WASHINGTON — Anna Flatt has paid her dues for the Oklahoma Republican Party, doing the tough, no-glory work at the county level like knocking doors and organizing potluck dinners.
She became disillusioned with the party in 2008 after the financial bailout and discovered then-U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, a Texas Republican with a strong libertarian bent. Flatt supported Paul for president in 2012 and won a delegate slot to the Republican National Convention that year.
Now she’s challenging U.S. Rep. Tom Cole in the Republican primary — a situation that has caused some internal friction because Flatt, of Ardmore, is the chairwoman of the Carter County Republican Party. Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Dave Weston asked her to step aside as chairwoman, but Flatt refused.
Friction between Paul supporters and the Republican Party establishment is nothing new. The party’s Oklahoma state convention in 2012 ended in an angry walkout by Paul supporters, who felt they had been wronged by the party leadership. At the national convention a few months later, some of them booed Gov. Mary Fallin during her prime-time speech.
This year, there are at least three Paul activists running as Republicans for state office: Flatt; Dax Ewbank, who is running for governor; and Kenny Bob Tapp, who is running for a state House seat from the Panhandle.
Cole, R-Moore, said in a recent interview, “Periodically, you have people coming in (to the Republican Party) on different sets of issues that moved them.
“What’s moved most Libertarian voters into the Republican Party I think has largely been the fiscal issues — the size and scope of government, the cost of government, the deficit — those seem to be the real drivers. And I think that’s perfectly consistent with the broad mainstream of the Republican Party. And we’ve gotten a lot of energy out of that.
“And I think the rise of the tea party and the movement of Libertarians dramatically into the Republican Party probably helped us take over the House in 2010.”
Cole was chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party in 1988 when the presidential candidacy of television evangelist Pat Robertson brought thousands of evangelicals into the state GOP. For many of those social issues — particularly abortion — were paramount.
Paul was also anti-abortion, as are many of his supporters. Tapp said “standing for the unborn” is one of the biggest issues in his state House race.
Paths diverge on some other social issues as, sometimes, an evangelical Republican’s “morality” intrudes on a libertarian Republican’s “personal liberty.”
Flatt said in an interview that the government shouldn’t have a role in who can marry; nor, she said, should the government tell people that they can’t smoke marijuana.
On his website, Ewbank states, “From gun liberties to ending the abusive war on drugs, the people of Oklahoma need to be set free of the worry that the state is out to get them.
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