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Glass half full for Independents

The Oklahoman Editorial (Nov. 3rd, 2006)

The definition of an optimist, in political terms in Oklahoma, is either any candidate who runs against Frank Lucas for the 3rd Congressional District seat or any candidate who runs as an independent for any office.

Citizens registered as independents represent about 10 percent of the state’s registered voters, but only a fraction of them are motivated to promote growth in their ranks, much less get an independent candidate elected.

Independent candidates show up in every election cycle but fail to sway voters. The race for lieutenant governor, which is one of the most hotly contested and expensive races this year, features an independent candidate who will win few votes. The same is true in the race for the open 5th Congressional District seat.

The definition of an optimist/realist is someone who hopes for the best but prepares for the worst. A group called Oklahoma Coalition of Independents surely must know the feeling.

The coalition and other groups want to relax ballot access laws in Oklahoma, said to be the most restrictive in the nation. We agree that it’s too tough for an independent party to get a presidential aspirant on the ballot and reform is needed.

On its Web site, the coalition lists independents who’ve run for office since 1996. Of the more than 60 races covered, none of the independents came close to winning. They typically pulled less than 5 percent of the vote.

The list includes presidential candidates such as Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan, so not all independent candidates on Oklahoma ballots are unknown. Unloved, maybe, but not unknown.

We applaud the independent political groups for keeping things interesting. Their day may come as more voters tire of the squabbling between the two dominant parties and voters who register as independents actually work for candidates who run as independents.

By the way, the optimist running against Lucas this year is Democrat Sue Barton of Tulsa.