The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

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July 31, 2013

Big-name Okla. Dems missing from 2014 elections

OKLAHOMA CITY — Three years after a Republican steamroll flipped all of Oklahoma's statewide elected offices to the GOP, few strong Democratic candidates are emerging to take on Gov. Mary Fallin and other high-ranking Republican incumbents.

A key deadline to file campaign finance reports ahead of the 2014 elections is Wednesday, and there hasn't been much movement by higher-profile Democrats. Most of those on the party's already thin political bench in Oklahoma appear to be taking a pass next year.

"If you're fishing for a name for a gubernatorial candidate, we're still fishing, too," Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins said bluntly.

An exception for Democrats is the state superintendent post held by Republican Janet Barresi, whose first term got off to a rocky start with highly publicized clashes with the state school board and resistance from local superintendents over some GOP education initiatives.

Collins said at least four Democratic challengers have emerged in that race. Barresi also is expected to face a primary challenge from Tulsa Republican Joy Hofmeister, a former state school board member.

Oklahoma City restaurateur Cathy Cummings, a Democrat, has announced plans to run against Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, but Collins acknowledges that viable candidates for some of the other statewide offices are few.

Meanwhile, Republicans are hoping to seize on the continuing momentum they've enjoyed for the past several election cycles by smashing the Democrats' last stronghold: local seats such as county commissioners, sheriffs and other posts.

"Not just county seats, but also municipal seats, school board seats," said new Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Dave Weston. "The government that means the most to you is the government that's closest to you, and we want to encourage conservative Republicans to get involved in their local government and make a positive difference."

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