"Court referee hears cases on redistricting lawsuits." April 12, 2002
Attorneys for Democrats and Republicans met in Oklahoma's Supreme Court chamber Thursday to plead their cases on whether justices should stop two lawsuits that seek the district courts' help with redrawing congressional boundaries.
The boundary change would affect the voting districts of thousands of Oklahomans. House Speaker Larry Adair, D-Stilwell, and Senate leader Stratton Taylor, D-Claremore, are asking the Supreme Court to prohibit judges in the district courts of Oklahoma and Sequoyah counties from proceeding with the cases.
The Legislature must redraw Oklahoma's six congressional districts into five after the 2000 census showed Oklahoma's population grew slower than the rest of the nation. Lawmakers have yet to pass a plan, which must be signed by Gov. Frank Keating. Keating and Republicans released their own redistricting map. Democratic legislators strongly disagree with it.
Supreme Court Referee Gregory Albert listened to attorneys from both sides and will report to the justices. Attorneys said because of the urgency of the case, a decision by the court could come as early as next week.
Lawmakers want to have a new map before the candidate filing period in July. The primary election is Aug. 27.
If they fail to agree on a congressional map before the end of the legislative session in May, the issue will end up in court.
Lee Slater, the attorney for Taylor, said Taylor and Adair want the Supreme Court to take over the process, not the district courts. He said either way, they do not want a trial to take place while the Legislature is in session.
The Legislature may intervene in a federal lawsuit filed over the absence of an enforcable congressional redistricting plan, the head of a legislative committee said Thursday.
Rep. Lloyd Benson, D-Frederick, chairman of the House Congressional Redistricting Committee, said lawmakers may intervene in the petition, filed March 8, to challenge whether the federal court has jurisdiction to hear the case.
Benson made the comments a day after a three-judge federal court panel was appointed to hear the lawsuit, which asks the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to draw new congressional districts.
Other lawsuits have been filed in state district courts in Sequoyah and Oklahoma counties over the redistricting issue. An Oklahoma County judge has set a May 13 trial on the redistricting lawsuit filed there.
"There's a question as to whether or not the 10th Circuit has the authority to take action before the district court in Oklahoma County," Benson said. The federal court would have to usurp the state court's jurisdiction in order to hear the case, Benson said.
The lawsuit says the qualifying deadline for people wanting to run for the U.S. House of Representatives is July 10 -- the end of the three-day filing period for federal and state offices in Oklahoma.
It alleges there is no guarantee lawmakers will pass a redistricting plan and there is no guarantee a plan enacted by the Legislature will be signed by Gov. Frank Keating.
A federal appeals court has appointed a three-judge panel to hear a congressional redistricting lawsuit asking the court to draw a new congressional map if the Legislature canÝt.
The lawsuit, filed by the former chairman of the state Republican Party and a Canadian County resident, also asks the court to set a timetable for legislators to act on redistricting.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver issued an order Monday appointing 10th Circuit Court Judge Stephanie Seymour of Tulsa and U.S. District Judges David L. Russell and Robin Cauthron, both of Oklahoma City, to hear the case.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit are Gov. Frank Keating and the three-member state Election Board. The Legislature is not named as a defendant.
Keating is being sued not as an individual but only in his official capacity as governor, the lawsuit said.
Election Board members are being sued only in their official capacities. Election Board members are responsible for implementing OklahomaÝs election laws.
Charlie Price, spokesman for the state attorney generalÝs office, said the attorney general is representing the Election Board.
He said it was best not to comment on this latest lawsuit because it is pending.
Dan Mahoney, KeatingÝs communications director, said: ýWe realize the courts will become involved. We wish it didnÝt happen.ţ
The lawsuit is the latest filed in the congressional redistricting matter. Other lawsuits have been filed in state district courts in Sequoyah and Oklahoma counties.
An Oklahoma County judge has set a May 13 trial on the redistricting lawsuit filed there.
Steve Edwards of Tulsa, former chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, and Colby Schwartz, who lives in Canadian County, filed the federal lawsuit March 8.
The plaintiffs said the lawsuit was filed in federal court to remedy violations of the U.S. Constitution, which grants them the right to vote.
Andrew W. Lester, their attorney, said Schwartz, like Edwards, has been active in Republican Party politics.
However, the state party is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Edwards lives in the 1st Congressional District, and Schwartz lives in the 6th District. Their lawsuit asserts the Legislature has failed to adopt a redistricting plan that may be enforced under the law.
They said the qualifying deadline for people wanting to run for the U.S. House of Representatives is July 10 ˇ the end of the three-day filing period for federal and state offices in Oklahoma.
ýThere is no guarantee that the Oklahoma Legislature will be able to pass a redistricting plan, nor is there any guarantee that any redistricting plan ultimately enacted by the Oklahoma Legislature will be signed by the governor of Oklahoma,ţ Edwards and Schwartz said.
Because of slow population growth in the last decade, Oklahoma will lose one of its six U.S. House districts. As a result, Oklahoma must be carved into five U.S. House districts.
Oklahoma has five congressmen ˇ four Republicans and one Democrat ˇ who are expected to run for re-election this year. U.S. Rep. Wes Watkins, R-Stillwater, will not run for re-election.
Keating has said he will veto any congressional redistricting plan that puts two incumbents in the same district.
Keating and the four Republican members of Congress have drawn their own map and presented it to the LegislatureÝs congressional redistricting committee.
Recently, Democratic legislative leaders approved a House-Senate conference committee report that would put U.S. Rep. Ernest J. Istook, R-Warr Acres, into a new 3rd District that would include a portion of Oklahoma County and a heavily Democratic area of southeastern Oklahoma.
Keating said he would veto that plan, too.
So far, nothing has happened on that or any plan in the Legislature.
ýThere is a very real possibility that new districts will not be drawn in time to meet the filing deadline for the 2002 election cycle,ţ the lawsuit by Edwards and Schwartz states. ýThis possibility is more than merely theoretical.
