Presidential primary sheds no new light in Tulsa County
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Thursday, March 08, 2012
3/09/12 at 12:21 PM
Correction: A Thursday Tulsa World graphic misspelled the name of President Barack Obama. The graphic accompanying this story has been corrected.
Read profiles of each Republican candidate, watch a video on Oklahoma's new voting machines and see all the election coverage.
Oklahoma's presidential primary election on Tuesday confirmed more than surprised.
Republican voters are almost evenly divided among the three leading candidates and are not entirely enthusiastic about any of them.
Rural Democrats, historically the backbone of the party, range from indifferent to intensely hostile regarding President Barack Obama.
The president won huge majorities in Tulsa and Oklahoma counties but lost 15 light-voting rural counties and finished third in five.
University of Oklahoma political science professor Keith Gaddie said the Democratic Party primary is "a symptom of a disease we already know the patient has."
"The rural Democratic party has collapsed," he said. "The urban Democratic party is getting organized."
Randall Terry, a candidate whose television ads called Obama a murderer and maniac and who on election night said the president is a "son of a b----," received 18 percent of the vote statewide.
Terry carried 12 counties, including seven in which he received fewer than 100 votes.
Jim Rogers, a perennial Oklahoma candidate whose campaign consists mostly of walking around in a sweatshirt with his name on it, received 14 percent.
Rogers carried three counties, including one - Ellis - in which he received only 41 votes.
The state Republican Party ridiculed Obama and the Democrats, chortling in a Wednesday morning news release that Oklahoma is "once again ahead of the curve," a reference to the president's poor 2008 showing in the state.
State Democratic Party Executive Director Trav Robertson fired back, saying that "the real point is that the Republican candidates came to this state, their super PACs spent ... millions and millions of dollars here, and they weren't able to energize their base in this state."
"The story is not about the Democratic Party and an uncontested primary," Robertson said. "It's about the Republicans."
The 112,691 people who voted in Tuesday's Democratic primary were the fewest since the state began holding primaries in 1988. It was also the first time more Republicans than Democrats voted.
But Terry was the only Democratic candidate to actively campaign in the state. He traveled extensively in the two weeks leading up to the election and aired scores of television ads.
Obama had no television or radio ads or campaign events of consequence.
The 286,298 votes in what was essentially a four-way Republican primary were the second-most on record but still well below the 335,054 in 2008, when John McCain and Mike Huckabee were the principal combatants.
Rick Santorum received the most votes in the Republican primary, but the close bunching of him, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich means none gained much of an advantage in the allocation of national convention delegates - which is what really counts.
Unofficially, Santorum is in line for 14 delegates, with Romney and Gingrich getting 13 each.
Because the state has three uncommitted automatic delegates - state party Chairman Matt Pinnell, national committeewoman Carolyn McLarty and national committeeman James Dunn - Santorum is not guaranteed of receiving more delegates than the other two.
The Democratic delegate situation is even murkier.
Generally, 45 of the state's 50 delegates would be allocated based on statewide and congressional district voting, with a 15 percent minimum required to receive a delegate.
Terry qualified for one statewide delegate and three congressional district delegates, and Rogers qualified in three congressional districts.
But state party rules also require candidates to submit slates of delegates in advance of the primary, which, reportedly, only Obama did.
Robertson would not comment on the situation, saying only that the party would abide by its existing rules.
Election official says office was thorough, not slow
Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Patti Bryant said her office's reports from Tuesday's presidential primaries lagged those from the rest of the state because its employees were being particularly careful.
"We just wanted to be accurate," Bryant said. "We would rather be accurate than fast."
At one point Tuesday night, 125 of 155 unreported precincts in the state were in Tulsa County.
"It's a new system," Bryant said. "We were doing some double-checking."
She said the local Election Board encountered no serious problems, although in one case 40 ballots were left in a machine after it was changed out with a second machine.
The Election Board received a steady stream of calls from people whose precincts had changed because of redistricting, Bryant said. About 90 provisional ballots were cast for various reasons, including a lack of proper identification.
Bryant said the Election Board received two absentee ballots without votes cast.
"One of them had written on it, 'None of these and none of the Republicans, either,' " she said.
Original Print Headline: Primary election sheds no new light
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365