Next week is shaping up to be the official start of the political season in Oklahoma. Republicans have begun playing the music to set their game of musical chairs in motion. I look to be busy updating and rearranging the Oklahoma Candidates 2006 web page.
Much of the game revolves around 5th District Congressman Ernest Istook’s position. Political wonks are betting that Istook will formerly announce his candidacy next week to challenge Gov. Brad Henry for Oklahoma’s CEO job. Such a decision by Istook will all but squash the chances of already announced GOP gubernatorial hopefuls Bob Sullivan and James Williamson.
A void in the 5th District is expected to draw the attention of more than a few aspiring conservatives, not the least of which is Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin. It’s no secret Fallin wants something more than being Lt. Governor, but literally, and figuratively, doesn’t have the gonads to go after Henry. The buzz is Fallin will jump for a chance at Istook’s seat.
Democratic House leader Jari Askins, isn’t waiting for a Fallin decision and has set her sights on Fallin’s job. Askins has made her mark as a strong law and order politician with experience on the bench and in Corrections. Her current time as state representative draws to a close with term limits. Askins should prove to be a formidable candidate statewide.
GOP House Speaker Todd Hiett is also ending his service as representative and is looking for a new home. Rumors were that Hiett has long considered making a run for Governor, especially after J.C. Watts bowing out of contention, but I always thought Hiett figured Gov. Henry was more than he could handle due to the governor’s unshakable performance in the last legislative session. I see Hiett betting on Henry and grabbing an office that serves as a stepping stone to the gubernatorial race after Henry’s final term.
Oh, and Brenda Reneau has decided to run again, which means she will keep her position as Labor Commissioner. Even with her poor performance in representing Oklahoma workers, there are no credible Democrats that could beat her at the game.
While Republicans are getting the bulk of attention now, state Democrats are in a good position to make gains in the next election. The gold-plated GOP image has begun to tarnish nationally, and as has often been the case, the successful political dance of Democrats will depend on how many of their own feet they shoot.
And I’m sorry to say that Independent and third party candidates are again not in a position to threaten the established duopoly this election cycle. It’s going to take some unifying effort of the fragmented political fringe to catch the attention of voters, and I don’t see that unification happening this time. Perhaps in 2008, if
they’re we’re lucky.