As Super Tuesday nears, national Democrats make the rounds in Oklahoma
Published: February 23rd, 2020
Oklahoma City – Democratic presidential hopefuls and their surrogates are active in the Sooner State as the March 3 “Super Tuesday” primary nears.
Mike Bloomberg is at the head of the pack in some Oklahoma measures of public opinion which were taken before recent national debates.
However, Bernie Sanders scored a significant victory in Oklahoma’s primary four years ago, and continues to attract significant support among local progressives.
Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar are expected to draw a fair share of support – and Tulsi Gabbard supporters were making phone calls to identified likely voters beginning two weeks before primary election day.
As for Joe Biden, all his campaign efforts and scheduling for late February were centered in South Carolina, which is holding its Democratic primary on February 29. It’s not clear his second place finish in Nevada will boost him.
Tom Steyer is on the ballot. He is, like Bloomberg, a billionaire.
Registered independents are eligible to vote in Democratic primaries in Oklahoma.
Sketching the field of candidates and local activity
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the Democratic Socialist who prevailed in the 2016 state primary, spoke to an enthusiastic crowd last fall at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. His Oklahoma supporters were enthused after his impressive showings in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
U.S. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts – a native of Oklahoma – came to the state just before Christmas, speaking to a wildly enthusiastic crowd at Northwest Classen High School on N. May Avenue. She retains widespread support among activist leaders in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota held a Sunday (February 23) evening rally at
the Will Rogers Event Center on North Western Avenue. Her third-place showing in New Hampshire and some good early debate performances brought her credibility, but analysts contend she had a rough night in the Nevada debate in February. Klobuchar had a fund-raising surge after her credible finish in New Hampshire. Casting herself as a comparative moderate might bring some Oklahoma primary voters her way.
Supporters of Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend, Indiana mayor, planned formally to open his Oklahoma headquarters, on Feb. 22, with an event at Robert S. Kerr and North Harvey, in space adjacent to the Center for Economic Law. Buttigieg has jousted effectively at times with Sen. Sanders, the national front-runner at this early stage, and is trying to establish himself as an alternative to the Vermonter’s socialist agenda. However, Nevada came and went with no additional delegates for his trip to the convention.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has many supporters among Oklahoma Democratic leaders. His visibility in the state has not been high – but that could change if he makes a strong showing in South Carolina. Biden is running on his lifetime record in American politics, but needs to break back into the crowded top tier soon, or he will fade from the scene.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii could be a wild card here. She has no delegates, but is ardently opposed to most policies of the incumbent Republican. She opposed the unsuccessful effort to remove him from office via impeachment, and gained nationwide attention as a result.
Tom Steyer is another potential wild card. His early results this year have not been impressive, electorally. However, he has garnered some African-American support in South Carolina. A breakout there, followed by a blitz in Oklahoma, could add to the chaos of this eventualful year.
Bloomberg hopes presence equals presidential support
The campaign of former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg actually set up a headquarters on N. Classen Boulevard in Oklahoma City, 24 days before primary election day.
After the HQ launch on February 8, Bloomberg and “Judge Judy” – Judy Sheindlin, known worldwide for her long-running “reality court” program – had an event at the Oklahoma History Center near the state Capitol.
Bloomberg might benefit from the first-tier cadre of well-established Oklahoma political professionals he assembled.
Jasmine Brown-Justras is his field organizer for areas north of Interstate 40. Jose Rubio is field organizer for areas south of I-40.
Max Federman, another field organizer who is a native Oklahoman, said the aspiration of most presidential campaigns is to attract volunteers who will give “time, talent and treasure” to support a candidate. Bloomberg, a successful businessman who is a billionaire, is financing his own campaign, “so all we need is your time and talent.” Nick Singer, a Progressive activist in Oklahoma City has worked as Bloomberg’s regional organizational director.
Bloomberg’s state director is Sarah Baker, past communications director for the state Democratic Party.
Bloomberg supporters remained passionate on George Washington’s birthday, despite the former mayor’s recent debate troubles. The campaign had a day-long GOTV (get-out-the-vote) effort starting in Tulsa, traveling to Oklahoma City, and winding up in Lawton.
Suspended Democratic candidates still on ballot, only three Republican options
Several hopefuls who met Oklahoma’s early filing deadlines have suspended their efforts for their presidency but remain on the primary ballot: Michael Bennett, Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Deval Patrick, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang. Kamala Harris withdrew her candidacy in time for removal from Oklahoma ballots.
The best known GOP candidate on the ballot is the incumbent president, Donald Trump, whose polling numbers (both in terms of popularity and against possible Democratic nominees) have improved in recent weeks.
Former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois suspended his campaign for president last month. Roque de la Fuente, the Reform Party candidate nationwide in 2016, returned to his Republican roots after that campaign and is also on the ballot. Three other candidates are also listed.
The deadline to request absentee ballots for the March 3 election was Feb. 26. Early voting at county election boards is set for Thursday, February 27, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Friday, February 28, 8 AM – 6 p.m.; and Saturday, February 29, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m..
On election day, March 3, polls are open statewide from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Note: Pat McGuigan is publisher and editor of The City Sentinel newspaper in Oklahoma City. A member of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, in winter 1987-88 he worked as deputy political director for the presidential campaign of former Delaware Governor Pete du Pont.