Mary Fallin is running for governor, and the 5th Congressional District is once again open. The consequences are many, as political ambitions again get released and posturing starts.
The fires of ambition are burning brighter and earlier than usual in an Oklahoma campaign season.
The Democrats’ best bet, former Corporation Commissioner Jim Roth, likely won’t make the race despite winning handily inside the district in his failed re-election bid in 2008.
While the litany of Democratic names get trotted out, the party of Jefferson and Jackson is simply too atrophied and its potential candidates too few to mount a serious challenge. That’s all we can say about the Democrats at present.
The action is with the Republicans.
The field is largely recycled from four years ago when Mary Fallin whipped everyone: former state Rep. Kevin Calvey is in; Dr. Johnny Roy is evidently running; Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett is weighing the race; and, a new face, current state Rep. Mike Thompson is considering joining the fray.
Calvey, a veteran campaigner, has already made an amateur misstep. Running fourth in the GOP primary in 2006, he is attempting to portray himself as the winner of the “money” primary, announcing he had raised more than $125,000 in under four weeks, saying, “We are pleased with the strong response from donors in spite of the current recession.”
That’s a chunk of change 15 months before a primary ” except $100,100 of it came from a loan by Calvey to his campaign, according to a finance report from the Federal Election Commission.
At the moment, he’s running a vanity campaign without external support.
Roy will prove to be entertaining as ever in this campaign, and if he gets on television anything is possible. The charismatic physician will have to convince Central Oklahoma Republicans that he is a “good” Iraqi, an embodiment of the American Dream.
Thompson is a respected, young, conservative lawmaker who appeared to have his hat tilted at this race when he ran TV in his state representative campaign in 2008.
A strong conservative voice, he’s a young guy with a family and a quick wit.
But he’s starting from ground zero ” unless he, too, wants to take out a loan and call it a windfall.
But, any guy who can get Bowzer from Sha Na Na to testify in front of the Legislature has the ability to make connections and raise some coin.
Then there is the 800-pound gorilla, the joker in the deck, Mayor Cornett.
The mayor is trying to decide whether to still be mayor, or whether he can do more from the halls of Congress.
He enjoys unbelievable polling numbers ” both in general and among Republicans ” but his success is built largely on the use of creative taxation and private-public sector partnership in pursuit of a vibrant and more outward-looking Oklahoma City.
While this approach is attractive to a progressive, pro-business academic like me, it may not play with the large number of Oklahoma Republicans who have concerns with social issues, tax issues or governmental authority issues that place them at odds with Cornett.
No word yet on whether or not Billy Sims will be running. We’ll keep you forewarned if he does.
Gaddie is professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma and president of the Southwestern Political Science Association.