Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin was recently decreed the worst governor in the entire nation in a Morning Consult poll. According to their survey, Fallin—who is leaving this November at the end of her two-term limit—came in at number 50 with a whopping 74 percent disapproval rating, beating Democrat Dan Malloy of Connecticut by 3 percentage points.
While this might simply be an interesting data point in the world of the 24/7 news cycle, the collective eye-rolls and heat of embarrassment rising from Oklahomans’ cheeks over our governor could create a tropical depression off the coast of Texas. Obviously one of the 50 governors has to come in last, but why Fallin?
In a word: everything. That includes a thorough lack of leadership by a self-ordained conservative on a raft of important conservative issues, an obvious disdain for transparency while advocating for open records laws, big spending on personal travel during budget shortfalls, and major policy failures. The conservatives who ushered her into office on the 2010 Tea Party train are so over Fallin, and they’re not the only ones, either.
Here Are a Few of Mary Fallin’s Worst Policy Hits
Fallin has held major political offices in Oklahoma since 1990: Oklahoma House representative, lieutenant governor, then governor. Certainly, there are a litany of reasons liberals don’t care for Fallin, but these are an artifact of life in an historically red state. So let’s just stick to the big conservative blunders, especially since she was ostensibly elected as a conservative.
Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion: Fallin was for it before she was against it before she was for it before she wanted to hit the “pause button.” In 2012, Oklahomans shut down the state capitol switchboard numerous times to protest her decision to accept federal money and set up state Obamacare exchanges.
Although she reversed course, sent the money back, and said an emphatic “no” to the Obamacare exchanges then, four years later a budget shortfall had her deciding to make another run for federal dollars fueled by debt for our kids, as though conservatives who fought it four years ago would just suddenly be okay with it.
Abortion: An article in the National Catholic Register entitled “Oklahoma Pro-Lifers ‘Stunned’ by Gov. Fallin’s Veto of Anti-Abortion Bill” provides a clear picture here. Although liberals largely condemned a bill to make it illegal for doctors to perform abortions, it passed with large majorities in both the Oklahoma House and Senate only for the governor to veto it after assuring a coalition of state pastors she would support it during a pre-session meeting. Frankly, she’s lucky misrepresenting oneself to a group of pastors in a Bible-belt state isn’t a hanging offense.
Gun control: Currently, 13 states have constitutional carry laws. Yet despite Fallin’s continued campaign assurances of her Second Amendment support, and although both houses of the Oklahoma legislature passed a bill with veto-proof majorities, Fallin vetoed the bill to provide Oklahomans the right to carry their weapon without a license, hacking off a large chunk of gun-loving Oklahomans and the National Rifle Association.
Common Core: In 2013, just as the fight to end Common Core in Oklahoma really began to heat up, Fallin sought to end the drama via an executive order that basically said, “Hey, this isn’t a really big deal, Oklahoma will always have its own standards, drive on without changing course.” Since she was the grand master of the National Governors Association at the time, which had been key in creating and pushing Common Core, no one involved in the repeal effort was shocked, but the level of double-speak and hyperbole in the document was gross.
After waiting until the very last minute to sign the Common Core repeal bill the legislature passed in 2014, a majority of Fallin’s appointed state school board members filed a lawsuit to stop the repeal based on the premise that it was unconstitutional to allow the state legislature to approve educational standards, making collusion between the governor and the school board to thwart Common Core repeal seem a likely scenario. Yick.
Taxes: Looking through Fallin’s executive actions, it’s clear to see, especially in the later years, the governor’s desire to shake down taxpayers. During 2017, she called for so many new taxes she created a coalition of Republican lawmakers vowing to fight them. This from a “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” card carrier.
Certainly, Fallin will vacate her office knowing she used her last legislative session to usher in more taxes than in the previous several together. She signed measure after measure designed to give striking state teachers pay raises before increasing state revenue numbers began rolling in.
