ALTHOUGH they did not win nationally, Republicans dominated Oklahoma elections. Now they face the question posed in the 1972 film, The Candidate: “What do we do now?”
How Republican officials answer that question will determine if their election benefits Oklahoma or if they merely hold power for the sake of holding power.
Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, was a big election winner. He now leads a Republican caucus controlling 75 percent of state Senate seats. That gives him the ability to advance issues without having to strong-arm every member of his caucus to join a party-line vote. That kind of flexibility provides enormous political capital to a legislative leader.
In the House, incoming Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, also leads a caucus with supermajority control of the chamber — 72-29.
Both men could wield enormous clout. In theory, Gov. Mary Fallin could even become an afterthought in setting state policy because both chambers have veto-proof majorities. It takes 32 votes in the Senate to override a veto and 68 in the House, aside from measures with an emergency clause (those require 36 and 76 votes respectively).
If Bingman and Shannon simply keep most of their caucus members united, the two men could reach agreements independently of Fallin and simply send bills to her desk. Should she veto any, an override could soon follow.
Realistically, that scenario remains unlikely. The GOP had supermajorities in both chambers at the start of the 2011 session, but infighting quickly splintered the House Republican caucus and made such power moves impossible. The same thing could easily happen again.
For public relations reasons, Bingman and Shannon are also unlikely to seek direct public confrontation with Fallin, who is very popular across the state. In that regard, Fallin is much better off than some of her predecessors, such as David Walters, who saw several vetoes overridden by fellow Democrats.