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Mary Fallin appointment brings compliments, criticisms

OKLAHOMA CITY - Hours after her appointment to vice chair of the Trump presidential transition team, Governor Mary Fallin received compliments, but others questioned her priorities.

"Mary Fallin should put Oklahoma first and the people of Oklahoma first," said Sarah Baker, executive director of the Oklahoma Democratic Party. "She needs to be here taking care of Oklahoma before she takes care of the issues of Donald Trump."

Trump's team made the announcement a little more than a week after Fallin visited the president-elect in New York City, a venture that cost taxpayers at least $6,000.

Baker fears future trips could result in additional spending of taxpayer dollars, but she also worries about the state of the state, which is expecting another challenging legislative session dealing with budget difficulties and securing pay raises for teachers, among other things.

"This is the point in time where the governor should be working on legislative agendas for the 2017 session," Baker said. "And, if she's going to be focusing on Trump, who's going to be focusing on Oklahoma?"

State Republicans, like Chairwoman Pam Pollard, said Fallin will have no trouble juggling two responsibilities.

"It is another duty she is going to have, but she will stay in the state of Oklahoma," Pollard said. "She's focused on working on her budget, working on her legislative agenda, bringing a focus to our schools and our teachers and our students."

Fallin's office could not immediately provide details of the governor's transition team duties.

The vice chair job is temporary, and past members of transition teams tell NewsChannel 4 Fallin's duties will likely include vetting, screening and recommending applicants for some 4,000 appointed positions.

She also will likely work with members of the outgoing Obama administration to ensure a smooth transition, educating incoming staff about their responsibilities.

Fallin would keep her job as governor, unless she is appointed to a cabinet position, in which case Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb would assume her state duties.

Trump has not offered Fallin a position in his cabinet, though she is rumored to be the leading candidate for Secretary of the Interior.

Additional trips to New York City are a possibility, but Pollard said most of Fallin's work can likely be done from the Sooner State.

"In the age of multimedia, there's a lot she can do by telephone and internet and webinars and things like that," she said, dismissing the idea the governor may be distracted by her new title. "Gov. Fallin has a good team in place here in Oklahoma [to help]."

As for her qualifications for the vice chair position, Pollard cites Fallin's connections as a former member of congress and chair of the National Governor's Association.

"Her wealth of knowledge of these different governmental positions makes her a very good person to be able to instruct the new people into what their new duties actually will require," Pollard said. "I think having Gov. Fallin on the transition team sends a huge signal to the Republicans and the conservatives throughout the country that Mr. Trump wants a conservative administration."