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Republicans chasing relatively few votes in eastern Oklahoma congressional race

In the most closely watched congressional race in the state this year, six Republicans are vying for their party's nomination in a sprawling district where GOP voters can sometimes be hard to find.
by Chris Casteel Published: June 10, 2012

The six Republicans hoping to replace Oklahoma's only Democratic congressman are competing for a relatively small electorate in the eastern part of the state that is still dominated by registered Democrats.

In 2010, when six Republicans also vied for the GOP nomination in the 2nd Congressional District, fewer than 25,000 GOP voters went to the polls in a district of nearly 700,000 people and nearly 400,000 registered voters.

Turnout could easily be much higher in the primary on June 26, since some of the Republican candidates are well-funded and are vying for an open seat that the national GOP is targeting this year.

Working for votes

But the sprawling district, which includes all or part of 25 counties, has the candidates chasing GOP votes in places that few exist.

In McCurtain County, for instance, there are 2,277 registered Republicans, compared to 12,277 Democrats, according to the most recent Oklahoma Election Board statistics. In Pittsburg County, Democrats outnumber Republicans 18,291 to 5,540.

Rogers County, home to many people who work in Tulsa, is the only one in the district with more Republicans than Democrats. Overall, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than two to one — 259,813 to 109,627.

A political divide

Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, who is retiring, said, “The politics are a little bit different when you cross I-40.”

North of the interstate, many conservative Democrats just changed their registration to Republican — not so in the southern part of the district, long known as Little Dixie, he said.

Tom Montgomery, the chairman of the 2nd District for the Oklahoma Republican Party, said Democrats in the southern part of the district generally won't change their registration because local races are still traditionally dominated by Democrats.

“They want to be able to vote for sheriff or county commissioner,” Montgomery, of Muskogee, said, adding that the GOP is trying to make in-roads at the local political level.

Ideologically, however, “there's very little daylight between the Republicans and the conservative Democrats,” Montgomery said. “The majority of the Democrats are just as conservative as the Republicans at the national level.”

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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at a glance

Registration as of June 5:

• Democrats: 259,813

• Republicans: 109,627

• Independents: 39,429


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