ýA number of states have failed to adopt legislatively congressional redistricting plans following the past decennial census. For example, the task of redrawing congressional districts in New Mexico, Colorado and Texas, among other states, has fallen to the courts.ţ
With the new congressional district boundary lines undetermined at this time, plaintiffs and other voters in Oklahoma do not have and will not have fair notice of the 2002 district boundary lines, the lawsuit said.
ýMoreover, congressional candidates and their supporters will have insufficient time to prepare, and voters will not be able to consider and compare the various candidates for the full time approved by law,ţ Edwards and Schwartz said.
A congressional redistricting plan putting part of Oklahoma City and its Republican congressman in the heavily Democratic 3rd District was attacked Tuesday by the governor, GOP congressmen and the city's mayor.
Gov. Frank Keating said he would veto the plan drawn by Democrats that would put U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Warr Acres, into a newly drawn 3rd District that would include a sliver of Oklahoma County and mostly southeastern Oklahoma counties.
Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys told city council members this "outrageous" redistricting plan could leave Oklahoma's most populous city without someone to fight for its interests in Congress.
It would give Oklahoma City a "real poor shake," Humphreys said.
"The council needs to watch that very closely and possibly to consider legal action to protect our interests."
Oklahoma's five Republican congressmen sent a letter to every Oklahoma legislator Tuesday, asking each of them to reject the plan that is scheduled for a vote today in the state House of Representatives.
The plan drawn by Democrat legislative leaders would split Oklahoma County into three congressional districts.
Splitting the county isn't the problem for the city council.
What is not OK, Humphreys said, is that none of those three pieces would contain a majority of the districts' voters.
"It would make it where I think we would have a really hard time electing any metro area person as a congressman because you're dealing with, quite frankly, such gerrymandered districts," said Humphreys, a Republican.
He said a maximum of 200,000 Oklahoma City residents would be in each of the proposed three congressional districts.
About 500,000 people would live in each congressional district outside Oklahoma City, the mayor said.
"It's just outrageous," Humphreys said.
Councilman Jerry Foshee said Democrats at the Capitol are saying a resolution approved recently by the council calls for Oklahoma City to have more than one congressman and shows the city wants to be split up.
"Yes, we do like having multiple congressmen," Foshee said, "But we want one congressman who will have to depend upon the voters of Oklahoma City to be elected." Oklahoma has six congressmen -- five Republicans and one Democrat.
Because of slow population growth, Oklahoma City is losing one of its six seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
U.S. Rep. Wes Watkins, R-Stillwater, is not going to run again. This makes it easier to carve Oklahoma into five congressional districts with an incumbent in each.
The five Republican congressmen who sent letters to the Legislature said the plan drawn up Monday represents highly partisan gerrymandering.
"Unless there is major change in the approach being taken by the majority party in the Legislature, we believe the best course for fair redistricting is to have the new map drawn by an impartial judge," the Republican congressmen wrote to legislators.
This differed Tuesday from the governor's stance. Keating said he believes state elected officials should draw the congressional map.
"Why turn it over to a judge nobody knows?" Keating asked.
But he said court is not a bad option for Republicans.
Some Republicans already have filed a lawsuit in Oklahoma County, asking that the redistricting plan be developed by a judge rather than the Legislature.
District Judge Niles Jackson has set a hearing Friday on motions to postpone the lawsuit while the legislators work on a redistricting plan.
State House Republican leader Fred Morgan of Oklahoma City predicted Monday the governor would veto the plan developed by Democrats.
Morgan said the Republican Caucus hasn't taken a position on the plan, but he would be surprised if the caucus supported the latest plan.
U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, who represents the 6th District, would have the new 5th District under the plan. Much of the district still would be in western Oklahoma. It would include some of Oklahoma County, too.
Lucas' district in Oklahoma County would be a mile north, a mile south and a mile west of Istook's home.
Lucas said Tuesday the plan is better than other plans the Democrats have offered previously, but it still has a long way to go.
He said he was glad the latest version restores Garfield County and other counties that had been removed from his old district under previous Democratic proposals.
The new version also gives him Logan, Payne and Lincoln counties, while trading his Democratic Oklahoma City precincts near downtown and the state Capitol for Republican precincts.
Lucas said he would expect Keating to veto the plan it because, among other things, of the way it breaks up Oklahoma City and the Norman area.
The 3rd District would take part of Cleveland County, but U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Norman, still would be in the 4th District and still would have Fort Sill, Altus Air Force Base and Tinker Air Force Base in his district.
"Clearly, this is more of a political map than a map of common interest," Lucas said. In regard to whether the map, if approved, would drive Istook to move into Lucas' district, Lucas said: "I can't speak for my neighbors, but I have made it very clear that Frank Lucas lives on a red soil farm in Roger Mills County. I will run in the congressional district that that farm is a part of. Some of my neighbors have the flexibility that they can move around."
Democratic legislative leaders have agreed on a congressional redistricting plan that puts U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Warr Acres, into the heavily Democratic 3rd District.
Democrats, who have a majority of senators and state representatives on the conference committee on congressional redistricting, circulated the plan among conferees Monday with intentions of voting on it later this week.
The bill was signed out of conference later Monday.
Democrats believe there will be some Republican support for the congressional plan, but House Republican leader Fred Morgan of Oklahoma City said he anticipates Gov. Frank Keating will veto it.
House Republicans were briefed on the plan Monday but haven't taken a stance on it yet.
"It might force Istook to move to Edmond, although it is not totally out of the question that he could run in, and win, the 3rd," Morgan said.
Sen. Glenn Coffee, R- Oklahoma City, the only Republican of the three senators on the conference committee, said he will not sign the plan.
He said it sets up a situation where Istook might decide to run against U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, whose district under the plan includes areas on both sides of Istook's home.
"Ernest Istook will run in that district," Coffee said.
