Republicans Predict near Sweep in State Elections

Article excerpt

Republicans are boldly predicting a near sweep of the big prizes in the 1994 Oklahoma elections, but Democrats say they will at least hold their own.

With the end of the filing period for legislative, state and congressional offices, the chairmen of the Republican and Democratic parties were asked to assess their candidates' chances.

As expected, they had widely divergent views.

Clinton Key, Republican leader, said the GOP had an excellent chance of capturing the governor's chair, a second U.S. Senate seat and at least four _ and possibly five _ congressional positions.

In addition, Key predicted good gains in both the state House and Senate and the election of more state officeholders than ever before.

"This is without a doubt our greatest opportunity and the most important election that we have ever had," Key said. "I sense a great Republican year."

Hogwash, says Mike Turpen, Key's Democratic counterpart. Turpen said Democrats would not only retain the U.S. Senate seat that David Boren is relinquishing, but would hold on to the governor's chair and regain their 4-2 advantage in the U.S. House.

The reason Oklahomans will continue to support Democrats for the U.S. Senate and House, Turpen said, "is that most politics is local." In this case, it means that Democrats will be perceived as "more effective in getting things done" such as saving Tinker Air Force Base, Turpen said.

Turpen argues that Democrat Dave McCurdy, who is leaving his U.S. House post to run for the Senate, is the odds-on favorite in the Senate race. McCurdy faces a challenge from Corporation Commissioner Cody Graves in the primary.

On the Republican side, it will be a two-way battle between U.S. Rep. Jim Inhofe of Tulsa and state Rep. Tony Caldwell of Oklahoma City. Inhofe is giving up his 1st Congressional District seat to make the race.

Sharing the spotlight in the fall election will be the Republican and Democratic battles for governor.

Democratic incumbent David Walters is not seeking re-election, and Republicans think the controversy he generated during his term will tend to make many voters turn to the GOP nominee.

The wild card in the race is Democrat-turned-independent Wes Watkins, who is likely to hurt Democrats in some areas.

The Democratic candidates include Lt. Gov. Jack Mildren of Oklahoma City, state Sen. Bernice Shedrick of Stillwater and state Rep. Danny Williams of Seminole. Republicans include former Justice Department official Frank Keating of Tulsa and state Sen. Jerry Pierce of Bartlesville.

Key says adverse reaction to some of the policies of Democratic President Bill Clinton, including Clinton's health care program, will be a factor in GOP congressional victories.

Republicans have sewed up one congressional seat already, since no Democrats filed against incumbent Ernest Istook, R-Warr Acres, in the 5th Congressional District. But Istook does face an independent in the general election.

The GOP also counts the 6th Congressional District as a safe seat. Former state Rep. Frank Lucas of Cheyenne won the post this year in a special election. Three Democrats filed against him, but they are not well known.

Democratic Rep. Bill Brewster appears to be in good shape to win re-election in the 3rd Congressional District against two little-known opponents, one Democrat and one Republican. …