State Democrats are angry with chairman Mark Hammons, saying he sabotaged the party by firing the executive director a month before the state convention.
“Mark Hammons just made a very bad move regarding our party and its leadership,” Christina Owens, a congressional candidate, wrote in a social media post. Owens said she is baffled as to why Hammons fired Sarah Baker, the Oklahoma Democratic Party’s, executive director.
Without Baker there to appoint new seats for the upcoming convention, Owens said she is not sure how the party can navigate.
“We are a ship without a captain, as if Democrats in this state aren’t suffering enough,” she said. “This is a devastating decision that shows a complete lack of big picture planning and leadership.”
Hammons said that Sarah Baker’s interest in becoming party chairperson appeared to be a conflict of interest.
“Even if you can be 100 percent straight, and draw a line between when you’re doing party business and when you’re doing campaign work, and I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think you can do that,” he said, “ it would appear to be a conflict of interest.”
Hammons said that even if Baker could stay, she would be using party resources and money to benefit herself. He said that if Baker would have come to him and brought his attention to her campaign he still would have asked her to resign due to the appearance of her campaign.
Hammons said he isn’t sure if she is still running for chairperson, but will still pay her a month’s pension.
“I don’t dislike (her), but it’s my job to make the decisions on this, and I’ve talked to several people, even some friends of (hers), and I believe it’s the right decision to make,” he said.
Hammons said that a new executive director will not be named for several months, because they will have to create a committee.
Even though Baker is gone, Hammons believes Democrats have great leadership roles set in place to get things done, Democrats need to work together, he said.
Some Democrats find this difficult to accept. Oklahoma City school teacher Daryl Gandy, said he likes Baker.
“I’m kind of bummed out,” he said.
Gandy said he hasn’t heard anything about Baker going public.
“She wasn’t technically campaigning,”he said.
Gandy said he thinks the situation is a mess, but he sees where Hammons is coming from.
Some constituents rushed to Facebook to defend Baker.
“I’ve worked with Sarah a lot and she is incredible. She has passion, dedication, and has worked so damn hard for this party. This is awful,” Madison Pierce wrote on Christina’s post.
A staff member of the ODP said that Baker had not made an official announcement to staff despite Hammons stating otherwise, and that it is Baker’s right to talk to people about her life.
Daniel Wright, who also commented on social media, wondered if this is meant to be a political gain for the incumbent of the chair, Hammons.
“I wish I could fire my competition when it suits me,” he said.
Owens questioned Hammons’ interpretation of the party’s constitution.
“Does the Constitution say an Executive Director cannot run for chair? Wouldn’t the current chair running for chair hold the same advantages that an ED would?” he said, “Lastly, she hadn’t announced, was this something Sarah herself told you first, or rumors? I know several have asked her to run and she declined several times.”
Hammons argued that he would be getting paid the same as Baker would have as executive director.
“The people Sarah called, called me. I ignored that until Baker announced her decision to the staff. And yes, she did announce.” he said, “The incumbent chair does have advantages, but not salary or expenses since I don’t take either.”
Mark continued to explain the ODP’s staff would feel obligated to vote for Baker.
”With an ED in place there is protection between the Chair and staff, but there is no insulation between the ED and staff,” he said.
Baker says that she decided to run, and expected to get fired “ that is why I took a week to prepare the staff for my absence ahead of the convention.”
Baker said that she was open to taking a leave of absence, but was told that wasn’t an option.
“Will the party move forward? Yes. Will it be difficult with the person doing 90% of the fundraising gone? Yes.” Sarah said, it will be difficult for the person who did most of the planning to be gone as well, But she believes it will get done.
“Yes, It may not be the vision we had originally, but it’ll all get accomplished.”
Baker says she’s now officially running with Dave Ratcliff the current State Party Secretary.