Reps. Larry Ferguson, R- Cleveland, and Fred Perry, R- Tulsa, said Lucas and U.S. Rep. John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, like this latest plan.
The new map will have five U.S. House seats instead of six because Oklahoma's slow population growth, based on the last census, cost the state one of its six U.S. House seats.
Lucas, who represents the 6th District, would have the new 5th District under the plan.
Much of the district still would be western Oklahoma.
He would have about 290,000 Oklahoma County residents under the plan, Ferguson said.
It creates a new predominantly southeastern Oklahoma 3rd District. A portion of it runs through parts of Pottawatomie and Cleveland counties with a finger extending into Oklahoma County and encompassing Istook's home.
Republicans who attended the House Republican Caucus said probably a half dozen to a dozen Republicans expressed concern the new plan would split Cleveland County. U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts, R- Norman, still would be in the 4th District.
Sen. Kevin Easley, D-Broken Arrow, Senate chairman of the congressional redistricting effort, said the 4th District would include Tinker Air Force Base, Altus Air Force Base and Fort Sill.
House Republicans said Rep. Loyd Benson, D-Frederick, chairman of the House congressional redistricting committee, told committee members lawmakers would like to vote on the plan Wednesday.
Senate leader Stratton Taylor, D-Claremore, said no time has been picked for presenting the plan to both chambers for a vote.
A congressional aide, who asked not to be identified, suggested the plan developed by Democrats was really aimed at showing an Oklahoma County judge the Legislature is working on a redistricting plan and the court doesn't need to take over the process.
Some Republicans filed a lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court in January, asking the court to draw a congressional plan. They said the Legislature was deadlocked, so the court should step in.
District Judge Niles Jackson has set a hearing for Friday on motions to postpone or dismiss the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed by Chad Alexander, chairman of the state Republican Party, and some other Republicans. Alexander said the state party is not involved although he is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
In the Democrat plan, Rogers County would be split between the 1st and 2nd Districts, but Claremore, home of 2nd District Democratic Congressman Brad Carson, still would be in a newly drawn 2nd District.
West Tulsa and north Tulsa, both Democratic areas, would be moved from the 1st District to the 2nd District.
Morgan said this would divide communities of interest by shipping minorities into a newly created 2nd District.
Keating has threatened to veto any redistricting bill that throws two incumbent congressmen into the same district.
A plan by the governor and his staff would have thrown Istook into a district with Watts. U.S. Rep. Wes Watkins, R- Stillwater, has announced he will not run again, making it possible to draw a congressional map to accommodate the remaining five incumbent congressmen.
The process of redistricting Oklahoma's congressional seats lurched forward Wednesday with a presentation of three new potential plans.
The state House of Representative's Special Committee on Redistricting approved the plans -- including one proposed by Gov. Frank Keating and the predominantly Republican U.S. House delegation in mid-January -- by divided votes.
The next step is for the House's committee to meet with its state Senate counterpart to see if a deal can be reached to take a plan to the entire Legislature.
Predictably, political perceptions governed how the plans were received.
Democrats say their alternatives to the Republican plan meet all the major criteria set by courts.
Republicans, meanwhile, say the two Democrat- sponsored versions divide communities for political gain.
Oklahoma is being forced to redraw its congressional district lines for five representatives instead of six.
Little movement has been made on the issue for months. A lawsuit filed Tuesday re-energized the process, Republicans said.
Rep. Loyd Benson, D-Frederick, chairman of the redistricting committee, said the proposals at least give the two sides something to talk about.
The two Democrat-sponsored plans -- referred to as options B and C -- are nearly identical. The difference would be that in one plan, U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Norman, would live in District 3. In the other option, he would live in District 4.
Such a distinction could matter little, given that Watts could choose to run for whatever district he wants later this year.
The proposed division of Cleveland County bothers Watts, though.
"That's pretty much a nonstarter," Watts said. "Cleveland County is my home and my base. I would hope they'd at least let me have my house and my garage in the same district."
Oklahoma's other Republican congressmen were also unsupportive of the Democrat-developed alternatives.
"It appears at least two-thirds of Oklahomans would be forced to have a new congressman under these proposals," said U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, R- Warr Acres.
"People are not cattle. You don't move them to new districts like you move cattle to new pastures."
U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, said he preferred the Republican plan to alternatives B and C.
"Their plans still present the same rural versus urban problems of trying to match the needs of all constituents," said Lucas, a rancher and member of the House Agriculture Committee.
Democrats counter the Republican plan would have Lucas represent nearly half of the state's area.
Indeed, the GOP map creates two huge districts geographically, including one for Lucas that would cover the entire northwest half of the state.
The other large district -- now held by U.S. Rep. Brad Carson, Oklahoma's only congressional Democrat -- would extend from Oklahoma's northeast corner clear to McCurtain County and as far west as Johnston County.
Another district, Watts', would take southern Oklahoma, Norman and Tinker Air Force Base.
Tulsa County would remain in the 1st District; part of Rogers County and all of Creek and Wagoner Counties would be added to it.
Lucas said he liked the Republican plan because "it puts small towns and small cities together. It is wheat and cattle. It is oil and gas. It is a common set of needs and interests."
Lucas said he viewed the House proposals as simply another step in the process, and he was waiting to see the Senate maps.
Benson agreed more work is needed, and added an agreement could be reached sometime soon.
House Speaker Larry Adair, D-Stilwell, also predicted a quick resolution to the often contentious issue.
"We would like have a plan that could be submitted to the Legislature when it convenes next week," he said.
Gov. Frank Keating and Oklahoma's Republican congressmen proposed new boundaries Monday for the U.S. House districts that would protect all the incumbents from running against each other while isolating many of the hard-core Democratic counties into one district.
The proposed map was released Monday and drew immediate fire from a key Democrat in the state Senate for favoring incumbents too heavily. The speaker of the state House also slammed the proposal and its "strange configuration."
