“Just like the NCAA bracket where I see the underdogs are doing very well this year, I think we are going to see the same thing happen on Nov. 4,” said Dorman, referring to the annual NCAA basketball tournament currently in action and the date Oklahomans will vote for governor.
“As the election moves toward that date, I have been receiving a phenomenal response from citizens who want to see change.”
Dorman’s campaign staff says they are gaining ground on Fallin, according to internal polling. But many factors make Rep. Dorman an underdog candidate.
Fallin entered the year not only as the incumbent but also with a campaign war chest 16 times the size of Dorman’s, according to campaign finance reports. Oklahoma has also become one of the most Republican states in the nation, especially following the 2010 election when every statewide position went to the GOP.
Democrats like to point out that their party has more registered voters than Republicans. But that is expected to change sometime over the next year, as GOP voters have grown from 39.9 percent in 2010 to 43.2 percent in 2014, which is 1.5 percent below Democrats.
Fallin might be the frontrunner for many political observers, but her campaign team isn’t assuming victory come November.
“We are going to run the race like we are five points behind every day,” said Alex Weintz, Fallin’s communication’s director. “We are not taking anything for granted. We are taking this race seriously; we have always said we were going to do that no matter who our challenger is.”
Weintz said his candidate has a strong record to stand on since economic growth and job creation have flourished during Fallin’s administration.
“We just received word that the [state] unemployment rate fell to 5 percent,” Weintz said. “It was at 7 percent when [Fallin] took office.”
Dorman has argued that all Oklahomans have not felt the state’s economic success, and he has centered his policy agenda on education, school safety and teacher pay. With educational benchmarks and teacher pay that ranks below the regional average, Dorman believes he can beat Fallin in a debate on education.
“I think education is always the No. 1 priority for voters because education affects everything,” said state Democratic Party chair Wallace Collins. “Education is an area [Dorman] can win on.”
Even if Dorman can appeal to voters on specific issues, the question remains whether he can convince conservative voters to support a Democrat.
“This is going to be an election year that looks beyond the party lines,” Dorman said optimistically.
Despite running as a Democrat, Dorman hasn’t done much to draw attention to his party. In fact, he has adopted many conservative positions — including support for Second Amendment rights — and has accused Fallin of seeking to raise taxes through her version of a safe rooms for schools plan.
With eight months left before Election Day, Dorman believes he has time to gain ground on Fallin, which would be the political version of a March Madness Cinderella story.