The House of Representatives in the state of Oklahoma consists of 101 members from districts approximately equal in population, elected to two-year terms with a twelve-year overall limit. After the 2012 election, 72 Republicans and 29 Democrats were seated, about what you'd expect from an infrared state.
For the past decade, I have lived in District 87, on Oklahoma City's northwest side; after the 2010 Census the district lines were redrawn, and 87 now resembles a bird's wing, with the nearer feathers leaning Democratic and the farther ones decidedly Republican. This is consistent with current conventional wisdom: the farther you get from the solidly-Democratic city core, the greater the Republican strength. If you look to the west, you find District 84, a GOP stronghold for many years, and the home of Sally Kern. (Sally's husband Steve, a local pastor, is running for Senate District 40, which covers much of 84 and some of 87.) To the south and east is District 88, represented for six years by Al McAffrey, the first openly gay member of the House, who has since advanced to the Senate and is seeking a seat in Congress; McAffrey's sexual orientation so outraged the local GOP that no, wait, they didn't even field an opposing candidate for two of his three terms. This suggests that the state Republican party, unsure of its chances against the popular McAffrey, might be frugal with its limited resources. Then again, with a 72-29 majority, how frugal do you need to be?
But maybe it's not a pocketbook issue after all. Jason Nelson, a second-term Republican, represents 87 these days. On most issues, he's pretty much cookie-cutter GOP, but on education, he's way out in front of almost everybody. It was Nelson who concocted what became the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Act, which allowed parents of special-needs students to tap state dollars to pay private school tuition and other educational expenses. More recently, he devised a plan for so-called Educational Savings Accounts, subsidized by the state for lower-income families, which would allow them to purchase forms of education, including, but not limited to, those provided by local governments. Neither of these measures exactly endeared Nelson to the educational establishment; the Henry act, in fact, spawned multiple lawsuits seeking to set it aside.
So maybe the GOP is keeping Nelson on a leash as a safety measure? I've never actually seen him here in the district. But then, I've scarcely seen any Republican candidates in the district, regardless of what office they may be seeking. For example, Cliff Branan, term-limited out of Senate District 40, which somewhat overlaps House District 87, made a run for the Corporation Commission this year, but was shot down in the primary by former Lieutenant Governor Todd Hiett; each sent me a flyer, but neither knocked on my door. Nelson's predecessor, Trebor Worthen, notable mostly for being the son of old-line GOP pol Robert Worthen, works the mail very well, the street maybe not so well.
Meanwhile, every single Democratic candidate in these parts makes a point of working the street. Dana Orwig, now vice-chair of the state Democratic party, ran twice for District 87, and met up with me twice. (My wardrobe issues being what they are, one of those visits took place while I was in my bathrobe; if this perplexed her, it didn't show.) Nick Singer, who ran for 87 in 2012 against Nelson, actually caught me mowing my front lawn, and bounced several questions off me, which was probably a good thing, since mowing my front lawn generally requires me to take at least one and maybe two breaks. (It's not that big, but it's mounted on a slant, so I either have to spend half my time going uphill or spend almost all of it trying to keep my balance at an odd angle.) Now admittedly I'm registered as a Democrat, as I have been for rather a long time, but the presence of Known Republicans on this block didn't prevent Orwig or Singer from knocking on those eleven other doors, and I figure that Collin Walke, who came up the walk today before I went out grocery-shopping, did the same. It's a purple neighborhood, so you can't count on it going either red or blue; the Republicans may choose to take it for granted, the Democrats aren't going to concede it to them.
However, Senate District 40, definitely redder than House District 87, is up for grabs. I'm thinking that John Handy Edwards, the Democrat, will come by, but whichever Republican survives the August 26 runoff, Steve Kern (supra) or Ervin Kim, won't. The fact that Edwards drew no primary opposition suggests that the Democrats aren't especially hopeful about winning this seat; meanwhile, the GOP field started out with six candidates before being winnowed down to Kern vs. Kim. Still, I expect a visit from Edwards at some point, and I don't expect one from the winner of the Republican runoff. Some things never change.
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Copyright © 2014 by Charles G. Hill