Rep. Boren’s retirement makes future hazy for state voice in Congress 

Boren, 37, the state’s congressional Democrat, represents the 2nd Congressional District, which covers 24 counties in eastern Oklahoma.

He attributed his decision to the demands of constant campaigning and time spent away from his family, including his wife, Andrea; and their children, Janna and Hunter.

“This is not an easy decision for me,” he said in a statement released after the press conference.
Boren said he plans to serve out the remainder of his two-year term.

Following in the footsteps of his politician father, former U.S. Senator and current University of Oklahoma President David Boren, Dan Boren left the Oklahoma state House to run for congressional office. He was first elected to Congress in 2004, and was re-elected three more times, in 2006, 2008 and 2010.

A leading member of the House’s moderate Blue Dog Coalition, Boren also became ranking member in the 112th Congress’ Subcommittee on Indian and Alaskan Native Affairs in late January, adding to his already-extensive résumé of appointments in the House, including committees on intelligence, natural resources and armed services.

Arguably, his biggest contribution was to the House’s fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition. Comprised of 26 members of Congress, the coalition formed in 1994 in response to serious midterm election losses for the House Democrats. The Blue Dogs suffered more recent setbacks when its members comprised half of the Democrats’ 2010 losses. 

Boren won a fourth term in November with 108,203 votes, or 56.52 percent, defeating Republican candidate Charles Thompson by 24,937 ballots. Boren had landslide victories of roughly 70 percent in 2008 and 2006.

The coalition’s PAC has made considerable donations to his campaign, with two $2,500 donations in March, as well as two $5,000 donations in March 2010, and in 2008 for his re-election campaigns, according to Boren’s filed FEC expense reports.

By April, he had filed more than $1 million in total campaign contributions, according to the reports. Boren said  he plans on returning the donations.

His predecessor in the House, former Rep. Brad Carson, also said Tuesday he is looking into reclaiming the seat that he held from 2001 to 2005.

Since his loss in a Senate run to Sen. Tom Coburn, Carson, 44, has been teaching, first at Harvard and now as a professor of business and law at the University of Tulsa. He served as CEO of Cherokee Nation Businesses LLC from 2005 until 2008.

“Dan did a great job, and I was sad to hear that he was going to retire,” Carson said. “The 2nd district has a lot of pressing issues. Having been there once, I know how it works and know the many things that need to be changed about it.”

Carson has not formally announced his candidacy, but said he will decide in the coming weeks.

“I hope, that if I do run, that we can continue the long tradition of excellent representation in the district,” he said.

The GOP of Oklahoma, meanwhile, has other plans — which don’t include Carson or any other Democratic candidate.

Party chairman Matt Pinnell stated in a news release, sent after both Boren and Carson’s announcements, that the GOP already is working to take back the seat. Doing so would remove all Democratic voices of power in Oklahoma from the national stage.

“I’m confident voters of the 2nd [Congressional] District will vote the Oklahoma way, not the Obama way,” Pinnell said in the release.

Carson endorsed President Barack Obama early in his presidential race in 2006, while Boren refused to do so, citing the then-senator’s liberal voting record.   
Citing Boren’s recent turns against his party leaders, Pinnell said that “at the end of the day, we can do better in the second district than Dan Boren. And I believe a majority of voters believe that.”

Early names on Pinnell’s list of possible candidates include Assistant House Majority Floor Leader George Faught, R-Muskogee; state Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate; and former state Rep. and House Majority Floor Leader Tad Jones, R-Claremore.

Pinnell said Boren’s sudden announcement has made the 2012 race for the seat more competitive for both parties. And with the GOP’s recent grassroots campaigns in the district, voters could go either way at the polls.

More Democrats than Republicans are registered to vote in Oklahoma, with an edge of nearly 150,000, according to the Oklahoma State Election Board. But Republicans are beginning to dominate Southeastern Oklahoma’s “Little Dixie,” despite the sharp Democratic edge that has dulled in the last several elections. More than two-thirds of the 2nd Congressional District voted for Sen. John McCain over Obama, according to polls from the board.

The Republican presidential nominee took Atoka County, a Little Dixie county southeast of Oklahoma City, with 71.9 percent of the votes (George W. Bush won the county in 2004 with nearly 10 percent fewer votes). Northern neighbor Pittsburg County gave McCain the county’s vote with 68.3 percent, while Bush won with 59.9 percent.

Pinnell said electing a Democrat who would go to Capitol Hill and vote for Obama’s economic and social policies would be unacceptable for many district voters. 

Simply relying on voters to register as Democrats and expecting big election turnouts won’t cut it for the party any more, and won’t fix deficit or entitlement spending, he said.

“Those Democrats in the 2nd District just don’t see eye-to-eye with the Nancy Pelosis and Barack Obamas any more,” Pinnell said. “They just don’t.” —Alex Ewald

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