If Scott Meacham decides not to seek re-election, his having a diminished role at the state Capitol will be a primary factor.
Regardless of who wins the 2010 gubernatorial election, Meacham, a Democrat, would see his role in state government significantly diminished because a new governor likely would select his or her own budget adviser.
Meacham, who has said two years ago he might not seek a second four-year term, is Gov. Brad Henry’s chief budget adviser and negotiator. In addition to being one of the governor’s closest friends, Meacham also is called upon the governor for his counsel on other issues. Meacham’s wife, Susan, also works in the governor’s office.
Henry, a Democrat who is in his second term and cannot seek re-election, asked Meacham, his college classmate and friend, to come to the Capitol after he took office in 2003 to serve as the state’s finance director. The state was in the midst of an economic downturn and despite little money in the state’s savings account Henry, with Meacham’s advice, was able to work with the then-Democratic-led Legislature and get the state through that year with no tax increases. The economy rebounded the next year. He helped the governor work with Republican legislative leaders when they took over the House after the 2004 elections and the Senate after the 2008 elections.
Henry appointed Meacham state treasurer in 2005 when Robert Butkin resigned the post to head up the University of Tulsa’s law school. Meacham ran in his first political campaign and won election in 2006 to a full four-year term.
Meacham has not made a decision about his future political plans. He has started a 2010 campaign account and has about $129,130 in it, according to his latest campaign report. He’s been mentioned as likely seeking re-election or a possible candidate for governor or attorney general, both open seats. Attorney General Drew Edmondson, a Democrat, is running for governor. Lt. Gov. Jari Askins, also a Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, also are seeking the post. State Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso, also is running for governor.
Meacham also will have to consider the expense and time to wage a campaign as well as the effect of remaining at the Capitol would have on his family. A son starts college out of state this year. A daughter is a cancer survivor. His wife’s sister died last week. A former Elk City banker, he easily could earn twice as much if he returns to the banking field.
He’s been leaning toward leaving the Capitol for the past couple years. Asked in 2007 about his political ambitions, Meacham said he would stay in government “until I kind of do what I came to do and then I will go back to making money again.”
“At a certain point in time, you’ve done most of what you can do and then you’re just filling the office,” Meacham said then. “I don’t want to be state treasurer when I’m just filling the office, unless I can continue to kind of move the ball forward and do things to improve the office. I enjoy doing that.”
Meacham apparently was close to making an announcement about his future political plans last week. That was put off when his sister-in-law died. He returned to his office Wednesday.
Two powerful Republican House leaders are becoming anxious about when Meacham makes known his political plans. House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, and Rep. Ken Miller, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, would prefer Meacham announce his decision before either considers announcing interest in the post.
Benge is term limited and also is looking at a Tulsa County office and an opportunity in the private sector. Miller, R-Edmond, was elected in 2004 and earlier this week took himself out of the race to succeed Benge as speaker, leading to speculation he was interested in the treasurer’s post.
Owen Laughlin, a former state senator from Woodward who could not seek re-election in 2008 because of legislative term limits, said earlier he was looking at the race and would make a decision in late summer whether to seek the office.
- Michael McNutt, Capitol Bureau