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The strife during the recent legislative session and the proliferation of candidates it produced are unlikely to lead to a major challenge to Republican control of state government, political observers speaking at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa said Friday.
“I’ll be shocked if there’s a net change of two seats either way,” Republican political consultant Pat McFerron said.
Others on a panel hosted by OU’s Political Communication Center and Julian P. Kanter Political Commercial Archive disagreed only slightly.
“You’re not going to see that (frustration) transformed into a tsunami,” said Michael Carrier, a former journalist and Democratic strategist now with the Political Communications Center.
Republicans hold majorities of 71-30 in the House and 39-9 in the Senate, and also hold all statewide offices.
“If you’re looking at goals, Democrats are not going to take over the Legislature any time soon,” said Democratic strategist Joe Hartman. “But, in the House, ... if you get to 34 (seats), and in two years you can elect a governor, you can uphold the governor’s vetoes (of Republican legislation). ... Right now, Democrats in the Legislature have almost no say in what goes on.”
McFerron said a generic Republican in an average state House district begins with an 18 percentage point advantage. In a presidential election year, he said, that advantage is likely to be larger.
City Councilor Anna America said the consultants may be underestimating voter sentiment, especially in regard to education.
“Everywhere I go, across the city, it’s an issue,” America said. “People care about education.”
America said she is a “known Democrat” who was elected from “the second-most Republican (city council) district” and was re-elected without opposition by focusing on local issues, including education. Elections for city of Tulsa offices are nonpartisan.
Much of the discussion Friday revolved around the presidential campaign and Republican nominee-apparent Donald Trump.
Some in the audience dismissed Trump as an “entertainer,” but panelists cautioned that such an attitude underestimates Trump’s ability to connect with voters.
“The fact he’s not a politician gives him the ability to say things that others can’t get away with,” McFerron said.
“A lot of polling shows people are more disconnected from the parties than ever,” said Republican operative Chad Alexander. “He’s tapped into voter anger.”
Alexander, who has ties to the Trump campaign, said it is a “myth” that it lacks the organization at the state and local levels typically needed to win a presidential campaign.