A Battle of Good versus Evil
THE 2004 ELECTIONS WERE TOUTED AS THE MOST IMPORTANT IN years. Analysts predicting large voter turnouts were not disappointed when polls closed on November 2. Oklahoma was no exception. With a heated race for the U.S. Senate and a ballot loaded with salient referenda issues, voters in the Sooner State had ample reason to go to the voting booths. Churchgoing voters were reminded from the pulpit to make their voices heard. For many, casting a vote was more than a civic duty—it was a moral imperative.
Campaigning in Tulsa in August 2004, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Coburn said, “This is a battle for the culture of America, and I would describe it as a battle of good versus evil (Martindale 2004).” With moral issues such as the lottery, gaming, and gay marriage on the Oklahoma ballot, many voters probably agreed. Area churches and other organizations waging a values campaign led a charge to defeat several ballot measures. Despite the rhetoric and hard campaigning, however, not all conservative positions dominated when the polls had closed and the dust finally settled.
For decades most statewide and congressional offices were held by Democrats, who also controlled both houses in the legislature. This situation has reversed in the past decade; the majority of these offices now are held by Republicans. Oklahoma clearly has seen a shift in its electorate. Results from a poll conducted by the University of Oklahoma are indicative of these changes. Respondents were asked if they considered themselves Republican or Democrat. Overall, 43 percent considered themselves Republican and 41 percent identified as Democrats. The results are interesting in comparison with actual registration statistics, which show that 51 percent of registered voters are Democratic and only 38 percent are Republican (Casteel 2000).