If the Democrat-controlled Legislature and the governor can't agree on a plan, the redistricting process may wind up in court, as it has in other states.
The Republican plan was devised partly to put the homes of all the incumbent congressmen in separate districts so none would have to run against another. The incumbents have argued the remapping process shouldn't deprive the state of valuable seniority.
The GOP map creates two large districts geographically -- including one that stretches from the Panhandle as far east as Bartlesville and as far south as Altus -- and three others that are much more compact.
Only three counties would be divided between two districts -- Oklahoma, Rogers and Canadian counties.
Most of Oklahoma County would be in the district now represented by Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Warr Acres, while parts of the county near Tinker Air Force Base would still be in the district of Rep. J.C. Watts, R- Norman. Pottowatomie and Seminole counties would be in the same district as Oklahoma County.
Watts' district still would have Tinker and Fort Sill, but Altus Air Force Base would be shifted into the district of Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne. Lucas' district then would have two bases, as Vance Air Force Base in Enid would be retained.
Tulsa County would remain in the 1st District. Part of Rogers County and all of Creek and Wagoner counties would be added to it.
The district of Rep. Brad Carson, the only Democrat in the congressional delegation, would run from the northeastern border all the way down to McCurtain County in the southeastern corner, and go as far west as Marshall County.
That district is likely to be rejected by many Democrats because it puts so many of the traditionally Democratic counties in the southeast -- known collectively as Little Dixie -- into a district that already is heavily Democratic. Such a move would limit the voting power those counties might have in another district now represented by a Republican.
The 4th District, represented by Watts, already has several counties with a majority of Democratic voters. The proposed map would add more counties that reliably vote Democratic. As a popular incumbent, Watts would have the edge if he ran again, but the district would likely be very competitive once he no longer was running.
Because the state's population growth was lower than many other states, Oklahoma is losing one of its six House seats. Drawing new boundaries with one fewer seat has posed tough political decisions for Republicans and Democrats.
Two weeks ago, Rep. Wes Watkins, a Republican whose district runs from his home in Stillwater down to the southeast corner of the state, announced he would retire. Watkins said he was hoping his resignation would prevent any of the other incumbents, including Rep.- elect John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, from running against each other.
Had all six incumbents sought re-election, at least two would have had to run against each other.
Keating and Republican congressmen praised the proposed map, saying it was fair and rational. Carson, of Claremore, did not comment on the plan, and his chief of staff did not respond to a request for comment.
Istook said: "We've had candid bipartisan discussions with Congressman Carson, and he's been very cooperative. This plan treats him well; we wanted to be as fair with him as with everyone else, and I believe we've succeeded."
Watkins called it "a workable plan that would help preserve the seniority and power of the incumbent congressmen for the best interests of Oklahoma."
Keating said the GOP map "provides all of the necessary components that the delegation and I both feel are vital to a clean, equitable plan. The proposed districts are compact and they protect community integrity.
"The principle of one man, one vote has been upheld, and that encourages me. I'm looking forward to hearing opinions and feedback from legislators as we continue this important process."
Keating didn't have to wait long for feedback.
State Sen. Kevin Easley, D- Broken Arrow, head of the Senate committee on congressional redistricting, said the Republican plan serves to protect only incumbents and does not meet the constitutional requirements of "one man, one vote."
Before Watkins announced his retirement, Easley had been considering a plan that would have used the Little Dixie area as the core of a new district that would be attractive to Democratic candidates.
"Anything related to a departure from what we worked on in December is clearly designed to protect incumbents and I'm not going to be in favor of that," Easley said.
"It's an unacceptable standard. ... I'm disappointed."
Easley said his committee plans to meet Wednesday to talk about redistricting, including the Republicans' proposal.
House Speaker Larry Adair, D-Stilwell, said the latest plan being designed by legislators does not put incumbents in the same district either, but comes closer to meeting constitutional requirements for redistricting.
Adair said the plan from the House and Senate redistricting committees should be presented by the end of the week.
"I really don't think what the two chairs will submit will look like what the Republicans came up with. ... It's a pretty strange configuration," Adair said.
"What they've done is ... the 2nd District is going to be a strong Democratic district, and then they've carved out four other districts that are going to be Republican districts. ... I think probably there is a better way to draw the five districts."
Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Jay Parmley said Keating and the Republicans "have clearly drawn four Republican-leaning districts, which should be an affront to all Democrats.
"While they may have strengthened Congressman Carson's hands, they have clearly strengthened the other four at the same time. I would not be surprised if the maps that come out of the Legislature look vastly different."
State Rep. John Sullivan (R) is poised to win the race to succeed Rep. Steve Largent (R-OK) tomorrow, but Rep. Wes Watkins' (R-OK) New Year's Eve retirement announcement has thrown the redistricting picture in the state into flux.
Watkins, who has represented the swing 3rd district for most of the past 25 years as a Democrat and then a Republican, said he would leave the seat after the 2002 elections to ease the redistricting crunch in a state whose delegation must shrink from six seats to five.
"My hope is that the state Legislature and the governor will take advantage of my leaving office to reach an agreement on Congressional redistricting that preserves districts for the remaining five incumbent Congressmen," Watkins said in a statement.
Following Watkins' retirement, Gov. Frank Keating (R) announced he would veto any plan that placed two incumbents in the same district, sending the first shot across the bow to the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
In an attempt to preserve themselves, the remaining five members of the delegation -four Republicans and Democratic Rep. Brad Carson - held a conference call late last week to discuss a compromise proposal.
"With five seats and five incumbents running for re-election, we have the ability to reach a consensus," said Rep. Ernest Istook (R), "and I expect us to reach a consensus."
In the race to succeed Largent, Sullivan, who trounced Oklahoma first lady Cathy Keating in a GOP primary last month, received a much-needed influx of last-minute contributions from national GOP groups and House Members.
