By Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – In 1978, Democrats in the Fifth Congressional District inexplicably nominated Jesse D. Knipp for the U.S. House. He was the quintessential unserious candidate. He humiliated the party of Jefferson.
U.S. Rep. Mickey Edwards, after just one term in Washington, won by a 4-1 margin in November.
Four years ago, Democrats in the U.S. Senate primary, turned down a credible young man named Mark Myles, handing their party nod to Jim Rogers, an unserious perennial candidate. Myles likely could not have beaten incumbent Tom Coburn in the general election, but he would have done more than stand on street corners holding a sign.
This year, state Sen. Connie Johnson of Oklahoma City gained 43.8 percent of the vote in the primary, seeking to replace Coburn. Behind her were a political unknown who garnered 20.8 percent … and perennial candidate Rogers, with 35.3 percent.
In the Legislature where she has served for eight years, Sen. Johnson has slowly endeared herself to her colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans. She is a liberal or a progressive, an advocate of the point of view that now predominates her party nationwide. She knows this is a red state but she is a happy warrior battling to present an alternative. A good person, she has a good heart and generous spirit.
For Democrats, there are two choices left in the runoff to decide who will face James Lankford in November. One of those is a buffoon in the tradition of Knipp; the other is a serious human being in the tradition of Fred Harris, Mike Synar, Jim Roth or Andrew Rice.
I knew or know each of those four men, respecting them for their passion. I know and admire Connie Johnson.
Elections can bring out the best or the worst in voters. When candidates are serious, and reasonably reflective of their respective parties and philosophies, elections are noble exercises. Even if pundits project one candidate or another as “odds-on favorite,” a serious election is good for us, and good our country.
Someone will win, someone will lose — hopefully conducting himself or herself with dignity and edifying us in the process.
The only way for Democrats to assure that Oklahoma voters have a serious and edifying November election is to nominate Connie Johnson.
NOTE: This is adapted from a commentary first printed in the August 7, 2014 edition of The City Sentinel.