Will Coburn Go Unchallenged?

Image of U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn

Will U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn go unchallenged by a viable Democratic candidate in his 2010 re-election bid?

I discern two lines of thinking among progressives over the issue.

(1) Don’t run a candidate because it will be a waste of financial resources and energy. Unless the political landscape changes drastically, Coburn, pictured right, will easily win re-election. He’s the darling of the corporate media here and any challenger is sure to get little press coverage. The Oklahoman editorial page will also ridicule any Democratic candidate. Any viable candidate would have to run on a centrist to conservative platform, which could alienate progressives. The main race in 2010 for Democrats is the gubernatorial election. Democrats should spend money on and put energy into getting Attorney General Drew Edmondson or Lt. Gov. Jari Askins elected. One of these candidates will likely face Republican U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, a formidable candidate. That should be the main political battlefield.

(2) Run a candidate to develop political skills and networks. In particular, young Oklahoma Democrats, even if it’s inevitable Coburn will get re-elected, could benefit by working on a statewide campaign. (This could obviously backfire as well if the campaign turns sour.) Also, it’s somewhat of a morale crusher for Democrats that no viable candidate will step up and challenge Coburn, who is considered one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate. What does this say about Oklahoma Democrats to the rest of the country? Why not run a true progressive, who can at least offer a counterpoint to the tea party movement? This candidate may well lose, but at least there will be a rational voice out there in all the anti-Obama hysteria in the state.

Gov. Brad Henry would be the best candidate to challenge Coburn, but he says he’s not interested in running. It’s also understandable that potential candidates would not want to expend the energy running a long-shot race, especially if the run had the potential to damage their political careers. Is the national Democratic Party even interested in helping with a campaign against Coburn? A viable statewide campaign will take money and a lot of energy.

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Okie Funk Wins Blog Award

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Okie Funk has been voted the state’s Best Political Blog (Liberal) in the 2009 Okie Blog Awards competition.

This is the third award won by Okie Funk in the annual competition. The blog also won Best Political Blog in 2006 and 2007. The runner-up in the liberal political blog category this year went to Alternative Tulsa.

Batesline won the Best Political Blog (Conservative). The Best Overall Blog was awarded to The Art of Manliness. The Lost Ogle won Best Oklahoma City Blog and Most Humorous Blog. Oklahoma Women's Network Blog was the runner-up in the Best Oklahoma City Blog category. Coffee With Clark, operated by my UCO colleague Terry Clark, won the Best Writing Award.

The Pioneer Women won a Lifetime Achievement Award, and Dustbury was voted Best Veteran Blog.

Here’s a complete list of the winners. One thing I always enjoy about the award contest is clicking through the list of the winners. Oklahoma has a vibrant and diverse blogging community that enhances the culture here, and it’s only going to get better in the years to come.

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Reproductive Freedom Fighters Get Bittersweet Victory

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A local judge recently ruled a draconian 2009 anti-abortion law is unconstitutional, but for pro-choice advocates it’s a bittersweet victory.

Oklahoma County District Judge Dan Owens ruled that legislators violated the state constitution when they placed multiple laws in a single piece of legislation. The ruling struck down a law that made it illegal for doctors to perform abortions on women based on the gender of the fetus.

It also struck down a law requiring doctors to submit detailed and personal information about their patients to the state Health Department. That information, supposedly protecting the identities of individual women, would be published on a web site.

It’s important to note that Owens ruled only on a technical aspect of the legislation and not the substance of the bill. Legislators have simply introduced separate bills this session covering the same topics and those bills will probably pass the Republican-dominated legislature. This is what makes it a bittersweet victory for people who support reproductive freedom for women.

The law that makes it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion based on the fetus’s gender is simply superfluous, political calculation. As I wrote in a 2009 commentary in the Oklahoma Gazette:

Are Oklahoma women really seeking abortions based on gender? Where is the evidence? How would a doctor determine that gender was the reason for a particular abortion unless a woman volunteered the information?

The other law is a way to intimidate and harass women seeking abortions. It would require doctors to give the state Health Department personal information about their patients, including race, age, marital status and the county in which the abortion was performed. Women would have to give the reason for the abortion as well, and this information would go on a web site costing the state an estimated $280,000 to create and then even more money to maintain.

The anti-abortion crowd argues the law is simply a way to study the abortion issue.

Some pro-choice advocates have argued women from small towns might get identified if the bill makes it into law. Women seeking abortions here would be faced with a barrage of questions about their personal life, knowing this information would be made public, even if their identities are protected. The law could also be viewed as a first step to publicly disclose the identities of women who get abortions here.

Another law requiring women receive an ultrasound before an abortion was earlier struck down by a judge because of the single subject rule. The law would have also required medical staff to describe the ultrasound in a detailed way to women. A new ultrasound bill has been filed this session.

As I’ve written many times before, all this anti-abortion legislation really targets poor women, who might not be able to afford to travel outside Oklahoma for an abortion procedure.

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