However, Democrats hoped that GOP ads aimed at Democratic nominee Doug Dodd would backfire. The television and radio ads aired by national Republicans over Christmas attacked attorney Doug Dodd's (D) 11-year attendance record on the Tulsa school board.
The 30-second television ad, financed by the Republican National Committee, accused Dodd of playing "a lot of hooky" and missing 62 meetings. It also claimed that Dodd's attendance record was one of the worst among board members.
Others on the board protested, citing records indicating that Dodd had an attendance record of 86 percent for all 588 meetings, including hearings, held during his tenure and 94 percent for business meetings in which votes were recorded.
Republicans pulled the ad on Dec. 26, but denied it was done because of pressure. "The ad is being taken out of rotation; it has run its course," said state GOP Chairman Chad Alexander. "We think the ad played its role in letting people know [Dodd's] record."
But Dodd claimed the negative tactics practiced over the holidays will backfire. "Today truth won a battle over deception and smear campaigns," he said. "My record over the past 11 years on the school board is clear."
Financial reports filed since the Dec. 11 primary show that Sullivan received $8,000 from seven House Republicans, including $2,000 from Largent. Largent is the only Oklahoman in Congress who directly donated to Sullivan, although money also poured in from the leadership PACs of Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) and Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK). Sullivan also lent his own campaign $10,000.
So far House Democratic leaders have declined to back Dodd, and sources said they are unlikely to do so in the 1st district, a reliable GOP stronghold. However, Carson contributed $2,000 to Dodd.
The winner of tomorrow's contest will not be sworn in until Largent officially vacates his seat, which is not scheduled to occur until Feb. 15. The general election was originally slated for Feb. 12 but was moved up after Cathy Keating dropped out of the race.
After next Tuesday, the focus in Oklahoma will switch to the fight over redistricting. The Democratic-controlled Legislature is expected to take up line-drawing next month.
But some observers argue that a deadlock between the governor and the Legislature remains a distinct possibility.
"Watkins' withdrawal really enhances the chances of this going to court," said Republican pollster Tom Cole, who worked for Cathy Keating and has extensive experience in Oklahoma and national politics.
Istook, who was rumored to be heading for a face-off against Rep. J.C. Watts (R) before Watkins made his announcement, is actively pushing a compromise plan that would give Republicans a 4-1 edge in the delegation.
Istook has spent some time in the state Capitol working with the redistricting committee to develop a plan, which he emphasizes is not an "Istook proposal" but a "consensus proposal."
Watts said he spent much of Friday morning reviewing maps and anticipated traveling to the state Capitol later in the day to examine potential scenarios.
He believes that a compromise plan is possible, but that it will "take a lot of give and take and communication between the delegation."
Watts noted he had spoken with both Istook and Rep. Frank Lucas (R) within the past day and was traveling with Carson's home number.
One compromise plan being considered, according to GOP sources, would move both Lucas' northern 6th district and Watts' southern 4th district to the east, add some Republican-leaning Tulsa suburbs to the 1st district, and extend Carson's seat south.
This plan would leave Watts in a swing district, which observers believe he could hold because of his fundraising ability and high-profile role as GOP Conference chairman.
"I am surely going to be adamant and firm that I am not going to take on any challenges that I can't meet," Watts said.
"I don't think these districts should be personality driven," he added.
The key to any delegation plan, however, is Carson, who won an open-seat race in 2000 to replace Rep. Tom Coburn (R).
As the lone Congressional Democrat in the state, Carson must weigh the interests of the state and national party, which would like to maximize gains in the wake of Watkins' retirement, against his own self-interest and that of his Republican colleagues.
"The talks are very preliminary," said Carson, who confirmed he had been in on the conference call with his Republican colleagues and also spoke privately with Istook about the map.
Carson calls the compromise map an "interesting and intriguing idea," but quickly added that "in the end the state Legislature is going to make the decision about this.
"I'm agnostic about what the outcome should be," he said.
One Democratic strategist familiar with the state believes that ultimately Carson will not consent to any delegation plan.
"Brad is in a very strong position politically," said the strategist. "There is very little Republicans can do to make him vulnerable" even if he refuses to sign on to the compromise plan, according to the source.
Carson's political ambitions may also keep him from joining his GOP colleagues, the strategist observed.
"He wants to extend into the Oklahoma City media market for a possible statewide run down the line," said the strategist. Carson would need to move his district farther west to take in more area covered by the Oklahoma City market.
Despite Republicans' push for an incumbent protection plan, several Democrats are campaigning for the open seat vacated by Watkins under the assumption it will be preserved in the redistricting process.
Attorney Keith Butler (D) was already running before Watkins' retirement and is expected to remain in the race.
Butler consultant Bob Doyle argued that "It will be a priority of Democrats and those that are in charge of redistricting in the Democratic Party to keep representation in Little Dixie."
Little Dixie is composed of a handful of counties bordering Texas to the south and Arkansas to the east that are in the 3rd district.
Doyle pointed out that the 3rd district has "major ties over the long term to the Democratic Party" and that former House Speaker Carl Albert (D) held the seat for 30 years.
Watkins disagreed with Doyle's assessment about the importance of maintaining distinct representation for Little Dixie, saying that the most important thing for residents of the district was not preservation of this area but "a change in economic conditions and opportunities."
The other major Democratic candidate being discussed to replace Watkins is state Senate President Billy Mickle (D). Pittsburgh County District Attorney Kalyn Free (D) has filed for the race, while former state House Speaker and current state Rep. Lloyd Benson(D) has also been mentioned.
National Republicans say they expect the district to be eliminated and did not provide any potential candidates in the event it is preserved.
Republican Rep. Wes Watkins said Monday that he will not run for re-election in 2002 and blamed Democrats for planning new districts that would cut him off from his constituents.
Mr. Watkins said "every map being discussed by the Democrat-controlled state Legislature" places his Stillwater residence outside the 3rd Congressional District, which he represents.
