Editor’s Note: This editorial first appeared in the June print edition of The Oklahoma Observer.
Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Connie Johnson has a problem. Actually, two problems – both involving name recognition.
First, Johnson, who’s served admirably for 2½ terms in the Republican-dominated state Senate, isn’t well known outside her northeast Oklahoma City Senate district.
Second, one of her two June 24 primary opponents has a “famous” Oklahoma name – Rogers.
It’s not Will Rogers, of course. Or even Cleta John Rogers. It’s Jim Rogers, perennial candidate who’s ridden the Rogers’ name a long ways politically for someone whose campaigning mostly consists of standing alongside Interstate 40 waving a homemade sign.
Rogers, a 79-year-old Midwest City resident, garnered 40% of the Democratic U.S. Senate primary vote in 2008 against another OKC-based state senator, Andrew Rice. He was the Democratic nominee against U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn in 2010. And he nearly collected enough votes in the 2012 presidential primary to earn delegates to the Democratic National Convention.
Little wonder Johnson publicly expressed concern, at last month’s Tulsa County Democratic Party luncheon, about what could happen in a typically low-turnout primary – especially with most media attention focused on the Republican side, whose seven candidates include U.S. Rep. James Lankford, former House Speaker T.W. Shannon and former state Sen. Randy Brogdon.
Her concern is justified. A few days after the luncheon, we fielded a call from a Democratic diehard – a former state lawmaker, in fact – who wasn’t familiar with any of the Democratic candidates seeking to replace Coburn, who is retiring.
Worse, a News 9/News On 6 Sooner Poll conducted May 5-10 found 76.3% of likely Democratic primary voters undecided, with Rogers [9.4%] and Johnson [9.2%] in a statistical dead heat.
Along with Johnson and Rogers, 39-year-old Patrick Michael Hayes of Anadarko will appear on the primary ballot. Hayes was choice of 5% of those surveyed.
The Observer does not endorse candidates, but it doesn’t take a political seer to recognize Johnson has the best chance – slim, though it may be – of turning Coburn’s seat blue.
She’s a redneck, right-wing Republican’s worst nightmare: An Ivy League-educated African-American woman who champions reproductive freedom, opposes the death penalty, and supports decriminalization of marijuana.
Moreover, her nomination could attract significant national support – especially if Republicans nominate someone of Shannon’s ilk. He’s so far right even a telescope would have little hope of spotting him.
[FYI: The Tulsa World quotes Hayes as saying he wants to ban same-sex marriage and repeal the Affordable Care Act. The Observer strongly supports marriage equality and ObamaCare, which we hope is the first step to single-payer health care system.]