Carson had previously told Oklahoma Gazette he was looking at a possible campaign after current Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, announced his decision to not seek re-election to the seat he has held since 2005.
Carson represented the district in eastern Oklahoma from 2001 to 2005. He left the office when he instead chose to run for the U.S. Senate in 2004 and lost by an 11-percent margin to Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, according to the Oklahoma State Election Board.
Carson did not immediately respond to calls from the Gazette. According to the Tulsa World, his post said: “Lots of people here on Facebook have asked me whether I intend to run. … I very much appreciate the well wishes and encouragement, but wanted to let people know that I am not running for the seat. There will be many good candidates, and I look forward to helping one of them.”
CLEARING THE FIELD
Officials for the Oklahoma Democratic and Republican parties have said Carson’s decision clears the field for lesser-known candidates who might be seeking the House bid.
Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins named three potential candidates in the primaries:
• former state Sen. Kenneth Corn of Howe, who unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor in 2010;
• current state Sen. Jim Wilson of Tahlequah; and
• Oklahoma attorney Kalyn Free.
Wilson and Free both ran against Boren in the 2010 and 2004 primary elections, respectively.
“I still think it’s a very Democratic part of the state, and I think there are issues over there in that part of the state that would be relevant just there,” Collins said.
The state Republican Party has been planning a grassroots-level campaign strategy to target independent and conservative-minded voters statewide. GOP Chairman Matt Pinnell said Oklahomans looking into the 2012 race included Assistant House Majority Floor Leader George Faught, R-Muskogee; state Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate; and former state Rep. and House Majority floor Leader Tad Jones, R-Claremore.
“We know things can change quickly, and that’s why I’m going to stay very aggressive as state chairman of the Republican Party to make sure we stay on top,” Pinnell said.
Since the district’s creation in 1907, it has largely seen its political climate unchanged. Ten of its 13 representatives were Democrats, and its first two Republican congressmen both having served office in the early 20th century.
According to the state election board, voter registration in the district’s Haskell County was as high as 88 percent Democratic of 8,564 total registered voters by Nov. 2, 2004.
But it was a tough election for the state’s Democrats in the year Carson sought the Senate bid, and has been ever since. George W. Bush won in 2000 and 2004, when Sen. John Kerry took 34 percent of the state. That year, Carson also lost by more than 150,000 votes to Coburn, even though he took all but six counties from his former district.
More than 275,000 voters registered as Democrats in the 2nd District for the 2004 election when Carson lost. This number has fallen to nearly 250,000 as of Jan. 15, 2011, a 10.4-percent decrease, although the party has the 63.8-percent majority in the district. There are now 103,464 registered Republicans in the district, according to the election board.
Though a minority in the district, the GOP has registered nearly 10,000 more voters since 2004 as of January, at nearly a 10-percent increase.
Collins said statistics don’t always determine voter decisions at the polls, however, especially in a district that has a number of its own specific, nonpartisan issues, such as water safety and social welfare. —Alex Ewald