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Do You, Cleta, Agree to Change Your Last Name? I Do, If Dale Changes Party

Jim Young Published: March 9, 1984

At 4 p.m. today Oklahoma's best-known female politician is changing her name and in the process the state Democratic Party gets an important new convert.

Rep. Cleta Deatherage, 33, Norman, will marry Dale Mitchell, chairman of the board of Fidelity National Bank. The ceremony will be performed on Mitchell's 41st birthday in the Louise Pritchard Chapel of Oklahoma City's First Baptist Church. The Rev. Gene Garrison will conduct the ceremony.

It is the second marriage for both.

Deatherage, who has operated in political circles under her maiden name, said in the future she will be known as Cleta Mitchell. "He wanted that and it wasn't negotiable. It was important to him."

Asked if it was true that Mitchell was a registered Republican, the eight-year House veteran smiled and said, "Not any more he isn't, we just got back from the courthouse where he changed his registration."

Marriage plans for the couple almost went awry last week when Mitchell was hospitalized with a mild heart attack. That caused the couple to cancel plans for a trip to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.

Now they will go to Phoenix for a few days "because he needs to rest."

The lawmaker said she doesn't think it's going to be difficult to change names in the middle of a political career. "I have always campaigned just as "Cleta' so it won't make any difference."

And Deatherage makes no secret of the fact that she plans to continue her political career. She has announced she is running for Democratic national commiteewoman succeeding Edna Mae Phelps, Seminole, who is retiring. Then she plans another race for the House from Cleveland County.

After that term is completed, she leaves little doubt she has her eye on something else. Some people think she will challenge Lt. Gov. Spencer Bernard if the incumbent goes for a third term in 1986.

"The lieutenant governor's race is a long time off," she said. "I will run for re-election and if I am re-elected I will have been up here 10 years when the term is finished.

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