Hundreds sign up for political office
The 2012 political season has officially kicked off as we now know all the candidates running for office on the local, state and federal level.
The filing for the seats kicked off for the first time in state history in the middle of the legislative session.
This might have an impact on the final six weeks of work for lawmakers now running for reelection.
Legislative hopefuls line up with their declaration of candidacy and a cashiers’ check from $200 to $750.
There’s also a fair share of incumbents, but this year there’s a twist.
Rather than waiting till the first full week after session ends, the filing is happening with six weeks to go before Sine Die.
The first person in line is Representative Mike Reynolds, who has been the first filer for several campaign cycles now.
The Oklahoma City Republican says there’s no question some lawmakers might be feeling the pressure as they now face an opponent.
“If you’ve stayed in touch with your constituents long enough you don’t have to worry about the loss of three or four weeks up here at the capitol, but for people who haven’t stayed in touch with their constituents I’m sure they’re going to be very stressed out.”
Reynolds didn’t pull an opponent for his final session before he’s term limited, and House Speaker Kris Steele who’s already facing a term limit certainly understands what incumbents and challengers are going through.
Steele says time will tell if the early filing will have an impact on lawmakers.
“In the days and weeks to come when incumbents hear rumblings of a challenger working against them in a district it’s probably going to cause us to have a much greater focus on the issues at hand and desire to complete our work and go home.”
Finishing the work fast could be good or bad depending on your point of view.
Representative Joe Dorman says it shouldn’t have an impact if a lawmaker pulls an opponent.
The Rush Springs Democrat who also didn’t get a challenge to his seat says he’s concerned lawmakers will want to get out too quickly.
“We certainly need to put a lot of thought into the legislation. We don’t need to rush through anything. That’s what causes problems with legislation is when we don’t put enough thought into, so I am worried that we may be too hasty with some of the bills that go through and we may create some problems.”
So how did we get here?
Well, Congress a while back passed a measure known as “Let the Troops Vote Act” which required there be 45 days between filing and election for federal candidates in time for people overseas to get ballots and vote.
Oklahoma lawmakers decided to follow suit and make that apply to state elections as well.
To have time before November for primaries and runoff the filing for the seat needed to be held in mid-April.
The primary elections now land on June 25th only a month after session ends.
Political Science Professor Keith Gaddie says that could have an impact as many Republican incumbents are facing challengers on that date.
“The thing is in the republican party we’ve got this ongoing race to the bottom of just how conservative can you get, so lawmakers who we deemed to be rock solid conservatives suddenly find people even further to the right trying to challenge them.”
One of those conservative Republicans facing a challenge is Edmond Senator Clark Jolley.
Jolley says it doesn’t bother him because a lawmaker should decide issues based on the values of voters not opponents.
“We can’t govern out of fear we have to govern because we care more about doing the right thing than getting reelected. That’s the problem with Washington, is that they don’t govern based off what they believe is right they govern based off what’s right for their reelection efforts.”
His opponent, Fairview Baptist Church Pastor Paul Blair says Jolley has known since November he’s going to have a challenge for the primary.
Blair says Jolley has also had eight years to defend himself on the Senate floor.
“Quite frankly if I’m fortunate enough to be elected, after four years if my record isn’t worthy of my being reelected than I shouldn’t be reelected. Quite frankly the best campaign advertisement you should have is your open record.”
The winner of the Senate District 41 primary will face an Independent and Democratic candidate in November.
While several people already know their challenges in the upcoming election year, many incumbents have no opponents at all.
Keith Gaddie says this could provide a whole new sense of freedom for a lawmaker.
“If you’re a second term state senator and you drew no opponent this round you have four and a half legislative session where you don’t have to worry about voter blowback or voter feedback when you go to make decisions.”
60 elected officials are facing no challenges either in the primary or the general election including newly appointed Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas.
275 people filed for candidacy last week which was 21 less than in the last non-Gubernatorial election in 2008.