Less than 24 hours after Tulsans threw him out of office, Mayor Dewey Bartlett had no idea why.
“It could be kind of the general attitude in the country that we are seeing, wanting change just for change’s sake, (it) doesn’t necessarily require a rational decision,” Bartlett said.
City Councilor G.T Bynum received 55.8 percent of the vote Tuesday to Bartlett’s 38.8 percent, according to unofficial results from the Tulsa County Election Board.
That’s a 17 percent spread, nearly double the 10 percent margin by which Bartlett, a Republican, defeated former Mayor Kathy Taylor, a Democrat, in the city’s first nonpartisan mayoral election in 2013.
Bynum is a Republican.
Speaking at the reopening of B.C. Franklin Park on Wednesday, Bartlett said the nonpartisan election format helped Bynum a lot.
“Certainly, Mr. Bynum was able to get practically every Democrat in town that wanted to vote,” Bartlett said. “His strategy was to get the Democrats out, obviously, and he accomplished that.”
Bartlett said he prefers the partisan election format because it gives voters a better understanding of what the candidates stand for.
“Most people don’t pay any attention to the day-in, day-out events of political life,” Bartlett said. “They need a label sometimes, in my opinion.
“They want to know, if it’s Republican or Democrat, that at least gives them an opportunity to determine what their political philosophy might be.”
Bynum’s grandfather, former Tulsa Mayor Robert LaFortune, also helped tip the scales in Bynum’s favor, Bartlett said.
“Mr. Bynum had his grandfather out pulling all the strings he could, the relationships he’s had over several decades, and that helped quite a bit,” Bartlett said. “I thought he was no longer around.”
Bartlett said he hopes voters didn’t simply decide that his two terms as mayor were enough. He noted that Oklahoma City has benefited from having one mayor — Mick Cornett — serve four terms, beginning in 2004.
“I hope that is not the attitude,” Bartlett said. “I don’t really understand why, because we have had great success, had a lot of good things.
“I did run into a lot of people who just wanted change, and I’d say, ‘Why?’ And they really had no answer.”
Bartlett is the first Tulsa mayor to lose an election under the new nonpartisan election format, leaving him as essentially a lame duck for more than five months before Bynun is sworn in in December.
But the mayor says he plans to continue pushing for his programs, including the development and opening of a banking academy at Central High School. The mayor has already started an Aerospace and Aviation Academy and the Working With the Wrench Program.
“They give kids when they graduate from high school, they give them an option, a variety of options, which they don’t have now,” Bartlett said.
The mayor said he plans to work with Bynum to help facilitate a smooth transition, but he also cautioned the mayor-elect that things change once one takes office.
“He has to understand that it is a whole different perspective being inside the Mayor’s Office as opposed to outside looking in, and I will try to make him aware of that,” Bartlett said. “One thing that I have been very proud of is, we have made decisions based on what is in the best interests of the community, not looking at it from a political strategy perspective. That is not a good way to do it.”
Bartlett says he did not take Bynum for granted.
“Oh, no. We took it very seriously,” Bartlett said. “We took it very seriously. Everybody in our family worked very hard, all of our volunteers did.”