It was supposed to be another sleepy election cycle in the Sooner State, where Republicans just inked into law a relatively noncontroversial new Congressional map that made only minor changes to the current House districts. But Rep. Dan Boren’s (D) surprise retirement announcement Tuesday kicks off the first competitive race in Oklahoma in almost a decade.
Boren’s seat is a great pickup opportunity for Republicans, and if the GOP can pick up this seat, they will control the entire seven-member Congressional delegation.
The new Congressional map mostly shifted around parts of counties in some of the state’s rural districts and suburban areas. Every House Member in the delegation — the four Republicans and Boren — signed off on the changes to their districts before the Legislature passed the map and Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed it into law
Incumbent: John Sullivan (R)
5th term (77 percent)
Rating: Safe Republican
Sullivan is about as safe as they come. He has won with a greater percentage of the vote every cycle since he was first elected in 2002 to succeed former Rep. Steve Largent (R) in a special election. The five-term Republican is looking at an easy re-election bid thanks to minor changes to his Tulsa-based district.
The 1st district ceded part of Rogers County, which includes conservative suburbs east of Tulsa, to the 2nd district. Democrats used to have a hold on this area when Rogers County’s most famous native son, entertainer Will Rogers, delivered his famous quote: “I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat.” But that’s not the case any more — it’s heavily Republican territory.
Regardless, the loss of those parts of Rogers County probably won’t even make a dent in Sullivan’s increasingly large winning percentages.
Open seat: Dan Boren (D)
Boren’s unexpected announcement that he would not seek another term creates a prime pickup opportunity for Republicans, who have long lusted after this eastern Oklahoma district but failed to find a good candidate in recent cycles.
On the national level, this district has been good to Republicans. In 2008, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won the 2nd with 66 percent of the vote, and President George W. Bush won re-election there with 59 percent of the vote — big margins that rarely constitute a competitive seat, let alone one held by a Democrat.
But the area known as “Little Dixie” has a long history of voting for Democrats on the local level. In 2010, a terrible year for Democrats, Boren slipped by with a respectable 57 percent and several local Democratic state lawmakers won re-election.