Women have 50-50 chance for now in US Congress race in Oklahoma

Saturday, December 10th 2005, 5:54 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ There's a good chance a woman will be elected next year from Oklahoma's 5th Congressional District.

A woman has not served in Congress from Oklahoma since Alice M. Robertson of Muskogee, a Republican, was elected in 1920. She was the country's second congresswoman and the first to preside over a session of the U.S. House.

Oklahoma County Court Clerk Patricia Presley's entry into the race last week brought to six the number of declared candidates in the 5th District.

Of that number, three are females _ one Democrat and two Republicans. And they all are considered substantial candidates.

Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin, with a track record of winning three statewide elections, is the early favorite in the Republican contest.

The other woman seeking the GOP nomination is Corporation Commissioner Denise Bode, who also has been victorious in a statewide campaign.

Also running are Republican Fred Morgan, term-limited former leader of the state House of Representatives; former state Rep. Bill Graves and Bert Smith, the 2004 Democratic nominee.

Republican Charlie Meadows had announced, but last week dropped out of the race to succeed Ernest Istook, who is running for governor.

Presley's announcement drew attention because she recently converted from Republican to Democrat. She is in the middle of her third term as county clerk and was unopposed in 2004.

She said she was a moderate Republican and will be a moderate Democrat who can work with both sides.

The former Republican praised Democratic Gov. Brad Henry, who is being challenged by Istook. She said Henry is ``an excellent example of a leader who works with both parties to unite and not to divide'' and said ``that's the type of congresswoman I will be.''

Presley said she would not have gotten into the race if she did not think she could win.

``I think that 2006 will be a good year for Democrats and a lot of things are in my favor. I think there are probably a lot of Republicans in the 5th District who are somewhat disenchanted with what they see of the men and women in Congress.

``I am talking in terms of bribes that were recently brought to light and the Congress people who get up to Washington and vote either with the administration or some way other than their district wants them to vote.''

She said she would not be a rubber stamp for the president or her party.

Democratic state Chairwoman Lisa Pryor said Presley's move shows ``the pendulum is moving over to the Democrats, particularly in Congress.''

However, the 5th District has long been a GOP stronghold in the state and the Republican nominee will likely be the favorite in the general election.

In 2004, Istook got 66 percent of the vote in defeating the underfunded Smith, who has a Web site erected for a second bid, but has yet to formally announce his candidacy.

``He's running quietly right now,'' said campaign aide Chris Hildenbrand, who said a formal announcement will probably be made in January. ``He's certainly wiser than he was last time. I think it will be a much different campaign.''

Other Democrats looking at the race include former Lt. Gov. Jack Mildren and Jim Meyer, Oklahoma City businessman.