Ambitious Bode Leaving After Spotty Political Career

Sunday, April 22nd 2007, 1:35 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ After 10 years of political ups in downs, Denise Bode is leaving as a member of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to head a foundation that will promote the use of natural gas.

``I think this is a wonderful opportunity to go change the world,'' Bode said Friday as she announced she is resigning effective May 31 to form the American Clean Skies Foundation.

She said the new group will operate primarily in Washington, D.C., joining the national debate over climate change and energy. Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. will be among its sponsors.

Among the foundation's top goals will be to persuade policymakers that natural gas offers the best solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Bode said.

Only 53, Bode has had a three decades of experience in the political realm.

She is a former Democrat who was general counsel to then-U.S. Sen. David Boren, specializing in energy and tax issues. Boren is now president of the University of Oklahoma.

After seven years as president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, she was plucked by Republican Gov. Frank Keating in 1997 to replace Democrat Cody Graves, who resigned from the Corporation Commission, which sets utility rates.

Over the next decade, she was on the Oklahoma ballot five times, winding up winning three races and losing two.

She ran successfully in 1998 to fill the final two years of Graves' six-year term and won two more statewide Corporation Commission races for full six-year terms.

In between those contests, however, she was beaten in bids for attorney general and for the U.S. House.

She lost to Democrat Drew Edmondson in the 2002 attorney general's race, getting only 40% of the vote.

In 2006, she was one of six GOP candidates running in the 5th Congressional District to replace Republican Ernest Istook, who ran unsuccessfully for governor.

Bode got about 19% of the primary vote in placing third behind three-term Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin, who thumped Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett in the runoff and easily won the general election over Democratic newcomer David Hunter.

If nothing else, Bode has shown she is not afraid to take a chance by opposing popular political veterans such as Edmondson and Fallin.

She said ``like every wildcatter,'' she is taking another gamble in her latest move, but feels it is ``the best way I can serve'' at this point in her career.

Explaining her races for attorney general and Congress, she said she loved her work with the Corporation Commission but she was ``a high-energy person'' who had the desire to make a difference in other areas.

``I think she is someone who is good at multitasking. She can work on a lot of different things at one time,'' said Gary Jones, state Republican chairman.

One of the reasons she ran for Congress, Bode said, was she wanted to be able to ``educate the public'' on the importance of having a strong, domestic energy program that spotlighted natural gas.

She called her political races ``a wonderful experience.''

Winning and losing elections, she said, ``really educates you in terms of how to deal with people.''

As a political candidate in Oklahoma, Bode stressed her conservatism on such issues as abortion and crime.

In Washington, where her husband, John, is an attorney, she will still be operating in a political atmosphere, but without partisan overtones, Jones said.

He agreed with Bode that the work of the Corporation Commission deals mainly with policy and governing and not partisan issues.

Jones predicted she would be successful in her new endeavor, saying she was considered an expert on energy matters as president of the IPAA even before she came back to Oklahoma.

``You generally don't have a track record like that unless you know what you are doing,'' he said.

Democratic Gov. Brad Henry said he will move quickly to name a replacement, who must stand for election in 2008 for the remaining two years on Bode's term.

In her resignation letter, Bode urged Henry to name someone with experience in energy matters.

Bode's appointment made the commission an all-Republican panel and the GOP will remain in the majority. Other members are veteran officeholder Bob Anthony, who sometimes clashed with Bode on utility issues, and fellow Republican Jeff Cloud, who joined the panel in 2002.