If you can't beat them, join them. In Oklahoma Rep. Johnny Tadlock's case, even if you can beat them, join them anyway.

If you can't beat them, join them. In Oklahoma Rep. Johnny Tadlock's case, even if you can beat them, join them anyway.

Rep. Tadlock, of Idabel, ran unopposed as a Democrat in his district this year. Now he is changing parties - because apparently Oklahoma Republicans needed a bigger supermajority in the State House of Representatives.

There was a time when being a Republican in Little Dixie meant you belonged to a party that was outnumbered about 8 to 1. A lot has changed in a few decades.

Now Tadlock is changing his party affiliation because he says his beliefs align more closely with those of the Republican Party. He is pro-life, pro-gun, and checks a lot of other GOP boxes. But he also knows that two-thirds of his district is voting for Republicans like Donald Trump and Kevin Stitt now. Tadlock was a throwback to the socially conservative Democrats who voted blue locally and red nationally for generations. Now their local registration and voting are more in line with the national party.

I guess we can give Tadlock a pass on making the switch. He didn't get any votes from a Democrat so no one can say he fooled them into electing him. I have switched parties for political convenience before. As an 18 year old, I registered Republican and voted for George H.W. Bush for President the same week. When I was a junior at Oklahoma State University, the same teacher who registered me to vote and discussed politics with me in high school asked me to be her campaign manager for a state senate bid. I felt like I should switch my party affiliation to Democrat as soon as possible to try to avoid causing her any embarrassment.

That stuck for a while as I helped run a couple more campaigns for Democrats and I even stayed a Democrat when I moved to Kansas to be a publisher. Then I had a friend run for state representative there and she was facing a tough primary. Every vote counted so I switched so mine would count for her.

When I moved back to Oklahoma, I stayed on the GOP side because I didn't love the direction of the national Democratic Party and I also had a better chance of voting in primary elections.

So I'm not one to say Tadlock shouldn't change his affiliation. Honestly, if the change is one of better describing himself to voters and other representatives, maybe it is even better that he plays for the right team.

I do think it would be a genius move for the entire tiny band of merry Democrats left in the House to change their affiliations too and cause a ruckus in the caucus meetings. But the caucus has to accept you before that would work.

Obviously, Shawnee voters remember when Bob Weaver switched parties while he was in the state house. He won as a Republican in a Democrat-dominated district and then switched to Democrat and won again. He chose not to run again as the Republican transformation was sweeping across the plains and Kris Steele won as a Republican and went on to serve as Speaker of the House from Shawnee.

Some Senators have even tried to convince current State Senator Ron Sharp to switch his party from Republican to Democrat. Sharp is a retired educator so his views on education often run against the state party leaders on issues like vouchers and charter schools.

Democrats hoped Sharp would change parties to join them over the disagreements, but there are too many other issues that keep Sharp in the GOP for that to work.

"The Senate Democrats have asked me several times to switch," Sen Sharp told me recently. "They contend the Senate Republicans do not support public education. And, the Democrats have heard my speeches in committee and on the Senate floor supporting public education. I am certain other Republican Senators have been courted by the Democrats. It has been a long history of attempts to convince legislative party members to switch. While the courtship continues each year for a legislator to switch, it has rarely happened and a shock when it does happen."

Sen. Sharp is never shy about letting his party leadership know when he doesn't agree with them. But that doesn't mean he is a Democrat or would fit into that caucus well at all.

"There are several issues that I am opposed to Democratic planks," Sen. Sharp said. "As I would inform my students when discussing political parties, not one of them is going to fit you like a good pair of shoes. If you agree 100 percent with a political party, there may be something wrong with you."


I was comforted to get to Shawnee and meet Justin Wood who was a thoughtful young Republican and Sharp, who is equally thoughtful, but not quite as young. In fact, Wood was one of those students Sharp taught.

Josh Cockroft, another young Representative from our area, seemed far more strident in his conservative beliefs. But as I got a chance to know Cockroft and watch him develop as a young leader, his growing wisdom began to override his partisanship. I hated to see him leave the State House because I loved the direction he was heading as a leader.

I don't expect any local elected officials to switch parties here anytime soon.

Dell Kerbs and Danny Sterling and Sen. Sharp all seem more than content to caucus with the party who enjoys a supermajority in both state legislative bodies.