Former Oklahoma Gov. and U.S. Sen. David Boren threw his support and credibility Tuesday behind a bipartisan presidential ticket that could challenge both parties.
Boren, who served as governor for four years before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1978, said dissatisfaction with America's political system and recognition that the country is in severe trouble led him to get involved with the effort by Americans Elect, a nonprofit group that in June will hold the first-ever nominating convention to select a president-and-vice president ticket.
“The system needs shock therapy,” Boren said. “The two parties are just fighting, they're not working together to serve the country. I believe in the two-party system, but I believe it needs some temporary shock therapy, not starting a permanent third party.”
Boren made it clear his support of the group was as a private citizen and not on behalf of the University of Oklahoma where he serves as president.
Boren, who resigned in 1994 from the Senate to lead OU, showed up with members of Americans Elect to deliver about 90,000 signatures of Oklahomans to the state Election Board.
Organizers, who said they obtained signatures from registered voters in each of the state's 77 counties, were required to get 51,739 signatures in order to get their candidates placed on the state's Nov. 6 general election ballot.
“Those who signed this petition are sending a message to Democrats and Republicans alike — stop wasting precious time fighting with each other and start working together to solve our problems,” Boren said.
State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said his office has 30 days to determine the sufficiency of the petitions.
If enough signatures are on the petitions, the petitions will be sent to county election boards, which will compare the signatures with voter registration records.
If the petitions contain a sufficient number of valid signatures of registered voters, the Americans Elect party would be recognized and its ticket would be placed on the November ballot.
Boren said he would wait to see who is selected to the Americans Elect ticket.
Boren, who signed the petition to put the Americans Elect ticket on Oklahoma's ballot, said he continues to serve as co-chairman of President Barack Obama's intelligence advisory board. He said Obama has enjoyed success in national security, and he emphasized his working with the Americans Elect group is not meant as a criticism of the president.
“This is not meant to be disrespectful to the president or hostile,” said Boren, who four years ago voted for Obama, a Democrat. “It's meant to do something positive that's urgently needed for our country.”
Boren four years ago hosted a panel discussion on the OU campus that featured several moderate Democrats and Republicans who urged presidential candidates to focus on issues important to the country.
The Americans Elect process allows Republicans, Democrats and independents to vote online to pick a Democrat and a Republican to run as a team for president and vice president. It would be the first bipartisan national ticket in modern history.
The online process will choose six finalists in May, each of whom will pick a running mate from another party. Online voting then would end in June with a two-person ticket.
Elliott Ackerman, Americans Elect's chief operating officer, said group officials are confident their ticket will be on the ballot in all 50 states in November.
Boren, 70, said he doesn't intend to be on the ticket and plans to stay at OU. However, he might consider serving in the Cabinet if a bipartisan ticket would get elected.
“I have never closed the door on serving our country if it could make a difference, but I think you also make a huge difference if you're an educator,” he said.
Boren said he is aware of moderate Republicans and Democrats “of stature” who are seriously considering getting involved in the Americans Elect process.
“I would be surprised if this process doesn't produce a ticket of tremendous national stature and a totally bipartisan ticket,” Boren said.
The group has collected 2.5 million signatures and has been approved to be on the ballot in 17 states, including California, said Ileana Wachtel, the group's national press secretary. The group needs about 2.9 million signatures to get on the ballot in all states.
Boren said the effort is not a plot to help either the Democratic or Republican presidential candidate.
“Both sides seem to be suspicious,” he said. “The motives are not that. ... It is not anti-anyone.”