Oklahoma will lose one of its six congressmen in 2002 because census figures show its population did not grow as fast as other states. State lawmakers have not come up with new districts.
One redistricting plan under consideration would combine Mr. Watkins' district with the 6th District, represented by Frank Lucas, a Republican, said Sen. Kevin Easley, D-Tulsa, a key participant in the redistricting effort.
Mr. Watkins, 63, said he does not want to run against a fellow incumbent Republican. He also doesn't want to move or run in a district in which he doesn't live.
Mr. Watkins also cited personal reasons for his decision.
"I owe my family more of my time," Mr. Watkins said. "I missed a lot of my kids growing up, and I don't want to miss my grandkids growing up. This is the right time to devote more time to my family."
Rep. J.C. Watts Jr., R-Okla., said he was disheartened to learn that Mr. Watkins would not seek re-election. He called him a friend and an ally.
"Although the state will lose Wes Watkins' vote in the 108th Congress, Oklahoma will never lose Wes as a strong advocate for our values and concerns," he said.
Mr. Watkins held the seat as a Democrat from 1977 to 1991, then headed an investment company in Stillwater. He was elected again in 1996 as a Republican and was re-elected twice. He serves on the House Ways and Means Committee. Before Mr. Watkins, the district was represented by Democrat Carl Albert, who was the speaker of the House.
Before the 1998 election year, Mr. Watkins announced he would not seek re-election because of a severe back ailment. But he changed his mind, and voters returned him to Congress.
"It's for real this time," he said.
He said he does not intend to run again for public office.
Population growth and shifts over the past decade have forced county commissioners in Oklahoma County and surrounding counties to redraw their district boundaries.
In Pottawatomie, Cleveland, Canadian, McClain and Logan counties, new district lines reflect how population has moved over the past decade.
Oklahoma County recently equalized its county commissioner districts to reflect population shifts over the past decade, although the action has brought the threat of a legal challenge.
The action was prompted by the state House Redistricting Committee, which recommended that the population in the commissioner districts be within 3 percent of each other as much as possible.
Brian Maughan, spokesman for Oklahoma County Commissioner Stuart Earnest, said commissioners had to have the districts redrawn by Oct. 1 or the duty would fall to the county excise board.
Oklahoma County is facing a possible court challenge on its redistricting. The new boundaries prompted the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to threaten a federal lawsuit alleging the lines were drawn intentionally to dilute the black vote.
Former Commissioner Shirley Darrell, who was defeated by the 1998 election of incumbent Beverly Hodges, and the Oklahoma City NAACP chapter are threatening to sue.
Darrell said predominantly black precincts, which over whelmingly supported her, were removed from her former district to dilute the black vote. Oklahoma City attorney Aletia Timmons, who represents Darrell, said she will file a federal lawsuit alleging "racial gerrymandering." The NAACP is considering the lawsuit, Timmons said.
Despite the lawsuit threat, the new boundaries reflect a shifting population, and were redrawn to reflect a requirement that the population of each district be within 3 percent of the others.
The population in District 3 -- which includes Deer Creek and Edmond -- grew by about 22,000, according to the census. The new boundaries were drawn in a way so that the other two districts would gain population, said Commissioner Stuart Earnest, who represents District 3.
Redrawing of district lines in other counties apparently has been accomplished with much less acrimony and in most cases, resulted in only minor changes.
Pottawatomie County was one of the first counties to redraw its commissioner districts this year, completing the task in June or early July.
"All three of us (commissioners) went to the Capitol, where some Senate staff helped us redraw our district lines," said District 3 Commissioner Buck Day. "It didn't take very long, and we did it soon after the legislative session ended because we wanted to get it over with."
Day said population guidelines were the only ones used to redraw the lines.
Some areas had gained population and others had lost, but "overall, there really wasn't that much of a change," Day said.
For example, a north-south line between Districts 2 and 3 in the south part of the county was changed, with the new boundary moving farther west.
"That gave District 3, which is me, about half of Tecumseh," he said.
The northern part of District 2 was moved up toward Shawnee to be able "to take in some more population," Day added.
Canadian County District 1 Commissioner Stanley Wallace said commissioners redrew their districts' boundaries more than two months ago, with little adjustment.
"We did ours, and it's been in effect since the first of September," Wallace said. "It was a minor adjustment for us."
Wallace said that the three county commissioner districts were adjusted slightly to make each include a little more than 29,000 people. Growth on mostly the county's west side in the last 10 years necessitated the adjustments.
At the last census in 1990, the county included about 75,000 residents divided into three districts of 25,000 residents each, Wallace said.
Growth in Cleveland County over the past decade forced commissioners to equalize populations in August by moving one voter precinct from District 1 to District 3. They also moved half of another precinct from District 1 to District 2. The changes were mainly in the Norman city limits.
In the shuffle, District 1 Commissioner Bill Graves lost 5,617 constituents to the redistricting. More than 3,000 went to District 3 and the remaining 2,600 went to District 2.
The commissioners, in approving the changes, said they believe the population will continue to increase, especially in the northwest part of the county, including southwest Oklahoma City and Moore.
McClain County commissioners also have adjusted commissioner district boundaries to reflect shifts in population.
District 3 is nearest to Oklahoma City. It lost about 11 square miles of land on its east side to District 2. The lines marking the district's boundaries on the east and south were straightened somewhat.
District 2, in addition to gaining the 11 square miles from District 1, also picked up about four square miles on the south from District 1.
Dondee Klein, Logan County election board secretary, said the commissioner districts were adjusted slightly because of a population increase.
"It changed less than 10 square miles," she said.
Klein said the changes were in Districts 1 and 2.
Klein said county officials met with the state Senate staff to determine how to divide the county with the new population figures.
"They were extremely helpful in showing us options," she said.
CONTRIBUTING: Staff writers Karen Klinka, Greg Kennedy, Ellie Sutter and Kenna Griffin.
