Stitt addresses his party at state GOP convention
In addressing the state Republican Party on Friday, Gov. Kevin Stitt largely shied away from talking politics, even Republican politics, in keeping with his tendency to avoid blatant partisanship whenever possible.
A brief anecdote Stitt gave about meeting President Donald Trump at the White House and praising the president was the closest the governor came to breaking out of the nonpartisan image he has tried to craft for himself, an image that may come naturally because of Stitt’s background in business, not politics.
But the Republican governor, who cast himself as a political outsider during the campaign, is now both a political insider and a party insider as the top elected Republican statewide official.
And speaking at events like the state GOP convention, an inherently partisan affair, come with the territory.
During the Friday dinner held at the First Moore Baptist Church, Stitt talked about meeting Trump shortly after his gubernatorial victory when he was in Washington, D.C. for new governor training.
The newly elected governor of South Dakota asked Trump for a permit from the Department of the Interior for the state to shoot off fireworks from Mount Rushmore, Stitt said.
Stitt recalled Trump was excited and said, “let’s make that happen.”
“He just wants to move the needle. He just wants to get things done,” Stitt said.
Stitt also praised Trump’s devotion to the Second Amendment, national defense, border security and his firm anti-abortion stance.
“Oklahoma stands with President Trump,” he said.
Stitt also drew parallels between himself and Trump, saying that even though he had served fewer than 100 days as governor, he was already making strides on moving the needle in Oklahoma.
Stitt cited signing in February the permitless carry bill that allows Oklahomans the ability to carry a gun without a permit. He also mentioned the agency accountability bills he signed in March, giving Stitt the authority to hire and fire certain agency heads.
But the bulk of Stitt’s speech was largely a recap of the highlights of his first few months in the Governor’s Office and his push for fiscal responsibility in state spending.
In his inaugural address, Stitt issued a bipartisan message. He talked about Oklahoma pride, and not partisanship, being the key to moving the state forward.
Although Stitt has largely avoided picking partisan fights and succumbing to the partisan rhetoric that are a recurring refrain in politics, he is not entirely apolitical.
Stitt signing the permitless carry bill as well as his reaffirmation of support for anti-abortion legislation earlier this legislative session landed the governor in the thick of partisan politics because of the divisive nature of both issues.
But Stitt’s speech to Oklahoma Republicans Friday showed more of the governor’s general excitement to lead Oklahoma and reform state government than it did his partisan leanings.
After Stitt’s speech, Oklahoma GOP chairwoman Pam Pollard said she believes the governor speaks more differently than other politicians. Stitt looks at state government through a nerdier, numbers-based lens, she said.
“Does anybody notice that he talked kind of different? See what happens when you put an accountant in the governor’s office,” she said. Stitt graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in accounting and Pollard is an accountant by trade.