Regional 2010 Campaign Review

Editor’s Note: As early voting gets underway now through November 1, Crain explores growing voter significance of the Southern Midwest that consists of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana.

Teaching children to be polite is viewed as critical, but they must be able to defend themselves as well.  As elementary as it may seem, it is a lot like the resounding messages in the 2010 campaign:  Speak up.  Vote.  Defend.

The cold realization in politics is that no candidate gets it done alone. Dr. Michael Logan, Professor of History at Oklahoma State University, says special interests messages take a long time to reach the general population.  Once they do, they are hard to combat.  

Attack ads are on the rise and many politicians and voters are not equipped to process or repeal them.  One just recently attacked Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln for voting 83% of the time with the President.

There is an idea that once we elect a representative, we can trust them to make decisions.  That is not a universally held notion, Dr. Logan said.  A secondary view is that a candidate represents the voter’s interest exclusively.

The problem with the second notion is that it does not allow a candidate independent thoughts. Instead, they must be a microphone for a particular district.  What is missing are the moderates.

Logan continued, “I would only challenge a candidate’s voting record on specific votes, absences or missed votes.  That’s the kind of thing you want to criticize.  Were they there to do the job and did they get results?”
Interestingly enough, a study of personality types found that as a group both politicians and serial killers scored the highest in areas such as superficial charm, exaggerated sense of self worth, glibness, lying, lack of remorse, and manipulation of others.

It takes a certain personality type to survive in some of these campaigns and against some of these candidates.  According to Dr. Logan, even those who have the best of intentions, often cannot fulfill their promises once elected.

2010 election results will have significant influence over who holds power in Washington next year and who will sit in the Oval office after 2012.  The Washington Post reports a total of 37 senate seats, 435 house of representative seats, and 37 governor seats open in this election.

Senate races in the lower Midwest, an area consisting of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana have historically received less attention than the I-70 corridor.

Of 16 elections in the lower region, only five were won by Democrats in the last election cycle. (Comparing Presidential, Gubernatorial and Senate races)  Of the four states, Republicans won all of the Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma elections, with the exception that Democrats won one race in both Oklahoma and Louisiana.

Election Highlights In Arkansas
Of the four state region, Arkansas is the most Democratic. (comparing presidential, gubernatorial, and senate races). As a result, there’s potential for substantial pressure from political groups who are not part of that Democratic minority. 

During the 2010 election debates last week at the University of Central Arkansas, Pat O’Brien, the Pulaski County Circuit Clerk and Democratic nominee for Secretary of State, said that he felt he had been queried more than any other candidate who has run for that office. He is currently running against Republican Mark Martin.

While Democrats in the state have come under intense scrutiny by the Republican Party for alleged misuse of state vehicles and funds, O’Brien has been one of the few to avoid formal charges. He plans to restrict state vehicle usage in the Secretary of State’s office if elected. “This plan is consistent with my previous record on open and accountable government,” he said. “We want to save taxpayer dollars by ensuring there is no abuse of vehicles.”

Although he continues to provide impressive service to tax payers, he remains vulnerable as a result of his party affiliations.

“There are rules about state and elected employees. The idea of doing political work on the job is not acceptable if you are a state or elected official. Outside of the regular 8-5, however, you can be who you want to be,” Dr. Logan said. “There are two notions that politicians play with. One is that I am not paid to represent the Department’s views on my private time and a second is that I don’t have to leave my identity behind at the office.”

He continued, “Politicians frequently display an official title to the benefit of their party leaders. As long as they are not on the job, there is nothing wrong with it. People may try to imply something is wrong, but it is not against the law to support another politician on your own time.”

That position is always going to be somewhat subjective, Dr. Logan said. It’s like being a judge. They should never be elected. As soon as you insert a judge into a campaign, you open the door to all kinds of shenanigans. In Oklahoma, it is unseemly in many cases because you have what should be nonpartisan representatives engaged in partisan activity.

