Republican state Rep. Randy Terrill’s campaign work on behalf of a Democratic candidate for state labor commissioner has drawn complaints from several high profile GOP officials and at least one call for Terrill to be removed as the chair of a powerful House subcommittee.

Terrill, R-Moore, who was re-elected this fall to his second term in the state House of Representatives, was criticized last week for his endorsement and campaign work on behalf of Democrat Lloyd Fields in this year’s race for state labor commissioner. Fields ran against incumbent Republican Brenda Reneau.

Fields narrowly defeated Reneau Nov. 7.

During the race, Terrill campaigned for Fields, and recorded a “robo call” message to voters in several counties.

Because of those actions, some Republicans say Terrill should be stripped of his chairmanship of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Revenue and Taxation.

“Mr. Terrill has broken one of the Party’s cardinal rules, the 11th Commandment,” wrote Stephen Rhymer, a former member of Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin’s staff, and campaign manager for Congressman Ernest Istook.

“I’ve been told that there has been discussion about removing him (Terrill) as a voting member of the State Committee at the State Party level. I hope the elected party officials do the right thing and strip Mr. Terrill of all rights and privileges associated with his position as a Member of the House.”

Rhymer, now an employee of the Great Plains Regional Medical Center in Elk City, sent the e-mail to new House Speaker-elect Lance Cargill urging Cargill to remove Terrill as a committee chair.

“In a day when Republicans are finally wrestling control of state government, it is not the time to award Mr. Terrill a committee chairmanship after he trashed a valued Republican office holder and helped defeat her,” Rhymer said. “How in the world could you take Mr. Terrill, who helped a Democrat defeat Commissioner Reneau, and appoint him chairman of one of the most valued committees in the House, that of House Revenue and Taxation? I am asking you to rethink this appointment and remove Mr. Terrill from the chairmanship of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. He doesn’t deserve the honor.”

While Rhymer’s e-mail was, by far, the strongest anti-Terrill message, GOP Vice Chair Dana Murphy also sent party members messages urging them to “express their opinion” about the controversy.

“You can e-mail your own thoughts or send this e-mail and state your agreement with it to your own elected Republican representative,” Murphy wrote. “I have personally called my own representative and Speaker Cargill today expressing my opinion.”

Contacted last Tuesday, Terrill tried to downplay the incident.

“Funny thing,” he said. “I didn’t notice any similar indignation when J.C. Watts endorsed Cody Graves over Bob Anthony. The only difference is that Lloyd Fields won and Cody lost.”

Terrill said he and Fields had been “personal friends for many years” and that friendship predated both Fields’ election and his.

Fields served in the state House of Representative for 10 years.

“One of my greatest strengths is I’m loyal,” Terrill said. “I’ll be loyal to my friends over party affiliation every time. It’s truly unfortunate that anyone would think my party affiliation should trump my friendship.”

While Terrill said his appointment as a subcommittee chair was done “with the full knowledge that the telephone call had occurred” he added he didn’t think the issue would be a problem come February when the legislative session convenes.

“I don’t think it will make things any more difficult at the Capitol,” he said. “I know that I have the Speaker’s (Cargill’s) support.”

The whole issue, he said, is “being orchestrated by (Reneau’s deputy labor commissioner) Pat McGuigan. It’s suffice to say that I have access to the e-mails,” he said. “But this is a small deal, no elected members are involved, literally we’re talking about six people.”

McGuigan, the former editorial page editor for the Daily Oklahoman and a former staffer with the Free Congress Foundation, denied being involved.

“I’m not behind it,” McGuigan said. “I only found out about the organized effort last week. I really have no interest in debating anything with Randy Terrill.”

While McGuigan said he appreciated his friends “expressing their concerns about Mr. Terrill’s behavior with regards to the labor commissioner,” he added that “It’s no secret I hold Mr. Terrill in minimal regard.”

While Terrill has been chastised for his work on behalf of Fields, he wasn’t the only Republican leader to support the Democrat during the 2006 election cycle.

Former House GOP Leader Larry Ferguson — whom Terrill worked for in the early 1990s — said earlier this year that he, too, planned to support Fields.

“Yeah, I’m gonna help Lloyd,” Ferguson said. “I’ve known him a long time and I don’t mind helping him a bit.”

M. Scott Carter

366-3545

scarter@mooreamerican.com

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