After making history, Oklahoma Republicans should focus on long term

The Oklahoman Editorial Modified: November 3, 2010 at 1:32 pm •  Published: November 3, 2010
The first Republican governor to make political history was Henry Bellmon, elected in 1962. This was six years before Oklahomans began rejecting the Democratic presidential nominee in every election. Bellmon was the cheese that stood alone, governing with an overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature and a host of statewide officials with a “D” next to their names.

Mary Fallin made political history in 1994 by becoming the first female and first Republican lieutenant governor. She made history again Tuesday by becoming the first woman governor. But the larger historical takeaway from the 2010 election may be that Fallin will govern with a Republican Legislature and a slate of statewide officers with an “R” next to their names.

Republicans rode a red wave to victory on a day when a school funding initiative was defeated by a huge margin. Two good Democratic incumbents, state Auditor Steve Burrage and Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland, were rolled over by the wave.

Lt. Gov. Jari Askins, who had knocked off the favorite in the Democratic primary for governor, was beaten by 20 percentage points. Among other Democratic nominees, only Holland and Burrage topped 40 percent of the vote.

As redistricting draws nigh, Republicans will control every statewide office. They also increased their seats in the Legislature. The only Democratic politician of stature left is U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, whose re-election margin was far less than the Republican congressional incumbents or Oklahoma’s newest member, 5th District Republican James Lankford.

This couldn’t have happened without a drift among registered Democrats, especially in rural areas, to give Republicans a chance to lead.

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