When it comes to the Senate races, Arkansas has four candidates: Blanche Lincoln, (D), John Boozman (R), John Gray (G), and Trevor Drown (I).  All support transparency in political ads and cutting the budget. Only one in the four support Obamacare. The rest are for individual plans, such as getting rid of insurance companies or implementing a state mandated program.

“In 2010, will the five of the 16 elections drop to three or two Democrats and would that then be the bottom for Democrats and will they then start to come back to power? That is what we can’t say.  When you have a 16-5 divide between Republican and Democrat elections, well that looks like we are close to the bottom, if we are not there right now,” Dr. Logan said.  “Historians are terrible at looking at the future. I would just say that is part of the long standing development that is coming to a peek.”

Highlights of the Oklahoma Senate Race
In Oklahoma, if past numbers are any indication of future progress, Dr. Tom Coburn, a 62 year old physician and Republican, is certainly the favorite for the Oklahoma senate seat. His fundraising is also much more substantial than Democratic and Independent opponents.

“Coburn is a great example of how difficult it is to be a politician,” Dr. Logan said. “It’s an intellectual exercise for me to watch him try to accomplish something.  He’s beating his head against the wall, but he speaks effectively to his constituents.”

Coburn is a social and fiscal conservative.  He opposes deficit spending, gay marriage, and “pork barrel projects.”  He is pro-life, supports term limits, gun rights, and the death penalty.

Jim Rogers, a retired teacher, from Mid-West City is the Democratic nominee, who won with 66 percent of the vote.  Ronald Dwyer, an activist and Stephen Wallace, a businessman, both of Tulsa, are running as independent candidates and will be on the general election ballot.  This will be Coburn’s second and, by his choice, final term if elected.

Highlights of the Louisiana Senate Race
The race between David Vitter (R ) and Charles Melancon (D) for the Louisiana senate seat is going to be one of the most closely watched in the country according to sources in Louisiana.

Vitter, with a little more than $5 million, has more than double the amount of campaign funding than Melancon, with just over $2 million.
Vitter’s campaign is one that opposes wasteful government spending, implements a jobs plan, provides no pay raises for Congress, supports the right to bear arms and the Tea Party.

Melancon, a three time blue dog Democrat, was elected in 2004 and then re-elected two more times.  One of his leading platform initiatives is that he would like to bring honor back to Louisiana – whatever that means. 

Although he describes himself as a conservative, Vitter, a Harvard and Oxford-educated Rhodes Scholar, is said to be more reserved than Melancon, who has a wife named Peachy.  William Mcshan is the Reform Party candidate out of Louisiana, promising honest and accountable alternatives to establishment politicians such as Vitter.  Randall Todd Hayes, a libertarian, is working to make sure debates are open to more than just two candidates.

Hayes says half the states in which U.S. Senate or Gubernatorial debates are being held this year, at least one minor party or independent candidate has been included in at least one such debate.  He is running to make sure public forums are expanded to include more candidates so that voters can make better choices.

Highlights of Texas 2010 Elections
Although Rick Perry and Bill White are squaring off in the Governor’s race, there are no senate seats up for election in Texas.

Overall, of the 37 Senate races across the United States, 28 were previously won by Republicans and 9 by Democrats.  Of the four states reviewed, Arkansas and Oklahoma are the most similar to each other, with a Republican majority in the Presidential and a Democratic majority in the Gubernatorial race. Louisiana and Texas are similar in that they both share a Republican majority in previous Presidential and Gubernatorial elections.

About the Writer:

Tracy Crain is a print reporter and regular contributor to Tulsa Today. Throughout her career, she has served as a features writer, a web producer and a creative copywriter. An award winning journalist, her work has appeared in publications nationally, has aired on television stations across the country, and has been regularly featured on Sirius Satellite Radio. She has a Master‘s Degree in Journalism and advanced training in Psychology and Research from Memphis State.