McCarville, McFerron, Gumm & Brecheen: Not a law firm

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 18-Oct-2010

Making the news, a news analysis, a new poll, a not-new face and a political “newbie.”

The news analysis is from one of the state’s most experienced and methodical journalists, Mike McCarville – the guy who used to say he had “a face made for radio.”

The polling data comes from Pat McFerron, a conservative Republican pollster who is respected for accurate analysis over time, who has worked in many broad coalitions to advance economic growth in Oklahoma.

The familiar face is state Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, a Democrat from Durant who is the incumbent in state Senate District 6.

The “newbie” Republican Josh Brecheen of Coalgate, riding a wave of popularity for conservative ideas – and massive disdain for the policies, processes and procedures of Barack Obama’s presidency.

McCarville noted in his blog that “Little Dixie” in southeastern Oklahoma has become fertile ground for Republicans in upper tier races: president, U.S. Senate and occasional statewide races. But in the ranks, county officials and state legislative contests, the Democrats have continued to dominate. This year? Maybe not. 

McCarville notes that Gumm has money, a well-known name, and ardent advocacy for autistic children left behind by health insurance policies. Brecheen initially “wasn’t considered much of a threat, at least by those outside the district, the oh-so-knowing ‘experts’ whose overview sometimes extend only as far the tips of their noses.”

In 2002, the last time a Republican took on Gumm, the Democrat  won Johnston County alone by 1,600 votes.

This summer, McCarville wrote, “Brecheen’s reputation, his persona, his hard work, his whatever, prompted a bit of a buzz. The little gatherings grew larger. Some volunteers showed up. Calls were made. Some in the Brecheen camp began to believe.”

McCarville reports growing crowds at Brecheen speeches, 100 volunteers marching and riding in a Tishomingo parade, and 200 packed into a Durant auditorium for U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn’s endorsement announcement, a Brecheen surge evidenced in McCarville’s own online survey and a growing excitement among state leaders of the Grand Old Party.

At his online blog, Pat McFerron now reports Brecheen is ahead, 46 to 40 percent. The survey by Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates (between September 29th and October 2nd) could put the young challenger on the cusp of making history, McFerron said:

“Brecheen’s lead may seem surprising to some in this traditionally Democratic area of the state, but Barack Obama is redefining partisan lines. In this district, fully 71% of the voters have an unfavorable impression of the president, and these voters are flocking to Republicans like Tom Coburn and Josh Brecheen at an incredible pace.”

McFerron comments: “With Tom Coburn garnering 59% in the district, and a substantial generic advantage for Republicans, I actually see more room for Brecheen to grow.”

Inside the race, Sen. Gumm has recently been touting his recent endorsement from the National Rifle Association. He has been a consistent pro-life vote at the state Capitol. He has advocated for youthful victims of autism, and opposes sale of any water from southeast Oklahoma’s reservoirs to Oklahoma City or to Texas municipalities.

When he filed for a third term in the Legislature, Gumm told CapitolBeatOK, “I believe I’m good with my home folks and my home party.”

Brecheen has drawn distinctions with Gumm’s role as a leading Democrat and on issues where he is more conservative than the incumbent. He criticizes Oklahoma’s nationally third-highest paid Legislature, and advocates workers’ comp and tort reforms. His allies have jabbed at Gumm for avoiding debate and/or some tough floor votes.

Announcing his candidacy last spring,Brecheen promised, if elected, to “focus on government efficiency, agriculture and education issues if elected to the state Senate.”

On November 2, pundits and pollsters take a rest, and the people decide. Suddenly, however, Senate District 6 is a race to watch.