Then There Are Her Shady Transparency Promises
In 2013, Fallin was awarded a Black Hole Award by Freedom of Information Oklahoma (FOI) for “unprecedented use of ‘executive privilege’ to hide records from the public” when confronted with open records requests regarding her move to halt Oklahoma’s health-care exchange framework. Incidentally, this was after she had signed FOI’s Open Government Pledge in 2010. But that’s not all.
After a tornado in Moore, Oklahoma killed nine children at the Plaza Towers and Briarwood Elementary schools, a petition requesting a $500 million bond issue for construction of new storm shelters to be built inside Oklahoma public schools failed to reach its required number of signatures. Seeking answers, two mothers spearheading the plan filed suit against Fallin after receiving nothing from a months-old open records request.
Then there was the time, following an inmate’s horrible reaction to a new execution cocktail, open records requests from media outlets regarding the subsequent death went unanswered for more than 17 months, earning yet another lawsuit for violation of the state’s Open Records Act.
There was also that time the governor’s office thwarted the open records request of a fired employee. All in all, this was a terrible look for any governor, even one who hadn’t promised transparency.
Personal Problems Become Public Problems
From 2010 to 2012, Fallin logged an enormous time in the air at the state’s expense. In fact, of 56 logged trips, only half pertained to her “aggressive marketing” of Oklahoma as its governor. In 2015, for example, Fallin attended the Paris Airshow, prompting another unanswered open records request from the Oklahoma Democratic Party regarding the cost.
In 2016, Fallin—an early supporter of President Trump—was asked to interview for the position of interior secretary. Unfortunately, it came to light that she used the state plane at a cost of $6,000 to travel to New York for the vetting meeting, although she spent her own money on her hotel room.
Also unfortunately, this information came to light right after it had been reported that Fallin was using her own private email to communicate with lobbyists, ostensibly to avoid her public business conducted through email being visible through open records requests. Yet another two-fer.
Of all our governor’s shortcomings, her ability to land in the media because of marriage and family issues, is, well, singular. Certainly, we’re all human and prone to our human frailties, yet making some kinds of “human” mistakes while ensconced in elective office implies a certain lack of awareness of your public responsibilities as an elected leader.
During 2014, striking a blow to the family values the governor touted at campaign stops, a local blog published newspaper clippings revealing she had become engaged to her first husband at the Playboy Mansion. Before then, in 1998, while lieutenant governor, Fallin was accused of establishing a romantic relationship with one of her Oklahoma Highway Patrol bodyguards. A nasty divorce ensued, with both parties hurling bizarre accusations and the custody of the couple’s two minor children having to be court-arranged.
If You Can’t Keep Your Own House In Order…
It was likely a combination of voter forgiveness and familiarity, a weak gubernatorial Democrat candidate, and the Tea Party wave that catapulted Fallin into the governor’s seat in 2010. Yet, even as governor, Fallin could not keep her family life out of the news.
In one of the most inexplicable examples, the governor moved a travel trailer onto the grounds of the governor’s mansion to house her daughter Christina. The ensuing media firestorm over the “trailer home” got lots of traffic and laughs at Oklahomans’ expense. Even People covered the debacle when it was discovered that state code prevented parking a travel trailer on mansion grounds.
Her apparent deficit of political awareness has baffled many Oklahomans over the years. During the 2014 election cycle, as we were fighting Common Core, my friend Joy, wearing her “Common Core is Not OK” T-shirt, was given a photo op with the governor, who staunchly supported Common Core. There in the picture is Fallin, smiling cluelessly as she carefully holds a sign touting her second run for governor right in front of a shirt belittling the same initiative she touted constantly, both in-state and across the country with the NGA.
This isn’t the only time this kind of thing has happened, either. Also in 2014, The Tulsa World published a picture of Fallin with a young man in a shirt that said, “Mary Failin’ Oklahoma” with the caption, “Fallin posed for a photo with Smith before reading the writing.”
So as we rapidly approach November, at least 74 percent of Oklahomans await, longingly, the day we don’t have to either ignore or feel pressured to black in the box on the line next to “Governor” and the words “Mary Fallin.”