More than a few Blue Dog watchers think that the worst of the whole mangy bunch is Oklahoma son of privilege Dan Boren. It would be hard to argue otherwise. To the delight of Oklahoma Democrats and independents news started leaking out yesterday that the most beloved-- and progressive-- state legislator in Oklahoma, state Senator Jim Wilson, has decided to challenge Boren in the July 27th primary. Wilson represents a rural district in the northeast part of the state.
Adair County, which is on the Arkansas border, is about 42% Native American. The per capita income in 2000 was $11,185. Around 20% of the people live below the poverty line. Just to the west is Cherokee County, which is around 32% Native American and where the per capita income is $13,436, and where something like 1 in 5 residents live below the poverty line. Sequoyah County is south of the other two and its population is around 20% Native American. Per capita income was $13,405; and slightly less than 20% of the population lives below the poverty line. The three counties are part of Oklahoma's sprawling second Congressional District (25 counties), represented by, like I said, one of the most conservative of all the Blue Dogs. And yet these three counties are represented by the most progressive member of the Oklahoma state legislature, Jim Wilson, once a state Rep, now a state Senator.
The two lawmakers, both Democrats, could hardly be further apart politically. Boren flaunts his default position as an aisle crosser who votes against most Democratic Party initiatives, healthcare reform being only the most recent. Wilson's signature issue in the state legislature has been fighting for the kind of healthcare reform his constituents need so badly.
Wilson is challenging one of the House's most entitled members. Boren, widely viewed as among the most mediocre and ineffective politicians in Washington, is the son of David Boren, a former Oklahoma Governor and Senator, currently the president of the University of Oklahoma. Dan's grandfather, Lyle Boren, also represented a large portion of the district on Congress. Among the most reactionary Democrats in Congress, Boren is on the board of directors of the NRA and made a news splash by refusing to endorse President Obama. A member of the Natural Resources Committee, he takes immense amounts of money ($504,610 so far), generally seen as thinly veiled bribes, from the oil and gas interests whose profits he protects.
Boren is a sponsor of H.R. 25, John Linder's proposal to abolish progressive income taxes and replace them with a highly regressive flat sales tax, something that would dramatically shift the burden of taxation away from the wealthy and powerful and onto the backs of the middle class and would likely destroy the federal government's already limited ability to act as a control on the power of avaricious transnational corporate predators. Every other sponsor is an extreme right wing Republican, characters like Steve King (R-IA), Mike Pence (R-IN), Paul Broun (R-GA) and Trent Franks (R-AZ).
Boren is even better known as one of the least environmentally-friendly members of Congress and has the lowest environmental score of any Democrat in the House. On the other hand, Boren's the only politician other than George W. Bush, who was endorsed by Toby Keith.
Wilson won't be running as another Republican-lite reactionary but on a solid record as a forward-looking state legislator. In 2007 he was one of only 13 members of the state Senate to vote against Oklahoma's ban on funding abortions and one of only 8 members to oppose redefining homicide as to include a fetus. In 2006 He was one of only 5 members of the Senate to vote against a law that made it legal to shoot anyone you feel threatened by, including in public areas. And last year when the governor vetoed a ban on stem cell research, Wilson was one of the 19 members to keep the veto from being overridden.
I managed to get a hold of Jim late yesterday and he went through some of the dynamics on the ground that have compelled him to enter the race. "I've been working on healthcare in the state legislature for 10 years," he told me. "Oklahoma ranks 50th in overall delivery of healthcare statewide. And we're 49th in education funding." But the movers and shakers in the state-- wealthy oil and gas interests and the big media outfits-- are eager to continue defunding public education, while having no problem at all for $60 million of taxpayer money going into incentives to lure the Seattle Sonics, now the Oklahoma City Thunder, to the state. Jim has a different set of priorities. "21% of the people in the second district are living below the poverty level. Average household income in around $32,000 but for a family that has to pay for their own health insurance there's a $13,000 outlay. It's just unachievable... The Oklahoman is the state's ultra-right big newspaper. Yesterday in an editorial they tried disparaging me as the Harry Reid of the Oklahoma Senate because I reject further cuts to education. I'll wear that as a badge of pride."
This is going to be a tough, uphill battle and the second Jim was on ActBlue, Blue America added him to our BadDogs page. I hope you'll want to click on the link and welcome Jim to the race with a contribution for feel comfortable with.