Democrats, Republicans vie for control of Oklahoma Legislature


Wednesday, August 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The battle for political control of the Oklahoma Legislature begins Aug. 27 when 100 candidates will vie for their party's nomination in primary elections for seats in the House and Senate.

Republicans believe their primary hopefuls will help the GOP build on gains made two years ago, when Republicans picked up eight seats in the House and three in the Senate.

The GOP could take control of the House for only the second time in state history. There are 52 Democrats and 49 Republicans in the 101-member House. Republicans last controlled the House in 1922.

``There's a lot of excitement in the Republican Party right now because people think we're going to be in the majority,'' said state Republican Party chairman Chad Alexander.

``I think it's likely. I think it's more likely than the Democrats retaining the majority.''

But state Democrats said they have assembled the finest cadre of primary candidates in a dozen years and will increase their majority in the House and Senate, where Democrats hold a 30-18 majority over Republicans.

``I am more pleased with our crop of candidates across the board,'' said state Democratic Party chairman Jay Parmley. ``I think we'll still control both when it's over.''

The party in control of the Legislature also controls the state's purse strings, giving them an important edge in shaping state government priorities.

The most heated primary campaigns are being fought in open seats where incumbents are not seeking re-election. Twelve Democrats and two Republicans in the House are not running again. Three Democrats and two Republicans did not seek re-election in the Senate.

Twenty-four candidates face primary election campaigns for eight seats in the Senate. There are 76 primary election candidates for 28 House seats.

Candidates not receiving a majority of votes in the primary will be in the Sept. 17 runoffs.

In the Senate, Democratic and Republican primaries are scheduled for the District 40 seat being vacated by Sen. Brooks Douglass, R-Oklahoma City, and the District 28 seat held by Sen. Kelly Haney, D-Seminole, who is running for governor.

Six candidates are seeking the Republican nomination in District 40, led by Tina Majors, a former worker in Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin's office, and Bill Shapard Jr., who once worked for U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts.

Other candidates are Cliff Branan, Greg Palumbo, Phil A. Hughes and Robert Godwin.

Steve Harry, who lost to Douglass 12 years ago, and Pat Potts will face each other in a Democratic primary for the seat.

In District 28, Jim Walker and Jim Wise are seeking the Democratic nomination. Joe Dobry and Harry Coates are seeking the Republican nomination.

Republicans David Myers and Ralph Meade will face each other in a primary election for the District 20 seat being vacated by Sen. Paul Muegge, D-Tonkawa. Myers narrowly lost to Muegge four years ago.

The winner will face Democrat Tom Leonard, mayor of Ponca City, and independent Den Coates in the general election Nov. 5.

Former state Sen. Roy Boatner and former state House employee Jay Paul Gumm are vying for the Democratic nomination for the District 6 seat being vacated by Sen. Billy Mickle, D-Durant. The winner will face Republican Stuart Rustin.

In the House, five candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination for the District 1 seat of retiring Rep. Terry Matlock, D-Garvin. They are Larry Taylor, Jerry Ellis, Doc Sarratt, Kerry Woolly and Gerald Huckleberry.

The winner will face Republican Wenda Blankenship and independent Bill Kysar.

Either Ron Gragg, Terry Harrison, Barbara Gilbertson or Louis Smitherman will be the Democratic nominee for the District 18 seat being vacated by Rep. Lloyd Fields, D-McAlester, who is running for labor commissioner. The winner will face Republican Angela Hendrix.

Quinton Jones, Chuck Downs and John Carey, are seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat of Rep. Jim Dunegan, D-Calera, who is running for governor. The winner will face Republican Todd Sisk.

One of four Republicans will battle Democrat Rick Kibbe, a school superintendent, for the District 61 seat of retiring Rep. Jack Begley, D-Goodwell.

They are Shawn Lepard, executive director of ProAg, which promotes agriculture in the region; Gus Blackwell director of the Baptist Student Union at Panhandle State University; Vickie McKinnon, a counselor at Guymon High School and retiree Stanley D. Stump.

J. Devon Jones and Neil Mavis are seeking the Republican nomination for the District 66 seat of retiring Rep. Russ Roach, D-Tulsa. The winner will face Democrat Lucky Lamons, a Tulsa police officer.

In District 63, David Butler and Richard T. Lockhart are seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat being vacated by Rep. Loyd Benson, D-Frederick. The winner will face Republican Don Armes.