Republican presidential hopefuls from around the country are visiting Oklahoma for the Southern Republican Leadership Conference this weekend.
It’s good that the conference is here in Oklahoma, because the challenges we are facing in our state and the fight over misplaced priorities here provides the perfect backdrop to focus in on what’s important in choosing the future leader of our country.

This year our state faces a $611 million shortfall – and the choices leaders made on how to address and fill that budget gap say a lot about their values and priorities.

In-state, Republicans chose to slash vital programs that support the middle-class and make our state stronger for the future. Why? To preserve tax breaks that will do next to nothing for the hardworking families and small businesses that drive our economy.

The contrast between the parties is as evident at the national level as it is in the fight on our state level:

Republicans presidential hopefuls want to embrace the failed policies of the past that benefit a select few at everyone else’s expense – and Democrats want to continue to move the country forward and strengthen the middle class.

Democrats have been and will continue working to move forward for the middle class.

For the years under Republican leadership Oklahoma has continued to fall in education, and now we have almost reached the bottom of the barrel. That doesn’t stop Democrats from fighting to get to the top of the class and provide access to early childhood education, classroom resources, and a fair and equitable education for all students in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma schools are experiencing an unprecedented teacher shortage and those courageous teachers willing to keep going are tired and neglected. Schools are crumbling and shutting their doors. Around this country, public schools are fighting rising class sizes and declining state aid – but Democrats are the ones here and nationally who are standing up for education because we understand its importance as “the great equalizer.”

As Democrats, we know that issues like ensuring pay equity and raising the minimum wage are not just women’s issues – they are family issues, and they are economic issues. That’s why, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill signed into law by President Obama. And why Democrats nationally continue to fight for a fair living wage so no hard working American has to live in poverty.

Under Democratic leadership in the White House, we have experienced 62 straight months – five full years – of private sector job growth nationally. Pay and benefits rose in 2014 by the most in the last six years.

Meanwhile, here in Oklahoma under Republican leadership, we’ve seen an outsourcing of our state dollars – privatizing state entities from prisons, to schools, to Medicaid programs, and seen a loss of accountability and transparency in our government.

In short: Democrats are the party of inclusion, of empowerment, and expanded opportunity. We are the party fighting to ensure that all Americans, not just a select few, have a fair shot and a chance to get ahead with the opportunity to achieve that legendary “American dream.”

This election will come down to a key contrast in values: As Democrats fight to build ladders of success for the middle class, Republicans are trying to bring back trickle-down economic policies that have failed time and time again.

Democrats will work to ensure everyone has a fair shot, while Republicans continue to stack the deck in favor of the wealthy and corporations and against working families.
So as the GOP candidates descend on Oklahoma this weekend we’re urging Oklahomans, and everyone else who’s watching around the country, to pay attention to what the candidates say — but more importantly take a look at their records.
And I’ll turn it over to Holly to go into a little more detail.

The records of the Republican hopefuls are clear – and they don’t line up with the values of Oklahomans or the American people.

Marco Rubio says he’s a new leader with fresh ideas, but he’s a just peddling the same tired Republican playbook. Rubio opposes raising the minimum wage and said that suggesting it would help Americans move up was “silly.” Rubio defends tax loopholes and cuts for the wealthy and corporations, but has proposed raising taxes and fees on the middle class.

Scott Walker’s talked about bringing Wisconsin to Washington, but the fact is he’s already brought the worst of Washington’s dysfunction and divisiveness to Wisconsin. Walker pitted the people of his state against each other in ideological fights, while his true priority has been to please his special interest allies at the expense of working Americans.

Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal’s failures as governors have driven their state economies and finances over a fiscal cliff– leaving the middle class to fall even further behind in New Jersey and Louisiana. Much like Mary Fallin, who is more concerned about toeing the Tea Party line than addressing our state’s challenges.

Earlier this year, Mary Fallin vowed to support education – particularly higher education – but many Oklahomans agree this was the worst year public education has seen in decades–promises were broken and higher ed was cut by more than $24 million. This is exactly the kind of leadership we’ve seen and can expect from her Republican colleagues.

Ted Cruz is determined to oppose and obstruct any and all attempts to help the middle class. He led the fight to shut down the government so he could deny people affordable, quality health care – costing the economy $24 billion in the process.

Rick Perry’s failed record in Texas tells us all we need to know about what kind of leader he would be — one who never fails to put allies and special interests before working families.

As for Jeb Bush – well we know exactly what to expect from a Bush presidency, because we’ve seen it before: policies that wreck the economy, that give massive breaks to the wealthy and corporations, and that are out of step with the American people, including women, LGBT Americans, Latinos and people of color. Throughout his career, Jeb Bush has consistently put what is best for himself and people like him above the priorities of working Americans.

We know the devastating impact that pitting people against people, and core functions of government against each other, can have on the middle class. That approach is what the Republicans visiting Oklahoma this week continue to embrace, and it’s not a recipe for success for our country.