HIJACKING the “tea party” name is one thing. Winning elections is another. In races pitting conservative Republican incumbents against challengers backed by the splinter Sooner Tea Party, voters overwhelmingly went with incumbents in Tuesday's primary election.
The Sooner Tea Party's poster child, state Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, was trounced in his Cleveland County commissioner race. Apparently, being indicted on a charge of bribery carries more weight with voters than proclaiming yourself a “constitutional conservative.” That Terrill also voted with the House Democratic leader 60 percent of the time in non-procedural recorded votes probably didn't help.
The Sooner Tea Party drew a bull's eye on state Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, to no avail. Challenger Paul Blair's race proved that bitter, anti-business populism isn't a winner. Jolley won in a landslide.
State Rep. Marian Cooksey, R-Edmond, and state Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, were re-elected in the face of fierce Sooner Tea Party opposition. Mike Turner did defeat incumbent state Rep. Guy Liebmann, R-Oklahoma City, but new district lines played a role in that loss. In the 1st Congressional District, incumbent John Sullivan fell, but his personal problems have long made his tenure precarious.
Moving ahead, the Republican runoff in the 2nd Congressional District will draw statewide and national interest, but the extremely low turnout expected may lead some to again question if runoffs are worth taxpayer expense.
Overall, there is little evidence of an anti-incumbent mood in Oklahoma: 61 of 125 state House and Senate seats didn't draw challengers. Five-term Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony won a resounding primary victory Tuesday and faces no Democratic opponent, another indicator of voter satisfaction.
But there is plenty of evidence of the fringe status of the Sooner Tea Party — and its Democrat leanings — in its endorsements. They included Ryan Jernigan and Maurice Aldridge, who weren't even on the ballot. Neither was registered as a Republican six months prior to filing, as required by law. Both were bounced from legislative races months ago.