To hear some people talk, the elections this November will be an unprecedented cleanup job, the equivalent of diverting a whole freaking river through the stables that constitute our legislatures.
Not in Oklahoma, it won't. Every single House seat is up for grabs every two years, and for 2010, of those 101 seats, forty-seven are uncontested.
Thirty-two of those 47 seats are occupied by Republican incumbents, which prompted political scientist Keith Gaddie to grumble in the general direction of the Democrats:
"You're ceding the Republicans over half of their majority without even a contest. You couldn't even find a warm body to put out there just to force them to go out and campaign and spend money."
Only fourteen Democrats are similarly favored.
Which brings us to the forty-seventh office, House District 81, where Republican Ken Miller did not file for reelection: he's decided to run for state treasurer. No Democrats filed for this seat at all, so it will be handed to Republican Randy Grau, who did file. District 81, in Edmond, is not exactly overrun with Democrats; still, you'd think they could have come up with a "warm body" to run for an open seat. But Todd Goodman, chairman of the Oklahoma County Democratic Party, noted:
"The reality is it is sometimes difficult for candidate recruitment and there are only so many races we can be focused on. We're focusing on the key races right now. The governor is obviously the most important race to us."
Well, obviously. However, in each house the GOP is only six seats away from a veto-proof majority they have 62 of 101 House seats and 26 of 48 Senate seats which means that if there are any substantial Republican gains, having a Democratic governor won't mean squat.
This is not to say that we're not in for some serious electoral entertainment over the next few months. The GOP certainly isn't guaranteed those "substantial gains." And a couple of Oklahoma City sideshows could cost the Republicans. Last week, we had our first Budding Scandal: two Republican House members, Randy Terrill and Mike Christian, were accused of hatching a deal to create a job at the already-scandal-ridden State Medical Examiner's Office for Senator Debbe Leftwich, a Democrat, in exchange for her departing the Senate seat, for which Christian would then run. The Oklahoma County District Attorney is looking into the matter; Christian decided maybe he'd better try to retain his House seat instead; Leftwich is out of a job; and Terrill is maintaining radio silence.
The other ring in this particular circus will be in House District 84, where incumbent and Official Defender of the Straight Sally Kern is being challenged by Brittany Novotny. Both candidates have proclaimed that they will stick to actual issues in this campaign, but both friends and foes of Teh Ghey can be expected to weigh in with their own contributions, mostly in twenties and fifties. (Incidentally, at that HuffPo link you'll find that someone made an effort to find the worst photos possible of both Kern and Novotny.)
In my own area, House District 87, we have a rematch of 2008. Jason Nelson (R) won that last time, but Dana Orwig (D) is making her third try. The difference last time out was a mere handful of votes 186 out of nearly 14,000 so I can't really blame her. On the other hand, Nelson's one substantive legislative achievement a scholarship plan for "special needs" students is the sort of thing Orwig herself might have introduced, so defining the distance between herself and Nelson may be a tad tricky.
At least it's not going to be dull this fall.
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Copyright © 2010 by Charles G. Hill