By Sean Murphy
OKLAHOMA CITY — Will he or won't he? Or can he?
Former Gov. Brad Henry has looked into whether he's eligible for a third term for governor and believes a change in Oklahoma's term-limits law that was made while he was in office doesn't apply to him, Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins said Thursday.
Collins said he asked the former two-term governor Wednesday night if he were mulling a run against Republican Gov. Mary Fallin in 2014. Henry didn't confirm or deny any such plans but said he believed he would be eligible for a third term, Collins said.
"When I first approached him about it, he kind of grinned and laughed. I thought maybe there was something there. He said: 'You never say never,'" Collins said after meeting with the former governor at a private fundraiser. "He didn't rule out the possibility that he was. I'd say he was keeping his cards pretty close to the vest, but his comment of 'never saying never' at least left the door open some.
"He has at least given it enough thought to figure out there was a legal way to do it," Collins said.
Telephone messages left Wednesday and Thursday at his Norman consulting business, which he runs with his former chief of staff, Gerald Adams, were not returned.
Henry, 50, of Shawnee, served two consecutive terms as Oklahoma's governor, winning elections in 2002 and 2006. At that time, the Oklahoma Constitution prohibited governors from serving "more than two times in succession." The constitution was amended in 2010 to limit any governor to no more than eight years in office, but it's not clear if that change could apply retroactively to Henry.
The nine-member Oklahoma Supreme Court, which likely would decide the issue, includes six justices appointed by Henry.
Henry's foray into the race for Oklahoma governor in 2014 would be a huge boost for Democrats and a monumental shake-up of what might otherwise be expected to be a safe re-election bid for Fallin, who has never lost a political race. Many high-profile Democrats in Oklahoma are strongly urging Henry to consider running, said Ben Odom, a Norman attorney and former vice-chairman of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.
"Behind the scenes there are some key players in the state urging Governor Brad Henry to run for governor, and heck, I'm one of them," Odom said.
Odom said Henry likely would spend some time weighing numerous factors before making a decision on whether to run.
"If you have tremendous name recognition and high positives, which he does, and you have your campaign network still reasonably intact, you can put together a campaign quickly. I think he could raise the first million dollars in a week," Odom said. "I think we'll know later rather than sooner."
Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said the governor would be ready to take on any challenger.
"I don't have any thoughts on his eligibility. That would be a question for lawyers and the courts to work out," he said.