Istook vs. Keating
Struggling to dodge a re-election battle with a fellow House Republican, Rep. Ernest Istook. (Okla.) is going head to head with Gov. Frank Keating . (R) by urging Democrats to pass a House map eliminating the district of retiring Rep. Steve Largent . (R).
Istook's proposed map, which he started shopping around Capitol Hill and Oklahoma City last month, would quash the political ambitions of the governor's wife Cathy Keating. (R), the frontrunner to succeed Largent in a special election.
It would also prevent a head-to-head matchup with Rep. J.C. Watts. (R), who represents the 4th district in southwestern Oklahoma.
"Istook has come to us with a map that would carve out a Congressional district for the five incumbent Congressmen left after Largent left," said state Rep. Loyd Benson . (D), chairman of the state House redistricting committee. The state Legislature is controlled by Democrats, whose relations with the governor are cool at best.
The map would eliminate the Tulsa-based 1st district Largent has held since 1995, which he is resigning from to run for governor. It would shift most of Tulsa County and GOP-leaning localities to the east into the swing district held by Rep. Wes Watkins . (R). The proposal also would transfer Democratic strongholds in Watkins' district, known as "Little Dixie," to Rep. Brad Carson., the delegation's lone Democrat.
Under his plan, Istook's new seat would take in all of Oklahoma County, currently represented by Rep. Frank Lucas. (R).
"Oklahoma is already losing political clout because we're losing a Congressman [in reapportionment]. The last thing we need is to lose another incumbent who may have a position on a key committee, which every one of us currently does," said Istook spokeswoman Micah Swafford., who noted that each of the five proposed districts are nearly equivalent. "There's a huge amount of support in Oklahoma for keeping the five incumbents. That just seems to make sense to people."
Although state Democrats said they are more than willing to work against the governor, one key legislator said he doubted the Istook plan would become law. "At the end of the day, we have to get this map past a veto, we don't have the votes to override. So passing a map that erases his wife's district is just not a feasible scenario," he said.
The Keating Five.
Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating's (R) wife,
Cathy, is running to succeed Rep. Steve Largent (R), but that didn't stop
the term-limited governor from wading into his state's redistricting
battle last week.
Istook told Keating that "the largest congressional blocks that already exist within Oklahoma County and Tulsa County should be kept intact and should form the cores for two of the new districts."
Last week, Keating's office developed a new congressional map for the state that follows those guidelines. One district includes 493,000 of the 660,500 people in Oklahoma County, about 75 percent.
Though the district includes much of Istook's current political and constituent base -- his hometown of Warr Acres, Edmond, Nichols Hills, northwest Oklahoma City -- Istook wasn't happy. The proposed district also includes Rep. J.C. Watts' home in Norman.
That proposed district will likely generate a lot of discussion in Oklahoma and on Capitol Hill over the next few weeks if the congressional map drawn by Keating's Secretary of State Mike Hunter becomes the focal point of the redistricting debate.
A race between Istook and Watts would pit a top member of the House Appropriations Committee -- one of the most powerful committees on the Hill -- against a top member of the House Republican leadership. More importantly, perhaps, it would pit Istook against the only black Republican in Congress.
Capitol Hill staff members said Istook could probably count on receiving many phone calls from top Republicans, perhaps even President Bush, asking him not to run against Watts.
Watts' popularity throughout the state and fund-raising prowess also would be formidable challenges for Istook.
"Istook wouldn't even file" for re-election, one Oklahoma Republican said.
Istook said however, "I intend to run for re-election, period. It's my intent regardless of how the districts are designed."
He said he recognized "there will be some people who would encourage me to step aside because J.C. provides something special to the party." He said he would not make a decision on those grounds.
Congressional redistricting so far has received very little attention in the state despite its novelty and it's potential for political games and intrigue: It will be the first time since the 1950 Census that Oklahoma has lost a seat in Congress and the first time in 90 years that it will have fewer than six seats.
Hunter was in Washington last week to see whether he could get support from the delegation for a certain plan before the Legislature begins its special session in September. Congressional redistricting is one of the items on the special session agenda.
Keating felt that if the delegation could agree on a plan, he could approach the Legislature with it as a solid starting point, Hunter said.
Keating's interests extend beyond his role as governor: his wife, Cathy, is planning to run for the 1st District (Tulsa County-based) seat being vacated by Rep. Steve Largent, who is running for governor.
After meeting with most of the representatives Wednesday, Hunter devised a map that pitted Istook against Watts and presented it to Istook on Thursday.
"There was some anxiety in the meeting," Hunter said.
There also was frustration, Istook said, in part because Hunter wouldn't consider drawing a map that would force Largent's replacement -- possibly Cathy Keating -- to run against one of the current incumbents.
The proposal Hunter developed and presented to the delegation:
Creates a district combining key elements of Watts' and Istook's districts that would run from Edmond south through Norman to Fort Sill, taking in most of western Oklahoma County along with Tinker Air Force base.
Would retain much of the same culture and character in the district that now includes the Panhandle and the agriculture- dominated counties of western Oklahoma. That district would pick up Altus and Lawton (though not Fort Sill) and retain downtown Oklahoma City.
Would keep Tulsa County mostly intact while adding to the district -- and its energy interests -- Ponca City and Bartlesville, which host Conoco and Phillips 66.
Would keep Stillwater in the same district as a big part of Little Dixie (the southeastern quadrant of the state), so Rep. Wes Watkins, R-Stillwater, would not be cut off from his original political base, while adding farming counties along the southern border and Logan and Pawnee Counties in north central Oklahoma.
Would make a safe Democratic seat in northeastern Oklahoma even safer for Rep. Brad Carson, of Claremore, by adding minority neighborhoods in north Tulsa while also dropping further south to pick up some heavily Democratic counties such as Le Flore that now are in Watkins' district.
Hunter was not able to provide lawmakers with all of the details about the proposed districts. He said, however, that they all meet the criteria of having the required number of residents (about 690,000).
