Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Political Squabbles Anger Rural Oklahomans

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Political Squabbles Anger Rural Oklahomans

Article excerpt

WATONGA _ Partisan political squabbles are interfering with Gov. Frank Keating's plans to bring prosperity to rural Oklahoma, residents of this small western Oklahoma town said Thursday.

"He's not getting much help, but he's trying anyhow," barber R.A. McLaughlin said as he gave his 76-year-old father, William, an ultra-short haircut. William McLaughlin comes in for free haircuts from his son about every 10 days. The freebie did not interfere with business Thursday, which was nearly as sparse as one of the younger McLaughlin's crew-cuts.

The town has been shrinking for years, the two say, and they favor measures such as a right-to-work law to help lure industry and new jobs to the area.

A few blocks away, Carla Cook, a divorced mother of two young sons, contemplated her bleak job prospects from a table in McBee's Steakhouse. Cook, 27, recently moved back in with her mother after splitting up with her husband.

"We need to do something, anything before the town disappears," Cook said. The unemployed waitress is looking for a job, but she may have to move away from her hometown again in search of work.

"We live in a small town and job opportunities aren't many," she said in a resigned tone, while trying to control her own sons along with a niece and a nephew she was watching for the day.

The younger McLaughlin, 50, said he is a registered Democrat, but deserted his party to vote for Keating last year over Democrat Jack Mildren and independent Wes Watkins.

"I don't vote for the party, I vote for the man," McLaughlin said.

Many other Oklahoma voters apparently felt the same way, electing a Republican governor in a traditionally Democratic state. But winning the election was only the first hurdle for Keating.

A key part of his pro-growth agenda, a right-to-work bill, received a chilly reception from Democratic lawmakers, who may decide to refer the issue to a vote of the people. …

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