Failure for Oklahoma Democrats to field a gubernatorial candidate in the next several months would result in the Democratic Party no longer being recognized as a political party.
Any Democratic challenger to Republican Gov. Mary Fallin will be nearly $1 million behind, according to a campaign report filed Wednesday, the deadline for the April 1 — June 30 reporting period.
Fallin reported having $970,580 on hand as of June 30, according to her report. She has raised about $1.1 million so far, which includes forwarding $216,027 from her campaign fund for 2010. Her campaign report shows she raised $547,688 and spent $178,381 during the past quarter.
She spent nearly $4.1 million in her successful 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
A state law that took effect in 1975 requires any recognized political party whose nominee for governor or for presidential and vice presidential electors fails to receive at least 10 percent of the votes cast in a November general election shall cease to be a recognized political party.
“That will help us intensify our search,” Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins said Wednesday. “It would be a terrible thing if we didn't have any candidate.”
“Obviously, as Republicans we'd like to see that happen,” Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Dave Weston said. “Not a lot of people are rushing to go sign up to get their heads beat in.”
Collins, a former state lawmaker, said the law was intended to keep third parties that failed to generate much support from clogging up the ballot. None of the two major political parties ever came close to not gaining at least 10 percent of the vote since the law took effect.
Democrats have yet to field a gubernatorial candidate, a rarity in a state where political fights historically showcased multiple Democrats and few Republicans. But that has changed as Republicans have gained in numbers and in 2010 Republican candidates captured all eight statewide seats up for office in the November general election, giving the GOP control of the governor's office and the Legislature at the same time for the first time. Republicans hold all 11 statewide elected positions.
Collins made a trip Wednesday to Tulsa to meet with a group about recruiting a possible gubernatorial contender.
Democrats still have time to field a gubernatorial contender. The filing period is April 9-11.
Brad Henry, then a state senator from Shawnee, didn't enter the 2002 governor's race until late November 2001. He finished second in the August primary election, won the September runoff and then went on to win in November. He easily won re-election in 2006.
Collins said he is confident his party will find a gubernatorial contender. Getting at least 10 percent of the vote won't be a problem, he said.
Democrat Jim Rogers, who raised no money and got his message out by holding up signs at busy intersections in Midwest City, won 26 percent of the vote in 2010 in a bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee.
Republicans continue to make gains in the number of registered voters in Oklahoma. As of June 30, 45 percent of the state's 1.97 million registered voters were Democrats, 43 percent were Republicans and 12 percent were independents. As of Jan. 14, about 46 percent were Democrats and 42 percent were Republicans; a year earlier Democrats made up 47 percent.
Republicans have been making gains for the past 50 years in Oklahoma. The last Democratic president to carry Oklahoma was Lyndon Johnson in 1964. President Barack Obama, a Democrat, failed to win any of the state's 77 counties both in 2008 and in 2012; Twenty years ago, Democrats made up 63.7 percent of the registered voters.