Oklahoma GOP candidates get boost from White House
Oklahoma City — Oklahoma's Republican candidates have asked for and received reinforcements from Washington.
Last week President Reagan visited Illinois to deliver good news in person to Midwestern farmers. At the same time, Energy Secretary James Edwards came to Tulsa to endorse Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Daxon and promise better times for Oklahoma's second industry, oil and gas.
But election-eve GOP promises will have little effect on voters here, according to Oklahoma Democrats.
Republicans hope to pick up more farm votes, following Mr. Reagan's Oct. 20 and 21 promises to reduce rates on US farm loans, provide interest-free credit for overseas buyers of America's overflowing grain supplies, and turn more surplus grain into gasohol.
Energy Secretary Edwards delivered a similar appeal for votes from Oklahoma's oil and gas producers. He pledged that the administration will do its best to carry out Reagan's 1980 campaign promise to deregulate gas. Edwards added that he wants to reduce the oil industry's tax burden.
Oklahoma Gov. George Nigh, a popular conservative Democrat running for a second four-year term, takes the Reagan-backed GOP challenge seriously. Instead of making promises to voters, he cites his 20-year record as a champion of economic development. He says he has managed to be both pro-labor and pro-business because ''the best thing I can do for labor is just what I've done: create more jobs in this state.'' His success in riding both horses, his aides point out, is shown by the endorsements he has received, ranging from organized labor to prominent Republican business leaders such as the chairman of the Tulsa chamber of commerce.
Instead of being an election-eve convert, Governor Nigh says he has consistently supported energy industry objectives both as governor and as chairman of the oil and gas committee of the National Governors' Association.
When he hears the President promise better treatment for both farmers and oilmen, Nigh says, ''I hope that these things he's advocating will come about.'' But the governor adds that, along with other Oklahomans, he's left wondering ''why he didn't do these things before now.''
Nigh boasts about spending state money on better education, new highways, new health facilities, new veterans' buildings, and new bridges. ''People in rural districts do not think that bridge building is unnecessary waste in government, '' he explains.
State Auditor Tom Daxon zeroes on on Nigh's ''lavish'' spending. Daxon calls instead for a 15 percent across-the-board cut in state income taxes. ''With excessive surpluses in our state treasury each year,'' Daxon says, ''it is now time for a substantial cut in the property taxes and incomes taxes being paid by Oklahomans.'' This former youth coordinator for the 1968 Reagan campaign in Oklahoma says that Nigh should appeal only ''to those who want to have more government spending, to those who want government to play a larger role in our lives.''
Paul Lee, a spokesman for Oklahoma GOP Sen. Don Nickles, says Daxon's identification with Reagan policies should win votes. ''Oklahoma is probably one of a half dozen states . . . where if a poll were taken, Reagan popularity would be over 70 percent,'' he says.
Mr. Lee explains that ''Reagan is not only popular personally, but also popular on economic issues, . . . because, although registered voters are 3-to-1 Democratic, Oklahoma is a staunchly conservative state with its major industries being agriculture and energy.''
The Nov. 2 outcome should indicate just how popular Reagan and Reaganomics really are with Oklahoma's ''heartland'' voters.