On Tuesday afternoon, hours before polls closed in a mayoral election he ultimately lost, Greg Robinson said no matter the outcome, he wanted to help push Tulsa to learn from its mistakes and “build a city that works for everyone.”
Now that the dust has settled, Robinson, who grabbed a respectable 28 percent of the vote but was unable to force a runoff, said he’s still committed to that goal.
“The work continues to happen,” Robinson, who before becoming a shooting star candidate for Tulsa mayor had been an activist in the city, said on Thursday. “And it’s done by pushing the mayor but also by pushing the city council and our large group of private philanthropic organizations to invest in more equitable solutions to our problems and policies that bring about equity and opportunity.”
Bynum supporters filled one side of the Admiral Twin, a historic Tulsa drive-in theater, on Tuesday for the incumbent’s watch party, and an exuberant Bynum said after his acceptance speech that Robinson, no stranger to City Hall, had run a good campaign and that he was excited to work with him moving forward.
But, Robinson cautioned on Thursday, that could go one of two ways.
“I don’t have permanent enemies or permanent allies,” Robinson told The Frontier. “What I do have is permanent interests, and that is to make sure everyone has a shot at upward mobility. If the mayor is serious about transforming his priorities he’s going to find an ally in me, but if he continues to sort of go with the political whims, regardless of what people’s needs are in the moment, he will find an adversary.”
Robinson said there’s things Bynum “could do right now” that would help them come together, including working on community policing and police use of force, working on police accountability and on reparations for descendants of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
“He can put more money into curing the homelessness problem and mitigating the eviction crisis,” Robinson said. “He could do that tomorrow. So we’re going to push for him right now and push for those. Hopefully we find an ally in the mayor’s office.”
Bynum, for his part, told Pat Campbell on his radio show Wednesday morning that one of the things he hoped to do during what he said would be his last term as mayor would be to build relationships with his detractors, not on the left, but on the right.
When Bynum was first elected as mayor in 2016, he surprised incumbent Republican Dewey Bartlett by winning outright without the need for a runoff. Bynum told Campbell that Bartlett was viewed as the establishment candidate, and “because I was running against him, it meant those folks didn’t support me … and were not super stoked about helping me to be successful.”
Bynum’s more conservative critics have argued he’s too progressive to be a true Republican — a liberal wolf in sheep’s clothing. He upset many in 2016 when he named former Mayor Kathy Taylor, a Democrat, to his team as chief of economic development. His fiercest Republican opponent this time, Ken Reddick, ran a campaign almost entirely based on disagreement with Bynum’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and called himself the “only true conservative in the race.”
Bynum told Campbell he hadn’t built relationships with those further right of him politically the way he did with Democrats and Independents.
“So I think there’s a lot more room to be had at City Hall engaging — it sounds weird to say that because we’re such a Republican city and such a Repbulican state — but I think that’s an area where I as a leader can improve.”
Robinson said on Thursday that he felt his time campaigning showed him that Tulsans are ready for “more aggressive work on issues of equity.”
“What I don’t know that Tulsans realize is how political agendas are really what’s slowing down that process of equity,” Robinson said. ‘What I am excited about is that I think what this campaign did if nothing else is it gave Tulsans a clearer vision of what they actually want.”
Though Bynum said he wanted to engage more with Republicans during this term, he acknowledged on Campbell’s show Wednesday morning that he was elected off moderates from both sides of the political spectrum.
“The big thing I noticed was that the center held,” Bynum said. “What yesterday showed me was the majority of Tulsans want to work together with people they might disagree with on one issue but can find ways to work together on others.”
He told Campbell that he hoped to continue Tulsa’s economic growth during his second term, and told one caller that when he talked on the campaign trail about the city gaining a “billion dollars in private investments,” that “it’s all in north Tulsa.”
“You’ll see an economic renaissance in north Tulsa because of the investment and development we’ve brought to that part of the city,” Bynum told the caller.
“If you’re growing your local economy, that solves so many of the issues that you have in a city around crime or education or health,” Bynum said. “If you’re raising the wealth of individuals in the community that solves a lot of problems.”
In the meantime, Bynum said he plans to take the next three months — months he would have spent campaigning if there had been a runoff — to focus on figuring out the best way he can help Tulsa during what he told Campbell will be his final four years in office.
“I want to make sure we’re using every one of those days to its maximum advantage to move Tulsa forward,” he said. “So I’m going to spend the next three months visiting with folks around the community about what the biggest things are we can achieve in the next four years to move Tulsa forward.”
And Robinson will likely be one of those folks.
“I am willing to work with anyone but I won’t compromise on what Tulsans need,” Robinson said. “If Bynum is willing to work with folks who are trying to provide equity he’ll find an ally. If he’s basing his decision making and policies on what’s politically expedient he’ll continue to find an adversary.”