STATE Senator says all of Tulsa County should be in 1st District

Sunday, August 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ All of Oklahoma's congressional districts will expand when legislators approve a redistricting proposal, but one lawmaker says he will work to keep all of Tulsa County in the 1st District.

State Sen. Kevin Easley, D-Broken Arrow, believes the city of Tulsa and Tulsa County would benefit from having more than one congressman. But after speaking with city and county leaders, he decided to work to keep the entire county in the 1st District.

``Tulsa wants only one congressman,'' Easley said. ``I personally think that's a mistake.''

Oklahoma is losing one of its six congressional seats because its population grew at a slower rate than other areas of the country, according to the 2000 census. The Democrat-controlled Legislature is expected to map out a redistricting plan during a special session in September.

Easley, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on congressional redistricting, said all five districts will grow and that the average district population will increase by 150,000 people, from 540,000 to 690,000.

Gov. Frank Keating has proposed a plan that combines the districts of Republican Reps. J.C. Watts and Ernest Istook but leaves largely intact the 1st District seat his wife is seeking.

Keating's Secretary of State, Mike Hunter, presented the proposal to members of Oklahoma's predominantly Republican congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., last month.

Hunter said the plan is not an attempt to promote Cathy Keating's political future. Mrs. Keating is running for the Tulsa-area seat held by Rep. Steve Largent, R-Okla, who has said he will resign Nov. 29 to run for governor.

Istook, chairman of the Treasury, Postal Service and General Government Subcommittee of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, has said the redistricting process has been ``dramatically complicated'' by the loss of a congressional seat and Mrs. Keating's candidacy.

Easley said he was not trying to please the governor by supporting a plan that keeps the 1st District intact. He also said Oklahoma City and Oklahoma County likely will be split again into several districts.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Scott Pruitt, who also is running for the 1st District seat, said he would oppose any plan to split Tulsa County.

``This is not in the best interest of Tulsa,'' said Pruitt, R-Broken Arrow. ``As a member of the committee, I will not support any such concept.''

He said the question should not be which two congressmen end up running for the same district, but rather what is the right thing for Oklahoma