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Oklahoma elections: How red is the state?

Does the GOP sweep on Tuesday make Oklahoma the reddest state in the nation?
BY CHRIS CASTEEL Published: November 7, 2010

Maybe Oklahoma, where the state's name means red man, should look for an Indian word for red voter.

After a 2008 election that gave Barack Obama his worst percentage in the nation, Tuesday's balloting in Oklahoma wiped out every Democrat already in a statewide office or seeking one and increased the Republican majority in both houses of the Legislature.

But is Oklahoma, which was ruled by Democrats not that long ago, now the reddest state?

"Absolutely," said U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore.

"We could quibble about Utah."

Is Utah redder?

"Absolutely, no question in my mind," said Dave Hansen, chairman of the Utah Republican Party.

"We had kind of a blip in 2008 when we kind of lost our minds a little bit."

That year, Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee for president, got only 62 percent of the vote and actually lost the state's biggest county, the first Republican to do so since 1964.

But, Hansen said, all of the statewide officeholders are Republican, and the Republican governor was re-elected on Tuesday with 64 percent of the vote over the Salt Lake County mayor.

Utah does, however, have a Democratic congressman, Rep. Jim Matheson, who won re-election Tuesday with just 51 percent of the vote.

Oklahoma also has one Democratic congressman, Rep. Dan Boren, of Muskogee, who also won re-election Tuesday.

Does Boren think Oklahoma is the reddest state?

"We're either number one, or in the top two," he said. "Maybe Idaho" would be redder.

Yep, no contest, said Norm Semanko, chairman of the Idaho Republican Party.

Idaho's only Democratic member of Congress was defeated Tuesday, and all of its statewide officials are Republican.

"I don't think a state even qualifies for the discussion unless 100 percent of its congressional delegation and 100 percent of its statewide officers are Republican," Semanko said.

"Then, the state Legislature would be the tiebreaker. We are 57-13 (House) and 28-7 (Senate), or a total of 85-20. I understand that we have the most Republican Legislature in the country. If so, how does anyone beat that resume?"

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U.S. Rep. Dan Boren
Boren, the only Democrat in Oklahoma's congressional delegation, got 56.5 percent of the vote on Tuesday, a healthy margin of victory, but far below what he has come to expect. His lowest general election margin before Tuesday came in his first race, in 2004, when he got 66 percent. In 2006, he got 73 percent and, in 2008, he got 70 percent. But Boren, of Muskogee, was "ecstatic" that people who may have wanted to vote a straight Republican ticket took the time instead to mark their ballots for him in his race against Republican Charles Thompson. Boren predicted two years ago that this would be a tough race if a Democrat won the presidency. Presidential midterm elections are always tough on the party in power, and President Barack Obama made 2010 even more so. Boren spent more than $1.5 million in the last two years to protect his seat. Thompson, of Hulbert, hasn't kept up with his campaign finance filing requirements, but the last report he filed, in August, showed he had spent less than $25,000.

Sen. Jim Inhofe
Inhofe, R-Tulsa, said he was "just in shock" that Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski may pull out her race after running as a write-in candidate. The race is expected to take weeks to sort out, but the write-in candidates — led by Murkowski — finished ahead of Republican Joe Miller, a Tea Party favorite endorsed by Sarah Palin, and Democrat Scott McAdams. If Murkowski, a Republican, returns, Inhofe said, "she's not going to be very happy with me because I was pretty active in that race" for Miller. Inhofe predicted in Oklahoma City in August that Republicans would pick up as many as 13 seats; they gained six.

Sen. Tom Coburn
Coburn, R-Muskogee, carried his home county on Tuesday, something he didn't do when he won his first Senate term in 2004 against Democrat Brad Carson. Coburn said he's prepared to continue being a thorn in the side of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who survived a brawl with a Tea Party candidate. "I'm not going to change anything I do,'' said Coburn, who routinely blocks legislation that Reid tries to pass through the Senate fast-track process. "I'm going to get more people to do what I do." Coburn said the assumption that he and Reid don't get along personally is wrong. "I just exasperate him,'' Coburn said.

Rep. Frank Lucas
Lucas, R-Cheyenne, who will lead the House Agriculture Committee next year because of the GOP takeover, will have a very different panel in 2012. Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said 13 of the 28 Democrats on the committee lost on Tuesday and another didn't seek re-election to the House. Lucas said he expects to spend 2011 getting the new members up to speed and conducting oversight before doing the hard work of writing a new farm bill in 2012.



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