Senator Jim Wilson confirms primary run against U.S. Rep. Dan Boren

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 06-Jun-2010

Senator Jim Wilson of Tahlequah plans to run for the Democratic party’s nomination in the Second Congressional District. He will be challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Dan Boren of Muskogee.

Whereas Boren has established an independent voting record in the nation’s capital, often clashing with national Democrats on spending, fiscal, health and other issues, Wilson has fashioned a generally liberal record in a decade of service at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City

One of a few dozen Democrats to oppose President Barack Obama’s federal health care reforms, Boren has also crafted a mixed record on social and moral issues.

His moderately conservative views extend to a proposal to “bail out” union pension plans. Last week, the Sooner State’s sole Congressional Democrat was critical of a measure that rose to national discussion in late May.

In an emailed statement, the Muskogee Democrat told CapitolBeatOK, “I have not read the specifics of the bill yet and I want to give it further study, but I can tell you that any new spending without an offset is something that really concerns me. We simply cannot afford any more deficit spending at this time.”

In a telephone interview with CapitolBeatOK on Sunday afternoon, Sen. Wilson said his campaign would emphasize the need for government action to address poverty in the second Congressional District. More than one-fifth of the district’s residents live below the poverty level, he noted.

Wilson, who did not mention the incumbent’s name in our interview, said he would talk about Oklahoma’s poor ranking in overall health care indices, and its 49th ranking in education spending. Wilson plans to advocate for a living wage, equal pay and respect for women, he told CapitolBeatOK. “These are all issues I’ve worked on and advocated throughout my 10 years in the Legislature,” he said.

On June 3, Wilson was the subject of a favorable blog comment from Howie Klein on The Huffington Post. Klein described Sen. Wilson as a progressive, while characterizing Rep. Boren as “among the most reactionary Democrats in Congress.”

Wilson has indicated in scattered press accounts in recent days he will run as a strong advocate of the new federal health care law. When the state Senate in early May approved state Sen. Randy Brogdon’s H.J.R. 1054, authorizing legislative leaders to pursue litigation challenging the new federal provisions, Sen. Wilson pointed to France as a model for health care in the closing stages of debate.

Sen. Wilson is a fervent defender of rural interests. One of his most visible fights this year was against a proposal to move ahead with infrastructure improvements to state water resources.

Wilson was a visible foe of any move toward a greater role for Oklahoma City in use of eastern Oklahoma water. He argued the Choctaw tribe was more likely than Oklahoma City to have rural interests at heart, although a joint Choctaw-Chickasaw water study early in this decade had concluded the state’s water supply was sufficient to meet urban and rural needs, and still allow for broader water sales.

Wilson has opposed anti-abortion legislation, and voted to sustain Gov. Brad Henry’s vetoes of key pro-life measures this year.

Wilson also opposed H.B. 3393, the special needs scholarship legislation awaiting Gov. Brad Henry’s decision, throughout this year’s legislative session, from early committee deliberations through final debate. That measure advanced to the governor’s desk after approval in the closely-divided Senate. 

Wilson told CapitolBeatOK he expects to file for the congressional job on Tuesday afternoon. If unsuccessful in his primary challenge to Rep. Boren, Sen. Wilson has two years remaining in his legislative term.