If they were eggs, they'd fill a carton; if they were months, they'd comprise a year.
Just four years after losing the majority in the Senate for the first time, the roster of Democrats in the Oklahoma Senate is only 12 names long.
“Some people call us the ‘Dirty Dozen,' other people have other names for us,” said Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage, D-Claremore. “We're down from 16 last year, but I think our task remains the same, which is to be an alternative voice in this state Capitol.”
Since its founding days, Oklahoma was a bastion for the Democratic Party — the party of the farmers, the unions and the party of the South.
Democrats won 18 of the 21 gubernatorial elections since statehood in 1907 and held a stronghold during the years of the Great Depression and immediately thereafter.
But the last Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state was Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and President Barack Obama failed to win any of the state's 77 counties in 2008 or 2012.
Democratic identification among registered voters in Oklahoma dropped from almost 64 percent 20 years ago to about 46 percent today.
Democrats in the Senate today said they remain hopeful despite the three-to-one mismatch.
“Good legislation will make it through,” said Sen. Tom Ivester, D-Sayre. “Obviously we've got policy differences, but we've also got good bills.”
In the 49th Legislative session, which ran two years beginning in 2003, 462 of 555 Senate bills sent to Gov. Brad Henry were from his fellow Democrats. Party representation during that session was in favor of Democrats 28-20.
In the 53rd Legislative session, which ran two years beginning in 2011, 51 of 372 Senate bills sent to Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, came from across the aisle. Party representation during that session was in favor of Republicans 31-17.
Of the 1,119 bills filed in the Senate this year, 184 were filed by Democrats.
They shape the party's policy agenda: Increased pay for teachers, school support staff and state employees; easier access to voting; more accountability and oversight of budgetary decisions made by the Legislature.
Together, they support restoring public education funding to its 2009 levels and they are critical of a Republican plan to cut the state's personal income tax rates.
Senate Bill 185 would amend a state law that requires abstinence to be a primary focus of sexual education classes in schools.
Senate Bill 777 would require the expansion of Medicaid to eligible Oklahomans, despite clear rejection of any such expansion by Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, last fall.
Sen. Constance Johnson filed a bill that would investigate the state's use of the death penalty, a bill that would relax sentencing and punishment for possession of certain amounts of marijuana, and another one that would authorize marijuana use for medical purposes.
Johnson, D-Forest Park, said she and her Democratic colleagues take their mission seriously, despite the odds stacked against them.
“I think you go forward believing in the process,” she said. “That's what you have to believe in — that it's worth putting out there a proposal and the process is what you're supposed to use to get it heard.”
And though they're small in numbers, the “Dirty Dozen” boast 80 years of combined legislative experience.
Nine of the 12 have served in the Senate at least six years. Sen. Jerry Ellis, D-Valliant, joined in 2008 but before that served five years in the House of Representatives.
One of the two freshmen Senators — Sen. Jabar Shumate, D-Tulsa — was first elected to the House in 2004.
‘Forget about party'
Most of them are holdovers from when the Democratic Party held the majority in the Oklahoma Legislature, said Sen. Randy Bass.
“We know what it's like to be in charge and in control,” Bass, D-Lawton, said. “We were tied a few years and things worked out when we were tied because we had to work together, we had to compromise. And then the Republicans took over.”
And if they dropped from majority to a handful in just five years, he said, who is to say in another five they won't win it back?
“The thing is, people need to just forget about party and they need to think about what's good for their districts,” Ellis said. “There's good and bad about both parties.”