A little piece of presidential politics comes to Oklahoma Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday when the state election board opens its books for the three-day filing period for the March 3 presidential primary.
The three days are also the filing period for February school board elections.
Oklahoma’s presidential primary has produced some interesting results and attracted some characters but has not been particularly predictive since its inception in 1988.
In 2016, for instance, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz finished first in a 12-candidate GOP primary, but Donald Trump was the party’s nominee.
In 2012, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum edged out eventual nominee Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
On the Democrat side, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ easy victory in 2016 shocked many Oklahomans and the rest of the country, and suggested the bulk of Oklahoma Democrats were no longer really Republicans who hadn’t changed their voter registration yet.
Previous Democratic winners have included Hillary Clinton in 2008 (trouncing Barack Obama on his way to the presidency) and former Gen. Wesley Clark in 2004 over North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who ultimately became the nominee.
Michael Dukakis, the Democrats’ 1988 nominee, finished a very distant third behind Al Gore and Dick Gephart in the first Oklahoma primary.
Oklahoma’s primaries have attracted some unorthodox candidates over the years.
Ku Klux Klan leader (and Tulsa native) David Duke has entered as both a Democrat (1988) and a Republican (1992).
In 2012, a strident abortion rights opponent named Randall Terry filed as a Democrat in Oklahoma and several other states in an attempt to embarrass Obama, who was seeking his second term. He brought in conservative commentator Ann Coulter to campaign for him in Tulsa and ran some attention-getting TV ads, but got 18% of the vote to Obama’s 57%.
Of bigger concern to Oklahoma Democrats was that fewer than 115,000 people voted at all, by far the smallest turnout ever for their primary.
Lyndon Larouche Jr., the long-time political provocateur who died in February, was on the Democratic ballot five times, maxing out at 6% in 2000’s three-way race.
Jim Rogers, a perennial candidate who campaigned chiefly by standing along interstate highways in the Oklahoma City area, twice entered the Democratic primary and got 13% of the vote in that 2012 Democratic train wreck.
Republican candidates have included the likes of immigration extremist Tom Tancredo, T-shirt magnate Bill Wyatt, evangelists Pat Robertson and Gary Bauer, and educator Isabel Masters, an Oklahoma City native and five-time presidential candidate.
This year’s presidential primary might not attract as many of those candidates as in the past: The filing fee for the 2020 primary has doubled to $5,000.