Will Election 2012 deliver the “coup de grace” to Oklahoma Democrats?
Published: November 5th, 2012
OKLAHOMA CITY — Early voting continued Monday with long lines and a full parking lot at the Oklahoma County Election Board.
Late partisan registration numbers, traditional absentee ballot requests and early voting trends hint Republican candidates have strong advantages as voters decide not only the contest for Oklahoma’s seven Electoral votes, but also an array of judicial retentions, state questions, legislative races and county posts.
As for registration, Republicans now constitute 44 percent of the state electorate, while Democrats are 46.5 percent of those registered, with Independents the balance.
The Grand Old Party is favored to make additional gains in both Houses of the state Legislature — and may take away the last congressional seat still in Democratic hands.
In the Second Congressional District, the Last Democrat Standing
For 10 years, the most conservative Democrat in the U.S. House, Dan Boren, has held Oklahoma’s Second Congressional District for his party. With Boren’s retirement from Congress and with Barack Obama atop the ticket, Democrats may lose the seat.
If Republicans win, the Grand Old Party’s dominance in what was once a Democratic bastion will stretch from the congressional delegation to the statehouse and most county courthouses. The Republican in the congressional race is Markwayne Mullin, owner of a plumbing business, while Rob Wallace, a former county and federal prosecutor, carries the Democratic banner.
The other open seat congressional race is in Tulsa’s First Congressional District, where Republican Jim Bridenstine – who upset incumbent John Sullivan in the June primary – is given the edge over Democratic hopeful John Olson.
The state’s three incumbents – James Lankford in the Fifth, Tom Cole in the Third, and Frank Lucas in the Third – are favored for reelection.
After a long career as a Christian camp director, Lankford won his party’s nomination over several competitors two years ago. He has emerged as a leading conservative voice in the “freshman class” of representatives elected in 2010.
A social conservative, Lankford has concentrated on economic policy while in Congress. He is an ardent critic of the Obama administration and played a leading role in recent Congressional hearings focused on the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya.
His opponent, Democrat Tom Guild, has run a grass roots campaign emphasizing progressive issues, including support to “traditional Medicare,” Social Security, public education, reproductive rights, the DREAM Act on immigration and opposition to the “Citizens United” case touching campaign finance.
The emeritus professor from the University of Central Oklahoma, who also taught at Oklahoma City University, has worked hard to upset the incumbent’s advantages.
Romney will win the state
Despite the lack of Sooner State competitiveness, dominating attention of Oklahoma voters is the historic and highly competitive national presidential contest between incumbent President Barack Obama, the Democrat, and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
The former Massachusetts governor has a clear advantage in Oklahoma, although President Obama improved his position slightly in the final SoonerPoll. Romney led that survey 58 percent to 33 percent. While the former governor of Massachusetts is far ahead, the president gained 4 points since August.
In the presidential election, voters actually choose between lists of electors, with the winning slate’s designees becoming members of the Electoral College. Oklahoma has 7 electors – one for each member of Congress (five representatives, two Senators). Electoral votes are apportioned, in most states, on a “winner-take-all” basis. While Gov. Romney trailed narrowly in many late popular vote surveys, while leading in a handful of surveys, the president has maintained a narrow lead in the Electoral College the past few weeks.
As of this morning, about two-thirds of the 66,000 Oklahomans who requested traditional “by-mail” absentee ballots had voted, according to the state Election Board. Nearly that many Oklahomans had already voted at “in-person absentee” balloting – casting early votes at county election boards since Friday.
YES or NO? Six State Questions
Oklahoma voters face six statewide ballot propositions, all constitutional amendments.
S.Q. 758 would amend the state constitution (Article 10) to limit ad valorem (real property) tax hikes to 3 percent of “fair cash value.” The 3 percent limit would displace the current limit of 5 percent.
S.Q. 759 would – for most areas of state policy, according to the official ballot language — “not allow affirmative action programs. Affirmative action programs give preferred treatment based on race, color or gender.”
S.Q. 762 would remove the governor from pardon and parole decisions for nonviolent offenders, and make other changes to state law. Fallin supported the measure before she opposed it in a recent statement.
S.Q. 764 would allow creation of a “water infrastructure credit enhancement reserve fund” for bond issues in limited circumstances for “certain water resource and sewage treatment” programs. The proposal was part of the long-range water plans developed at the Legislature this year.
Another ballot measure with significant policy implications is S.Q. 765, the revision to fundamental state law that would repeal the constitutional Human Services Commission, leaving in place legislative authority to provide a new, reformed framework for the agency.
S.Q. 766 would exempt “all intangible personal property from property tax. No person, family or business would pay a tax on intangible property. The change would apply to all tax years beginning on and after January 1, 2013.”
S.Q. 766 has attracted the most advertising and discussion of any ballot question so far this year.
Keep the Judges?
Also on the statewide election ballot is the fate of four Supreme Court justices, and eight lower court justices. Voters will vote yes or no for retention of these jurists.
The four Supreme Court justices – Yvonne Kauger, Doug Combs, James Edmondson and Noma Gurich – are favored to win their retention votes, but this year’s debate among business interests and the organized bar over judicial independence has drawn unprecedented attention. Also on the retention ballot are members of two appeals courts – civil and criminal.
Republicans may gain two or more seats in the state House, returning them to the all-time high of 70 seats held just after the 2010 election.
In the state Senate, a couple of gains could enhance the 32 to 16 Republican edge. Entering election day, where there are five state Senate races with no incumbents, Republicans have an edge to make net gains – having already taken two formerly Democratic seats without competition.
Election 2012 is expected to solidify the Grand Old Party’s control of Oklahoma state government.