(I promise if you read below the fold, this will be pretty freakin' entertaining...)
First some background.
The State of Oklahoma has a much higher number of registered Democrats than registered Republicans. This is going all the way back to the 60's.
They dynamic in Oklahoma works like this: Most of the Democrats are really republicans and most of the republicans are domestically bred fascists.
Generally, people vote democrat for local candidates and republican for Congressional races or above.
That's because most democrats running for state office tend to run on a strict pro-gun, pro-God, anti-gay agenda.
Outside of that, they tend to stick to Democratic meat and potatoes issues of fair-wages and good education.
Brad Henry was something of a lucky sum'bitch, and I say that really liking the guy.
Here's how it went down...
Brad Henry was a State Senator from Shawnee
, which is about 20 miles east of Oklahoma City.
He was a nice enough guy, but no one really knew who he was.
He was running to replace Frank Keating, who had really overstayed his welcome in the governor's mansion.
The heir apparent to Frank Keating was Congressman Steve Largent. Everyone accepted that he was going to win, so everyone turned their eyes to the senate race which pitted former governor David Walters against James Inhofe.
Well, during this time when no one was paying attention, Gary Richardson entered the governor's race as an Independent. Richardson's platform was simple. The Oklahoma State Turnpike system should be free to Oklahomans and we should charge out of state trucks to use them.
Now, around this same time (stay with me here) Subway was playing commercials all over the country that gave prominence to other people who had lost weight on Jared Fogle's Subway diet. One of the people featured was a firefighter named Clay Henry.
Now this jingle was quite ubiquitous for a while, and everybody found themselves humming it at one time or another. This will be important.
Early in 2002, there had been a petition drive to get a Ban on Cockfighting. (Rooster boxing you sickos!)
This drive was successful, and it made it on to the ballot statewide for the General Election.
This will also be important.
Now, back to Gary Richardson. Gary Richardson was short on funds, mostly because he was nuts, so he was spending quite a bit of his own money on the race.
Not wanting to overextend himself, he put his sights on who he felt would be his main competition in a Red State like Oklahoma.
Steve Largent was going through some campaign doldrums, because like everyone else in the state, he believed the Governor's mansion was his for the taking, so he pretty much just didn't bother to campaign.
And really, who could blame him? He was the only name in the race. He had the support of the RNC. He was a football hero in a state where football comes in just short of Christianity as the state religion.
Yet all of these factors were going to add up to one nasty surprise.
Now we go to Sept 11, 2001. The nation is attacked and congressmen everywhere were showing their patriotism.
Steve Largent was on a hunting trip in Idaho on this day, and it understandably took him several days to get back to Washington D.C.
Well, the local fox affiliate, (KOKH-25) had scored an interview with him, and the reporter asked him where he was when the rest of congress was showing what Uber-patriots they were.
Largent responded to this with a rant at the reporter that was quite hostile and involved some 4 letter words. Here is a post about the incident by Kos from way back in 2002.
Suddenly old ladies and good Christians felt a little uneasy about ole Steve Largent.
Gary Richardson then used this news clip to make an attack ad that was played more often that the Dean Scream or the Swift Boat ads.
Additionally, someone came up with the idea of co-opting the Clay Henry Subway Jingle to a Brad Henry Jingle that was on local radio more than Largent's rant was on TV.
So, Henry's name is now an ear-worm.
Even better, the Largent as Football Hero issue was negated when Barry Switzer and Toby Keith endorsed Brad Henry.
I'm sure Toby Keith goes without explanation, though I am sure that most of you are surprised to learn that he is a Democrat. He really is. He donates time and money to the Democratic candidates and causes around the state.
Barry Switzer, for the uninitiated, was the head coach of the University of Oklahoma Sooners. He won three National Championships at OU and a Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys.
Oklahoma determines its worth as a state largely by how the Sooners are doing in any given year. Among the sooner elite, Barry is a god.
Then along comes cockfighting. The cockfighting ban initiative angered a lot of rural farmer types who made a good bit of money raising these roosters, and those who weren't raising them didn't like that people from the city were telling people from the country how to live.
So, there was a record turn out amongst rural voters. No one saw this coming, because a lot of these people had not voted since Reagan first got elected.
The showed up to vote against Cockfighting, and since they had been registered democrats all their life, most of them voted straight party line just because they hadn't been paying attention and felt bad leaving it blank.
All of these planets aligned at just the right time to allow Henry to squeak out a victory over Largent.
On election night, the look on Largent's face was classic. He looked like he had been tricked into throwing the Super Bowl. He was in a state of incredulous shock and it was sooooo sweet.
So, that's how Brad Henry became the Governor of Oklahoma.
He's going to get re-elected because he was serious about bi-partisanship. He was serious about working with both parties to find compromise. He delivered on his promise to get a Lottery to fund Oklahoma's education, and he stayed out of the partisan bickering that consumes this state.
Brad Henry is a good man, and though we couldn't ever recreate the set of circumstances that got him elected, he still serves as the perfect model of how a Democrat could govern in a red state.
Well, I've blown my entire lunch break on this little bit of reporting. I hope you've enjoyed it.
-The Oklahoma Hippy