The Oklahoma Democratic Reclamation Project

The Oklahoma Democratic Reclamation Project

Not all that long ago the Oklahoma Democratic Party held a majority statewide in voter registration.  The latest high water mark for the Party in the Sooner State was achieved in 2006 when the voters elected or reelected Democrats to eight of nine state offices including Governor.  The Democrats then also held a slim majority in the State Senate.  Beginning in 2010 with the Tea Party/anti-Obama backlash, over a thousand legislative seats at the federal and state levels throughout the nation were lost over the next six years.  Oklahoma Democrats most certainly lost their fair share of that total of some 910 state legislative seats nationwide to GOP gains.  It was 2010 that GOP wins at the polls gave Oklahoma Republicans control of both chambers of the legislature, all state offices and therefore effectively all levers of government which they have held since.  Seven years down the road we now have few positives and many negatives to show for absolute control of one party that often sold its candidates with sound bytes containing such phraseology as “pro-business,” “fiscally responsible,” “faith-based and morally sound” and would “put Oklahoma first.”  In 2017, Republican-controlled  Oklahoma finds itself with a continued revenue failure, another year of not only a gaping budget deficit but a legislative inability to pass a budget at all creating a bulging segment of the state’s less advantaged citizens suffering from the legislature’s ineptitude and more than a couple paragons of Christian virtue being hamstrung by their own dishonesty or steaming immoral desires.

November 14th was Special Election Day to elect two state senators and a state house representative, all three to finish terms of deceased, sacked or quitting legislature members in very Republican red districts.    Two races had predictable results with the Democratic candidates going down to lopsided losses.  Voters of House District 76 (southeast Tulsa, west Broken Arrow) went to the polls to elect a replacement to finish the term of late Rep. David Brumbaugh who passed away last April.  Former Tulsa Police Officer Ross Ford was the Republican who defeated Democrat and high school government and civics teacher Chris Vanlandingham with numbers around 70% to 30%.  It was duly noted that Vanlandingham was poorly funded and had a rather marginal ground game in campaigning in a very red district.  In the Oklahoma City/Yukon/Mustang area, voters in State Senate District 45 voted to replace the sacked Kyle Loveless who resigned amid scandal involving the embezzlement of his campaign funds.  The Republican, retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Paul Rossino, defeated Democrat Steven Vincent by a double digit percentage.  I recall seeing one of the Master Chief’s campaign flyers and all his bullet points appeared to be very Democratic in their resonance.  So much for the two losses, both of which are not at all surprising.

Senate district 37 (Jenks, Prattville, Sand Springs) came open when incumbent Dan Newberry announced his resignation to take a better job.  This was the surprise flip of Special Election Day. The victory went to a 26-year-old mental health counselor who made up for what she lacked in funding with a determined ground game.  This campaign’s success involved a seasoned campaign manager and a core group of motivated volunteers including several Young Democrats who knocked the necessary number of doors to get out the vote on Tuesday.  Too bad for Republican candidate Brian O’Hara that dollars cannot vote because at the end of the vote count Democrat Allison Ikley-Freeman held an advantage of a whopping 31 votes!  As one who gave much coin to this candidate’s campaign, being present to celebrate this particular victory had an extra special savor to it.  Basking in the glow of an unexpected victory will pass quickly as it may prove to be a tall order for Ms. Ikley-Freeman to hold this seat in a general election.  The story of this particular election day in Oklahoma was one of lower than usual voter turnout.  For these three special elections, the participation of registered voters in these districts was as follows:  HD 76—10.2%, SD 45—10.8%, SD 37—10.4%.

Yours Truly will personally vouch for the low voter turnout on Tuesday.  As it is with most low voter participation election days, it was a cool, damp, overcast day in both Oklahoma City and Tulsa.  I arrived back in Tulsa from work in OKC and stopped at my polling precinct to cast my ballot on the seven changes to the Tulsa City Charter.  At around 3 PM there was one other voter in the precinct voting.  As I marked my ballot and placed it in the counting box, the counting mechanism registered it as #62.  The senior poll volunteer said that with my ballot counted that the total represented approximately 1% of the voters in my precinct, Tulsa County 163.  Special Elections are notoriously known for low voter turnout.  That said, we Oklahoma Democrats seem to do quite well in these elections by getting the biggest possible bang for our campaign donor dollars by working smarter and working harder to win in these GOP-heavy districts.  It certainly makes a difference when we are not up against a wave movement as we were a year ago.  As the Dems were losing seats in the legislature over the past decade I duly noted that there was a pervading air of ignorance regarding local and state politics which was compounded by voter apathy and above all a strong sense of ubiquitous intellectual laziness.  Few voters properly research issues or candidates themselves.  So many would rather be told what or who to vote for than to self-educate and do their own homework.  Hopefully we Dems will be able to use this to our advantage for a change in future elections as our state languishes in mismanagement, increasing disrepair and neglect.  Electing dedicated agents of change like Allison Ikley-Freeman is certainly a step in the right direction and instills a great deal of hope for our collective future.  Onward to 2018!  Oklahoma Democrats have much to reclaim!

2 Comments

  1. Carl A.
    Nov 15, 2017

    Less than 11% voter turnout in all three races… that’s truly a sickening turnout. No wonder the Repubs own everything politic in the whole state!

    Where are your younger voters? If the Dems can energize just them, they could shift the whole political landscape…

  2. John pettyjohn
    Nov 15, 2017

    great work…thanks

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