1st District election could speed up congressional redistricting

Tuesday, December 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Efforts to draw new boundaries for Oklahoma's congressional districts could speed up following next month's special general election in the 1st Congressional District, lawmakers in charge of the process said.

``I think we could have a congressional plan in mid-January,'' said Sen. Kevin Easley, D-Broken Arrow, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Congressional Redistricting.

A redistricting plan could be ready to submit to the Legislature when it convenes the regular session on Feb. 4, said Rep. Loyd Benson, D-Frederick, chairman of the House Congressional Redistricting Committee.

An election is scheduled on Jan. 8 in the 1st District to name a replacement for U.S. Rep. Steve Largent, R-Okla., who is resigning Feb. 15 to run for governor.

``I would hate to trot something out until we have a final decision on the First (District)'' said Easley.

He said he would like to hear the new congressman's preferences for a district that includes Tulsa County. The 1st District includes all of Tulsa County and a portion of Wagoner County.

Work on congressional redistricting has moved slowly so far. The Legislature must draw a new map with five U.S. House of Representatives' seats instead of six because the state's population didn't grow enough in the past decade.

The map must be finished and passed by the Legislature before next year's congressional elections.

One thing of political interest to legislators will be whether the next congressman in the 1st District is a Republican or a Democrat.

Another issue is Tulsa officials want all of Tulsa County included in one district.

Oklahoma City is in parts of three districts _ the 4th, 5th and 6th, but that hasn't been a real concern to Oklahoma City officials, said Sen. Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City.

``I think most Oklahoma County legislators like the idea of having several congressmen,'' said Coffee, vice chairman of the Senate Congressional Redistricting Committee.

The real problem facing those who will draw the new map is having to put two incumbent congressmen into one district.

An earlier plan would have put Reps. Ernest Istook, R- Warr Acres, and J.C. Watts, R- Norman, in the same district.

Coffee said he doesn't know who would be pitted against whom when a congressional district map is completed and passed.

``My goal is what makes sense geographically and what is fair to a group of people in the district,'' he said.

In the Jan. 8 special general election in the 1st District, Sullivan will face Doug Dodd, a Tulsa Democrat, and independents David Fares and Neil Mavis, both of Tulsa.