U.S. senator from Oklahoma, was a rare breed of being a statesman who worked with both political parties and stood up for what he believed in as well as being a visionary leader.
“Henry Bellmon never won a statewide poll, but he never lost a statewide election,” Stein said. “That’s the kind of leadership that transferred to the public, and they knew they could trust him to do the right thing.”
Bellmon was elected governor in 1962 and in 1986. The Billings farmer served two terms as a U.S. senator, winning elections in 1968 and in 1974. He started his political career in 1946 by being elected to the state House of Representatives.
Bellmon served in the Marines during World War II; he was a tank commander during fighting at Iwo Jima. After losing his re-election bid to the Legislature, he returned to his farm and eventually got involved in local politics; in 1960 he became chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party. He is credited with building up the GOP in the state.
- Michael McNutt, Capitol Bureau
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