Oklahoma Senate’s blue gal in a red state: Sen. Connie Johnson seeks Democratic nomination in race to replace Coburn

OKLAHOMA CITY — State Sen. Connie Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, wants to become a member of the U.S. Senate. This reporter asked, at her campaign kickoff, “if a blue gal can win in a red state.” Johnson smiled broadly and answered: “Yes.”

A consistent and persistent progressive, the eight-year veteran of the state Legislature is seeking the Democratic nomination in the June 24 primary.

Asked in a recent interview to outline three key issues she sees in the contest, Johnson said that in addition to fellow progressives she is hearing from “Tea Party” activists and libertarians, and finding herself in agreement with some issues they raise.

In our interview, Johnson told this reporter:

“The role of the government continues to come up in discussion with voters. When listing their concerns about what government is going, some will point to the NSA (National Security Agency) spying, and I share that concern. I take note as well of the government trying to tell women how to control their bodies.

“There are many aspects to this concern, and it is widespread in Oklahoma today.

“I hear often that government should only provide those things we can’t do for ourselves, but people see that government is encroaching into more and more areas of our lives, our work. Instead of telling us what to do, we should look at what government is doing.

“Second, I am concerned over the plight of women. Women are under-represented in power, there is a lack of autonomy in our lives. There is a lack of security for women. They’re not safe, not even in prison with the challenges we face in Oklahoma. There is often a culture that is unhealthy for women.

“Third, I point to the health care issues. I support the president as he seeks to improve our health and wellness in America.”

Johnson continues, “Of course there are many other issues, such as immigration and the environment. And for me, the death penalty is crucial. That issue is moral, and it is a type of sentencing reform that’s needed.

“The marijuana issue is another matter that shows the growth of too much government power. We have to speak up and educate our fellow citizens on the reality of incarceration and our overuse of it for crimes and offenses that are not violent, including the possession of small amounts of marijuana.”

After that April kick-off, Johnson explained to Oklahoma Watchdog her optimism: “I plan on speaking for thousands who feel abandoned by our political system as it now operates. I want to be the voice of the people, not the special interests. The young, Democrats, Republicans, libertarians.

“I feel this is a very winnable race. I have been involved in the legislative process for 32 years of my life. I am looking at the larger pictured. I will combat the greed game that has undermined the organized party process. I will raise concerns that matter to our people.

“Truthfully, I had planed to do this in 2016, when Sen. Tom Coburn would have left in the customary way. His early departure led me to do this now, instead. I feel a calling and I am obedient to God’s calling. It is His will in which I am trusting.

“Too many of the other candidates are trying to out-conservative each other. If I’m in the campaign we will have a conversation. I want to be the politician whom the people know cares about them and about their families. We don’t have to continue down the same road.”

While Johnson faces two opponents in the June 24 primary – including Jim Rogers, whom Coburn crushed in the 2010 election — a total of seven Republicans are seeking the Senate nomination.
The two major party nominees and a long-shot independent will contest the general election in early November.

You may contact Pat at pmcguigan@watchdog.org . Portions of this report appeared previously in The City Sentinel, a community newspaper in Oklahoma City.