Sunday, October 08, 2006

Roundup on Henry campaign trail
By MICK HINTON World Capitol Bureau 10/8/2006

On one of his RV tour's 'whistle-stops,' the governor hears what Hobart residents have to say, and does a bit of talking himself.

HOBART -- Jackie Maggard told his buddies at the Cozy Diner the day the governor was coming to town that he used to refer to Brad Henry as "Coach Switzer's pet."
"Barry Switzer sure helped get him elected four years ago," Maggard said.
"But the governor turned out to be a lot more," Joe Funkhouser chimed in.
"He hasn't done nothing wrong so far," said Maggard, one of the regulars who shows up at the diner most mornings to talk about next Saturday's football games and to help solve the world's problems.

A block away, folks were gathering around the courthouse square, awaiting the governor's arrival for a campaign stop last Tuesday. The men at the diner said they thought it had been four years since Henry had visited their town, but they had never met "the other candidate," Republican U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook.

Voters will choose their next governor on Nov. 7.

About 50 townspeople had congregated by the time Henry's campaign RV arrived with its horn blasting shortly after 11 a.m.

Nellie Perry, 77, was there, decked out in bright Oklahoma State University orange. Perry, who has Parkinson's disease and writes a column for the local newspaper, told the governor and first lady Kim Henry that she was grateful for their efforts to fight the disease.

Several people had come with their cameras, including local Municipal Judge Marian Pfenning.
"The governor is very honest and straightforward. He does what he says he'll do. Look what he's done for teachers," Pfenning said.

Stephen Boyd, director of the Chamber of Commerce and head of the $2.5 million Main Street Project, was ready to escort the Henrys around town. The thing that folks need most in this community is completion of Oklahoma 183 from Cordell through Hobart and on south to Mountain Park, locals said. The highway already has been four-laned from Cordell to Interstate 40. At the south end, the highway has been improved almost from the Red River to Snyder, and the Snyder-Mountain Park link is under construction.

At the courthouse square, Henry and his wife greeted people as if they had met them before.
Boyd guided Henry to the gazebo at the southwest corner of the square and asked the governor to say a few words.

He got more than a few.

"What I'm seeing is this community is bustling with energy. This is indeed a most exciting time. I believe Oklahomans feel better about this state than ever before," Henry said.
"Will Rogers said, 'Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you sit there too long.'
"We're not gonna just sit there," he said.

The governor reiterated what he considered to be major accomplishments during his administration: early education, meth lab eradication and helping small businesses provide health insurance for their employees. Henry also boasted about the condition of the state's "rainy day" reserve fund. Four years ago, "we faced the largest shortfall in history. Our rainy day fund was wiped out. This year, we balanced the budget without raising taxes, and we've filled the rainy day fund to the constitutional limit. I'm very proud of that."

"And Highway 183 is going to be completed," said Henry, which was the only time during his speech that the crowd burst into cheers and applause.

Henry also noted that during his watch taxes have been cut, and the state has been lucky enough to have money for things such as teachers' raises and roads.

Back at the diner, Funkhouser had cautioned that Henry and other politicians should not cut taxes too much. Living in these parts, Funkhouser said, he has seen the fortunes of the oil field come and go, "and people don't seem to learn."

Henry's campaign crew had arranged for the governor to walk around town.
His first stop was the old corner drug store, where owner Truett Guthrie was ready to serve up a chocolate shake.
"You look 20 years younger in person," Guthrie kidded the governor.
Henry talked to everyone in sight and didn't get his shake right away. His wife caught Henry's attention when she said, "Bradford, your shake is here."

The governor confirmed later that his actual name was Charles Bradford, after his father Charles, also an attorney, but the governor goes by the name Brad.

After stopping by the newspaper office for a picture with Joe Hancock, editor of the Hobart Democrat-Chief, it was off to Roy's Barbeque for lunch, where Henry and his wife made sure they stopped by every booth to shake hands and hand out campaign brochures.

Henry ordered a chicken fried chicken sandwich, which turned out to be bigger than expected. During the meal, he kept talking much of the time.
The governor was about the last person to be served, and he wasn't finished when it was time to go. Henry said he'd better leave the sandwich anyway, because he was still full from that shake at the drug store.

Among those waiting to meet the governor at his next stop in Cordell was Diane Glennie, who told Henry she wanted to ask him a few questions because Glennie's 16-year-old son, Caleb, was portraying the governor for an upcoming mock election at nearby Corn Bible Academy, and she wanted to know some more about the governor's platform.
She asked his view on school vouchers. He replied, "Opposed," and there wasn't much discussion after that.

Inside the courthouse, Kim Cooper identified herself to Henry as a former prison inmate incarcerated for drugs and asked the governor to get out of the pardon and parole process.
Cooper said she'd been granted release by the Pardon and Parole Board on June 20, but it took until Aug. 23 for the governor to sign her release. "It costs another $5,000 a month for an inmate," she said.

Henry politely listened, then went on to greet others.

Charley Morris, a retired teacher and counselor at Cordell and Rocky, told the governor that the town needed help to create more jobs. Morris said most of the time, people around Cordell voted Republican. "But Henry's the most popular governor we've had in a long time."

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