Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Debate: Askins Decries 'Vicious rhetoric'

Lt. Governor Jari Askins wasted no time in Tuesday's first gubernatorial debate in defending herself against claims she's in lock step with President Obama and is too liberal for Oklahoma.

Graphic courtesy Tulsa World/The Oklahoman
In fact, the first words out of Askins' mouth as she opened the debate with Republican Congresswoman Mary Fallin came as she defended herself from comments by Fallin and television commercial claims by the Republican Governors Association.

Askins said Fallin has tried to "tarnish my reputation."

Askins urged the audience and broadcast audience, "Don't buy off on this vicious rhetoric that comes from Washington." She said Oklahomans want civility from their officials.

"I want to make this clear," she said somewhat emotionally, "I am an Oklahoma Democrat. Oklahoma Democrats are conservative. We are not extreme," Askins said.

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Askins later said in the debate she's at a loss to explain why Fallin continues to make statements that Askins says are untrue. Askins said she has opposed Obamacare and cap and trade policies and Fallin knows it. She accused Fallin of distorting her record, saying she is part of an "out-of-sync, out-of-touch" establishment in Washington.

Fallin did not respond to Askins' comments. She described Askins as "a good friend" as she closed the debate, but, as The Oklahoman's Johh Estus wrote, "drew groans from the audience by saying one of the main differences between she and Askins is that she is a mother who has raised children."

Fallin, meanwhile, stuck mostly to the issues during the debate. She noted her endorsements from the National Rifle Association and the National Federation of Independent Business and stressed her conservative record.

While the two seemed evenly matched, it was Askins who won the resultant media war; her opening comments in defense of herself became the lead in The Associated Press story, in the Tulsa World and in The Oklahoman. It also was the lead on most television and radio news broadcasts, based in part on The AP's lead: "Lt. Gov. Jari Askins laid out conservative credentials as she opened a governor's office debate at the University of Central Oklahoma, telling a crowd of about 500 that her values were the same as the mainstream Oklahoman."

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