Session ends but no rest for some Oklahoma legislators; 19 races up for grabs in June 26 election
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
5/29/12 at 7:55 AM
The legislative session may be over, but there's little time for vacation for 20 legislators facing primary challenges on June 26.
In recent history, Oklahoma primaries have been in late July, giving incumbents about two months to knock doors following the Legislature's adjournment. A change in election laws, however, moved up the filing and primary deadlines to facilitate overseas absentee voting.
That would seem to put incumbents at something of a disadvantage, since it gives challengers more of a head start at all-out campaigning. Perhaps not coincidentally, three of the four Republicans who changed their votes on Thursday to get the budget bill through the House have potentially difficult primaries ahead.
In practice, relatively few potential candidates took advantage of the situation. Fifty-three House and seven incumbents drew no opponents at all this year, and two House vacancies were filled by newcomers who were the only filers for those positions.
Twenty other incumbents have only general election opponents.
Eighteen of the incumbents involved in primaries are defending their current seats. Rep. Jabar Shumate, D-Tulsa, is seeking the Senate District 11 seat being vacated by Judy Eason McIntyre, and Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, is in a six-way fight for the GOP's 2nd Congressional District nomination.
Shumate and former City Councilor Joe Williams are involved in the immediate area's only Democratic primary of note, but there are several GOP primaries that, individually and collectively, could have big consequences.
Three incumbent senators and three representatives are under attack, mostly from the right. In addition, Senate District 33 - now held by one of the Senate's most liberal members - is guaranteed to pass to a conservative.
SD 33 was moved from midtown Tulsa to Broken Arrow in the redistricting process, effectively retiring Democrat Tom Adelson and leaving three Republicans to sort out his successor in the primary.
Two-term Sen. Mike Mazzei, in southeast Tulsa's SD 25, has been challenged by Ronda Vuillemont-Smith, an ardent gun-rights and anti-health-care-reform activist who says Mazzei misses too much time at the Capitol. Mazzei, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, suffered a serious back injury in an auto accident several years ago.
Another two-term senator, Brian Crain in SD 39, has been labeled a liberal by his opponent, Kevin McDugle. McDugle has criticized Crain's votes on some economic development issues and for initially working on a health-insurance exchange that would bring Oklahoma into compliance with federal law.
Similar charges have been leveled against first-term Sen. Dan Newberry, whose SD 37 encompasses west Tulsa and Sand Springs. Newberry is being challenged by Mark Croucher, a Jenks insurance executive who ran for state insurance commissioner two years ago. Among other things, Newberry is being hammered by some elements of the party for voting against a proposed Sharia law state constitutional amendment two years ago. The amendment has since been thrown out by the courts.
Another west Tulsa lawmaker, Rep. Glen Mulready of House District 68, has heard similar criticism for carrying the original health-exchange bill in the House. A health insurance broker, Mulready is being challenged by another Jenks insurance agent, Darren Gantz, whose website opens to images of Mulready and President Barack Obama imposed side-by-side.
Rep. Weldon Watson is challenged in southeast Tulsa's HD 79 by Lois Jacobs, a Tulsa School Board member and tea party favorite.
Freshman Rep. Sean Roberts is up against a somewhat different situation in HD 36, which stretches across north Tulsa County and roughly half of Osage County. One of his two Republican primary opponents, Paul Nosak, might be considered somewhere to the right of Roberts, but his more serious challenge is likely to come from popular Collinsville Mayor Stan Sallee, who is more mainstream.
The Republican survivors in HD 36 and SD 39 have Democratic opponents in the general election, but the other races will all be determined in the GOP primary. All told, 18 legislative races will be determined by a Republican primary. One seat, HD 18 in Pittsburg County, will be decided in a Democratic primary.
Friday: Deadline to register to vote in primary election
June 26: Primary election
Aug. 3: Deadline to register to vote in runoff election
Aug. 28: Runoff election
Oct. 12: Deadline to register to vote in general election
Nov. 6: General election
Original Print Headline: Legislators in primary races get little rest
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365