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Dean Rallies Oklahoma Democrats

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean urged Oklahoma Democrats Saturday to help rebrand the Democratic Party by focusing on fairness, toughness and fiscal responsibility.

Speaking at the Oklahoma Democratic Party State Convention at the Bricktown Event Center in downtown Oklahoma City, the former Vermont governor also praised state Democrats for helping to elect Democrats to eight of nine statewide offices in 2006.

``It was a big year for Democrats. It was a big year for you in Oklahoma,'' Dean said. ``We'd like to see that in some other places.''

While acknowledging Oklahoma's conservative voting record in presidential elections, Dean said voters are growing weary of the war in Iraq and the budget deficit and are eager for a president who will help unite the country.

``We need to focus on what we have in common, not what divides us,'' Dean said. ``We are all in this together.''

Oklahoma has not favored a Democratic presidential candidate in the general election since 1964.

But Dean said that could change if the Democratic Party embraces all voters, even those who traditionally vote Republican, like evangelical Christians. Issues like helping the poor, ending genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan and protecting the environment resonate with conservative Christians, Dean said.

``Evangelical Christians don't like corruption in government either,'' Dean said. ``They are Americans, too, and we are going to ask them for their vote.''

To be successful, especially in a state like Oklahoma, Dean stressed the importance of delegates returning to their home cities and towns and explaining to their neighbors why the vote for Democrats.

``This has to be piece by piece, door by door, precinct by precinct and vote by vote,'' Dean said. ``That's going to be more effective than any 30-second spot we can come up with.''

Dean then proceeded to list a handful of states where Democrats are gaining momentum, poking fun at himself for his attempt at a troop-rallying ``yeah'' after the 2004 Iowa caucus that became a laughable moment of his presidential campaign that year.

``The press won't like that I did that,'' Dean joked.

But Dean's overall message resonated with Brian Humphries, a delegate from Tulsa County who thinks Oklahoma voters are ready to vote for a Democratic candidate for president in 2008.

``I think Governor Dean really covers a lot of what we should be _ socially progressive and fiscally sound,'' Humphries said. ``I'm out in Tulsa County _ the reddest county in the reddest state _ but they're ready to vote for a Democrat.''

Gary Jones, chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, said Dean has little in common with Oklahoma voters and remained confident the GOP would win the state in 2008.

``Oklahomans will vote for a Republican in 2008,'' Jones said. ``When it comes down to it, I think I'd rather have our lineup of candidates than theirs.

Also on Saturday, Democratic delegates elected Ivan Holmes, 69, of Oklahoma City as the chairman of the state party. Holmes, a former journalism professor at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, will replace Lisa Pryor of Norman, who did not seek re-election. Holmes defeated Ben Odom of Norman, 366 votes to 258, party officials said.

Kitti Asberry of Oklahoma City was elected vice-chair, receiving 409 votes to Debbie Hogue-Downing's 209 votes.
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