by Steve Fair
“Olly olly oxen free” is a phrase used in children’s games which is generally used to indicate that people who are hiding (in a game of hide and seek, for example) can safely come out into the open. Evidently some formerly hidden Republicans in the Sooner state are coming out of hiding.
In a recent Tulsa World article, State Senate district #24 which includes my home was mentioned. “Senate District 24, is the fastest growing in the state and is rapidly moving to the Republican column, “ the article states. “It (District #24) added nearly 5,000 voters from 2006 to mid-2008 and more than 60 percent of those were Republicans. “ Stretching from Moore to Duncan, the district is represented by State Senator Anthony Sykes, R-Moore.
Because Republicans control most of the state's largest and fastest-growing legislative districts this trend could magnify recent Democratic losses in the Oklahoma House and Senate if it continues through redistricting following the 2010 census. "If it stays the way it is, it's going to hit us hard and we know it," said Ivan Holmes, state Democratic Party chairman in the World article. University of Oklahoma political science professor Keith Gaddie agrees. "It's going to be hard to draw districts without carving out some new Republican seats. Southeastern Oklahoma is going to lose one Senate district and maybe two,” Gaddie predicts.
Legislative seats are based on population, not voter registration, but voter registration is one indicator of population shifts. According to state Election Board records through July 14, Republicans outnumber Democrats in seven of the eight fastest-growing state Senate districts in terms of new voters.
And for the first time in modern times, Democrats in Oklahoma are under 50% in registration. That trend coupled with the nomination of a liberal Democrat Presidential nominee and US Senate candidate at the top of the ticket should have state Democrat leaders worrying about what they can do to turn the tide. The Dems have lost the State House and will likely lose the State Senate in November.
With such positive trends for the GOP, why is it that Oklahoma still has more Democrats than Republicans? Registering Democrat in Oklahoma was common in years past due to local elections. Republicans were in the minority and often times, no Republican ran for the county offices, so the race was determined in the primary. In order to vote in those county primary elections, “hidden” Republicans registered as Democrats and ran as Democrats in order to participate in the system. But the Democrats have moved so far to the left, many of those voters in Oklahoma are changing party affiliation to align with their values. When former President Ronald Reagan formally switched to the Republican Party, he said, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. The party left me."
Another factor is the Oklahoma Democrat party used to claim Sooner state Democrats were not as liberal as the national party, but the most recent Democrat state party platform is as liberal as the national document. In the most recent Oklahoma Democrat party platform there are planks supporting abortion on demand and same sex marriage. If you want to “vet” it, the two major party platforms are widely available online.
When “vetting” candidates, here are some appropriate questions to ask; “Who are you voting for in the Presidential race?” If they are a Democrat and say McCain, perhaps they are in the wrong party. It’s one thing to be a “hidden” Republican voter, but a political candidate should be in agreement with their party leadership. A great follow-up question would be why are you running as a Democrat if you can’t support your presidential nominee?
A second question should be; "Why would you run for office with a party unless you agreed with their platform?" These are fair questions and voters deserve an answer. Candidates must align with their values and the party platform outlines positions on a variety of subjects.
Recent polls show that McCain/Palin will carry Oklahoma by 35-40 points. The Sooner state has not voted for a Democrat for President since 1964. Our federal delegation is largely Republican, but at the local level, Democrats still control county government. Republicans do well in some counties, but rural counties are more of a challenge. That too is changing. With the emerging of new “Republicans” in Oklahoma it’s as if someone cried- Olly Olly Oxen Free!