Legislative races top $3.8 million

Monday, September 27th 2004, 6:11 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ More than $3.8 million poured into the campaign coffers of state legislative candidates before July's primary elections, according to an analysis of state Ethics Commission filings.

Most of the money _ nearly $2.17 million _ went to campaigns for the House of Representatives, where control of the 101-member body is at stake.

House Democrats, who outnumbered Republicans 53-48 at the start of the 2004 legislative session, outraised their GOP counterparts in the preprimary days by about $73,000.

``There's never enough money,'' said Jari Askins, a Duncan Democrat who will become the first woman Speaker of the House in Oklahoma's history if her party retains control.

``Campaigns are becoming more and more expensive, mainly because the cost of everything has gone up.''

Since statehood, the Democratic Party has controlled both chambers of the Legislature, with the exception of one session. Republicans controlled the House during the 1921-22 session.

But during the past decade, Republicans steadily increased their membership in the House and Senate. The gap especially narrowed in the House, where the GOP has increased its membership by 16 since 1990.

``I don't think anyone enjoys raising money,'' said House Minority Leader Rep. Todd Hiett of Kellyville, the Republican choice to become Speaker of the House if the GOP gains control. ``The bottom line, even if you have a quality candidate, you can't convince 35,000 people in a House district to vote for your candidate without getting out your message. And it takes money to communicate that message.''

Sen. Mike Morgan, a Democrat from Stillwater and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, led all candidates in fund-raising before the primary. He raised $184,861.

Morgan faces Stillwater Republican Chuck Brewer in the general election for Senate District 21. Brewer had raised $75 before the primary, but his accounts have since increased to more than $5,000.

In Tulsa, the race to replace longtime Sen. Penny Williams, D-Tulsa, is already the most expensive race in the 2004 election.

Candidates in the Democratic primary raised more than $200,000 before the primaries. Tulsa Attorney Tom Adelson raised $127,511, while opponent Tim Gilpin brought in more than $77,000.

Adelson beat Gilpin in the primary, winning 52 percent of the vote.

``It was a heavily contested primary,'' Adelson said. ``Unfortunately, I spent every bit of that, and I had to start all over for the general election.''

Now Adelson must face a Tulsa Republican with a famous name and plenty of money. Dewey Bartlett Jr. is the son and namesake of the man who was Oklahoma state senator from 1962-66, governor from 1966-70 and U.S. senator from 1972-79.

Bartlett, who won the Republican primary with 73 percent of the vote, had raised $129,109 by July 27.