Oklahoma Democrats hope to halt GOP’s rural dominance

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: September 13, 2009 at 9:57 am •  Published: September 13, 2009
Advertisement
;
Democratic and Republican leaders say whoever wins next month’s special House District 55 race may not necessarily signal how candidates will fare in the 2010 statewide and legislative elections.

"I don’t think you can base any trends based on one race especially out in a rural area like that,” state Republican Party Chairman Gary Jones said.

Democrat Larry Peck of Sentinel and Republican Todd Russ of Cordell advanced to the Oct. 13 general election after last week’s primary elections for the district that covers Washita County and parts of Caddo, Canadian and Kiowa counties. Each seeks to succeed Ryan McMullen, a Democrat, who recently accepted a federal agriculture post.

A Democrat has represented House District 55 since 1965.

"We’re cautiously optimistic,” state Democratic Party Chairman Todd Goodman said. "It’s been a Democratic seat for a long-standing time.”

GOP direction grows
Republicans have made steady gains in the House, claiming the majority after the 2004 elections. Their margin has increased from 57-44 after Republicans won the majority in the 2004 elections to 61-40 after the 2008 elections.

Republicans have made progress in claiming rural House seats west of Interstate 35, picking up eight seats since 2004. Only three rural seats west of I-35, including House District 55, were held by Democrats during this year’s legislative session.

"Democrats have obviously gone to the left and more liberal than what they have in the past,” Jones said. "They’re going a different direction than what the citizens of Oklahoma are going.”

"It’s no secret that western Oklahoma’s kind of been trending away from the Democratic Party for a number of years,” Goodman said. "But it starts with the candidate and Larry Peck is a great candidate.”

Russ won nearly four out of every five Republican votes cast in the western Oklahoma district while Peck won more than three out of four votes in his race.