No one denies that money matters in political races. But it doesn't matter as much as respecting your constituents, as recall elections in Colorado just proved.
Last week voters ousted two Democratic state senators, Colorado Senate President John Morse and Angela Giron, replacing them with Republicans. The recalls were prompted by Morse and Giron's support of gun control. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg contributed $350,000 to defend the two Democrats. Overall, liberal interest groups contributed around $3 million in support of the incumbents. Yet Morse and Giron still became the first Colorado lawmakers recalled in state history.
Admittedly, outside contributions from pro-gun groups supported the challengers, but the races upend the standard math of politics: incumbency + money = victory. Morse was among the state's most powerful politicians; registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans 47 percent to 23 percent in Giron's district. Yet both lost. Clearly, both lawmakers offended too many people they were supposed to represent. No amount of money could negate that reality.
In contrast to Colorado, last year's recall elections in Wisconsin mostly fell short. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker won easily in a race focused on union reforms he championed. Walker's reforms saved millions of dollars and teachers' jobs while subjecting government workers to increased pension contributions that were still lower than those facing many private-sector workers. A left-leaning electorate ultimately sided with Walker.
Clearly, Walker's constituents felt respected and represented. Morse and Giron's constituents did not.
Aside from corruption or egregious incompetence, we don't generally favor recall elections. Regular elections suffice to decide policy differences. We're glad recall elections aren't authorized for legislators in Oklahoma.
Nonetheless, lessons from Colorado apply to Oklahoma's elected officials. Politicians who think they know better how their constituents' lives should be run than constituents do must keep in mind that they'll ultimately answer to those same constituents.