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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Two Oklahoma County Democratic Candidates Win Their Challenges

Last week, those who wished to be candidates for office in Oklahoma filed with the Oklahoma Election Board in order to be on the primary and general election ballot.

An inevitable follow-up to the filings are challenges to the legitimacy of their challenges by their opponents. Usually these involve issues such as residency and party affliation. For example, according to Oklahoma election law, one must be a resident in the district for which one is running at least 6 months before filing. One must also be registered as a member of the Democratic, Republican or Independent political party six months before one can file as a candidate for that party. (Technically, "Independent" is not a party, but the same rules apply.)

These challenges can be very messy since one is challenges the veracity and the ethics of a potential opponent. But the challenge system is usually a necessary evil to insure that those who seek public office do so legitimately.

Sometimes, though, challenges fall out of the realm of "necessary" evils and become, well, something bad. Such was the case with one challenge to an Oklahoma County candidate.

The two challenges we had to our candidates involved the candidacy of David Castillo running for House District 93 who was challenged by Mike Christian who is running for the Republican nomination for that district. This was a straight forward challenge to his residency, no problem with that. The challenge was overturned and David will be on the ballot for the Democratic primary along with Wilfredo Rivera.

The other challenge was against Linda James who runs LL James Printing along with Jack Farley. She is running for House District 90 in western Oklahoma County. Linda's challenge was a lot more nasty. Rep. Charles Key, the incumbent, did not challenge her residency. He challenged the legality of her dwelling place. Linda has for 3 years lived at her business address with the full knowledge and consent of her landlord. Her business is zoned for commercial use, but she also used it for living quarters. Rep. Key went a step further with his challenge and arranged to have Linda evicted from her dwelling place!

To me, this is out of bounds. It is one thing to call into question an opponent's residency. It is quite something else to try and order her to vacate her home in 10 days.

The story has a happy ending for Linda. She has managed to secure new digs within her district, and the Election Board threw out Key's challenge on the grounds that he could not deny the fact that she had lived in the district for the required residency period.

Key, by the way, is an ardent believer that the US government was responsible for the Murrah Bombing and not Timothy McVeigh. He deserves to be thrown out of this race by his own party.

In a follow-up to this story, 3 Oklahoma County House District representatives and one county official were re-elected to their offices by virtue of having no opponent. Rep. Richard Morrissette and Rep. Rebecca Hamilton both had no opponet file against them. Rep. Al McAffrey filed a challenge to his opponent who tried to run against him as an independent on the basis that the opponent filed to change his affliation as an independent 6 months prior to the filing date. Oklahoma County Court Clerk Patty Preseley also did not have an opponent file against her despite the fact that she switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party back in 2006.

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