Oklahoma Corporation Commission Chairwoman Patrice Douglas' decision to run for Congress opens up a six-year term on the three-person commission, and the list of possible candidates to replace her is already lengthy.
Douglas, an Edmond Republican, announced Tuesday she will run for the 5th Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. James Lankford, who plans to run for the U.S. Senate.
Corporation commissioners run statewide for six-year terms. Because of its closeness to the energy and telecom industries, the office has historically been a springboard for ambitious Oklahoma politicians, including former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts.
Aside from oil and gas and utility regulation, the Corporation Commission oversees railroad crossings, trucking, cotton gins and tow trucks.
“It's a tough job,” said Chad Warmington, president of the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association. “There's a steep learning curve. Our members are hopeful to get someone in there who knows the issues and can work well with the other commissioners.”
For groups frequently before the commission, the office is important because it deals with many areas of public policy, including consumer issues and the environment.
“Our hope is we will see a candidate who is respectful to the environment of Oklahoma, will properly regulate the oil and gas industry and not use the office for craven political ambitions,” said David Ocamb, president of the Oklahoma Sierra Club.
Among the possible candidates for the Corporation Commission seat are several state senators, including Republican Sen. Cliff Branan, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, and Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City.
On the House side, Rep. Colby Schwartz, R-Yukon, and Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne, also might be interested in the post. They either declined to comment or did not return calls Tuesday.