Hang tight, Randy
The indictments of Rogers County’s Democratic Commissioner Randy Baldridge by the Republican U. S. attorney fail the smell test.
Baldridge, elected by the people of Rogers County, should serve out his term of office unless actually convicted by a jury of his peers, regardless of what Republican cohorts say in the media.
Randy Baldridge by all tests of American justice and civilized jurisprudence is innocent until proven guilty. He should continue to serve and, if he chooses, to pursue re-election until the jury returns. Then let voters decide on his stewardship.
The allegations against Baldridge were whispered widely across Rogers County prior to the Democratic primary which he won by a landslide. Then comes the GOP U. S. attorney in Tulsa with an indictment that, casually reviewed, is timed exactly to assure that a Republican — who was rounded up and rushed to the election board to file for the office just seven minutes before the deadline — is elected District Three Rogers County Commissioner in November. Phew! There’s another smelly story in here somewhere.
As witnessed by reporters of the Claremore Progress and the Tulsa World since his election, Baldridge has been a hard-working, no-nonsense, responsive and accountable county commissioner. He has held many responsible positions both in government and the private sector. Never a whisper was heard at this newspaper about larceny.
In our mind, that such a dedicated public official would sell his integrity for $5,000 defies all wisdom. Baldridge’s salary is $52,800 a year. He’s single. He can live on that.
However, if he stole money, Baldridge should be convicted. Likewise for the “unindicted coconspirators” who allegedly received $8,000. All were public servants and equally responsible.
Those five alleged fellow “conspirators” include Bruce Long who had been Baldridge’s road superintendent then filed against his ex-boss in the July primary. The plot deepens. The stench heightens. Long’s brother is a Republican candidate for District One Rogers County Commissioner.
Interestingly, Rogers County Republican District Two Commissioner Mike Helm is quoted in the World most harshly of his colleague. Helm says Baldridge should be dumped.
An assistant U. S. attorney told the World “public integrity cases are always viewed as a priority by the department.”
Why then did all the Republican U. S. attorneys fail to conduct grand jury investigation of former Gov. Frank Keating, when he admitted taking $250,000 from a Wall Street tycoon?
When exposed by a national magazine, Keating said he repaid the money, but never, to this our knowledge, ever produced a canceled check. Never was even indicted. Never given a chance to prove his innocence before a jury of his peers.
In Baldridge’s case, the five other suspects are “cooperating with prosecutors” and, supposedly, escaped indictments. Frightened by a host of federal agents and lawyers, most upright citizens would crumble under the pressure.
Voters, District Attorney Gene Haynes and folks in District Three of Rogers County should reserve judgment on Randy Baldridge.
If this is a case of frame-up by federal officials, and Baldridge leaves office and is later proven to be innocent, then every Democrat voter in southern Rogers County will have been disenfranchised.
Baldridge should hang in there. He should not only continue his duly elected term, he should be re-elected.
The smell test on this one is going to be hard to quell.
The Democratic and Republican Party run-off election on Tuesday will be about as exciting as watching Kudzu grow, but it is important enough for all registered voters to find some way of making it to the polls.
Rogers County Republicans will be able to fulfill their voting responsibilities in just a matter of minutes — just long enough to scratch one line to connect the arrow behind the name of either Scott Pruitt or Todd Hiett for the lieutenant governor nomination.
That is the only Republican race on Tuesday’s ballot in the county.
Originally billed to be one of the most hotly disputed contests of this political season, this race got off to a blistering start in the primaries, but has lost its steam in recent weeks from an apparent lack of funds and interest.
Hiett continues tooting his goodness with far fewer television commercials, while Pruitt — far the better choice of the two —through the end of last week had all but dropped from sight.
In Hiett’s latest TV commercials he intimates that he single-handedly gave Oklahomans the biggest tax cut in history and he is responsible for the raise in teacher pay. The facts are, there would have been no tax reduction without the Senate compromise, and Hiett actually fought the increase in teachers’ pay, saying it would lead “to more big government.”
Of course stealing credit is a political gambit.
There’s a race for lieutenant governor on the Democrat ballot as well. Term-limited House Minority Leader Jari Askins, of Duncan, is facing a political newcomer in Pete Regan, Grove, a former David Boren staff member.
We like both of these candidates, but favor Regan for his youth, vitality and the fresh approach he will bring to the office.
Voters in western Rogers County will choose between Wayne Guevara and Carl Weston for the District 74 House of Representatives. Guevara, who right now is serving in the National Guard on the Mexican border, has not been able to campaign personally.
Guevara is far the superior candidate, and will make an effective Representative for District 74.
Hang tight, Randy