It was a given after the 2000 Census figures were officially announced that cramming the state's population into five districts was going to require some dramatic changes in the existing lines. And, it was a given that two incumbents might have to run against each other.
Some Republicans said last week it was also a given that Istook would be matched with someone -- in such a way that he would be at a disadvantage.
"What goes around comes around," said one source close to the delegation, referring to the times Istook has seemingly gone out of his way to pick fights with his colleagues over such issues as Amtrak funding, fixed-rail trolleys for Oklahoma City and bombing relief money.
Istook responded that "I've never been interested in picking fights, but I am interested in protecting the taxpayers' money, while at the same time, using my position on the Appropriations Committee to secure funding for valid Oklahoma projects, including four rounds of bombing relief money."
Istook got the hint even before he saw the map developed by Keating's office last week. Of all the proposed maps he's seen this year, he said, 80 percent to 90 percent have had him running against one of the other incumbents.
"You can't see that ratio of plans without feeling targeted," he said.
Watts, meanwhile, wasn't ready to endorse or reject publicly the district designed by Hunter, his former chief of staff.
Watts already represents Norman, Fort Sill and Tinker, but most of the Oklahoma County territory would be new to him.
"This map, like the dozens offered before it, is a proposal and a work in progress," Watts said.
"I have often said I will compete as long as I'm kept out of western Little Rock. Like other proposals, this map has strengths and weaknesses."
According to a spokesman for Watkins, the congressman wasn't satisfied with the map, though he liked it a lot better than some he had seen.
Rep. Frank Lucas, R- Cheyenne, whose district includes the farming counties of Oklahoma along with some of the most urban parts of it, said Hunter's proposed lines would be good ones considering all the factors that had to be considered.
He acknowledged that reaction will be flowing from all corners of the state and the prospects for the Hunter plan to survive were uncertain.
"I would say, looking at those lines, everyone but Congressman Istook should be pleased," Lucas said.
Oklahoma Coup Fails.
Oklahoma House Speaker Larry Adair (D) narrowly survived a move to oust him last week by Republicans and some Democrats who were disgruntled about Adair's handling of the state's legislative redistricting process.
The 101-member state House voted 50-50 to remove Adair and replace him with state House Minority Leader Fred Morgan (R). One member, former Speaker Loyd Benson (D), was absent. Republicans, who hold 48 seats in the lower chamber, needed 51 votes. But only two Democrats, state Reps. Mike Ervin and Ron Langmacher, voted with them.
Republicans had counted on the support of two other Democratic lawmakers, who had voiced displeasure this month over new districts drawn in a map embraced by Adair.
Democrats, who control both chambers of the Legislature in Oklahoma but not by majorities that could override Gov. Frank Keating's (R) veto, will redraw the Congressional map later this year. The state's six-Member delegation loses one House seat under reapportionment, and redistricting insiders have speculated that Democrats would throw two House Republicans into one district.
However, there were signs late last week that the Republicans will rekindle their move to take control of the lower chamber before the state Legislature takes up the Congressional remap.
"My goal is for the Republicans to control the Legislature - at least the House," Morgan said. "My caucus elected me to take them to the majority."
A House redistricting plan in its final stages of development throws two veteran southern Oklahoma Democratic lawmakers into the same district.
The plan also throws together two north-central Oklahoma Republicans.
Rep. Ray McCarter, D-Marlow, said Wednesday he was not happy about the development.
McCarter was informed Tuesday in the office of Speaker Larry Adair that he had been placed in a district with fellow Democratic Rep. Bill Mitchell, D-Lindsay.
The plan also places two Enid Republicans in the same district - Reps. Curt Roggow and Mike O'Neal.
''I was surprised. I hope this is the starting point,'' McCarter said. He said Rep. Bill Paulk, D-Oklahoma City, chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, apologized for the action.
McCarter said hoped the change will not be necessary, but if it is, he will make the best of it.
''Either you are a team player or you're not,'' he said. ''It would not be right for me to say you can do anything with everyone else's district but mine.''
He said he would run for another term, in any event.
''I would hate to run against my colleague - I can't think of anyone I like better. But if I have to, I will,'' he said.
Efforts to reach the other lawmakers involved were unsuccessful Wednesday afternoon.
Earlier, Mitchell was asked about the governor's House redistricting proposal and quipped that ''I like it a lot better than the Democratic plan.''
The redistricting panel that drew the plan was composed mostly of Democrats.
On Tuesday, Keating disclosed his own reapportionment plan, which combines two Democratic House districts in rural western Oklahoma and creates a new district in a rapidly growing area in northeastern Oklahoma.
Paulk quickly reminded the Republican governor that the Oklahoma Constitution puts the Legislature in charge of redistricting.
Adair said the plan appears to be an attempt to gerrymander districts.
Keating's plan combines House districts represented by Jack Bonny, D-Burns Flat, and James Covey, D-Custer City.
Keating said the change is necessary because of the loss of 32,854 residents in southwestern Oklahoma from 1990 to 2000.
A member of the House redistricting committee, who asked not to be quoted by name, said the fate of McCarter and Mitchell may have been sealed when former House Speaker Loyd Benson, D-Frederick, and Rep. Ron Langmacher,D-Carnegie, were placed back on the panel.
Langmacher quit the committee earlier in the session in protest of Benson not being named committee chairman.
Benson subsequently was put in charge of congressional redistricting and Langmacher became co-chairman of the subcommittee that handles districts in the southwestern part of the state.
Under the Oklahoma Constitution, only the Legislature is given the authority to draw new boundaries for House and Senate districts, but the governor can exercise his veto power if he does not like the plan.
If an agreement is not reached, the chore goes to a three-member commission consisting of the attorney general, state school superintendent and state treasurer. All are Democrats.
Keating, with the help of a consultant, is the first governor in modern times to draw his own redistricting plan.