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Oklahoma Senate Candidate Jim Rogers Has a Name -- but Not Much Else

4 years ago
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Andrea Stone
Tired of all the headlines about Christine O'Donnell in Delaware? Heard enough about Carl Paladino in New York? Well, here's one long-shot Senate candidate you won't be hearing much about on election night, even if he did get on the ballot because of his name: Jim Rogers.

Rogers, 75 or thereabouts, is the Democratic candidate for U.S Senate from Oklahoma. His opponent is Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, an iconoclastic Okie from Muskogee with approval ratings through the roof.

Coburn leads by at least 40 points in polls. He is so unconcerned about being re-elected to a second term that he has donated $1 million in campaign funds to help other Republicans in tighter Senate races.

The Cook Political Report has called the race "a non-event." A spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Democratic Party, Megan Dubray, says the match-up is "not a serious race" and says the focus is on the much more competitive governor's race.

Jim RogersA former college professor who won't say where he taught, Rogers has been called the "white Alvin Greene," the unemployed veteran who won the Democratic Senate nomination in South Carolina. Wonkette called him a "grizzled old coot" and warned, tongue firmly planted in cheek, that "come November, Tom Coburn's reign of terror will be over!"

Rogers has no campaign website, doesn't do fund-raising -- he has spent less than $700 on his 2010 race -- and mostly walks the streets with a handmade sign in the working-class Oklahoma City suburb where he lives. He told the Associated Press that his top priority is to stop the outsourcing of jobs overseas and rein in the national debt but is otherwise a blank slate.

Efforts to reach Rogers through his Facebook page elicited a response six hours later from someone writing, "I know it's a pain, but Mr. Rogers mainly conducts interviews through the mail," and listed an address in Midwest City, Okla. The person added that, "He would likely consent to a phone interview as well, but I don't have that information available as this page is mostly an informational page from articles."

While some Democrats have suggested Greene may be a GOP plant, the Oklahoman in the red baseball cap and Santa Claus beard may have won 65 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary because voters recognized his name.

Rogers is a perennial candidate, running for office nearly every election year. This was his fourth bid for the Senate and he was once an also-ran for lieutenant governor. In 2008, his name appeared on the ballot for president.

But what may have really put him over the top this time against a late-entering first-time candidate was that some primary voters may have thought he was related to Oklahoma favorite son Will Rogers, the early 20th-century humorist and cowboy commentator.

Jim Rogers has said he is not related.

"Names matter," Ben Odom, a longtime political consultant, told the Tulsa World. "If you're going to run for office in Oklahoma, you can't have a better name than Rogers."

Still, Oklahoma hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1962. Its seven-member congressional delegation includes just one Democrat, Rep. Dan Boren. In 2004, when Democrats fielded conservative congressman Brad Carson to take on Coburn for an open Senate seat, he lost by 12 points. That same year, Republicans took over the state legislature for the first time in history.

Democrats may outnumber Republicans in the state by nearly 200,000, but that is a "historical artifact," said University of Oklahoma political scientist Gary Copeland. He suspects many registered Democrats signed up in the 1950s and 1960s and haven't voted that way in decades, if they are still voting at all.

In Oklahoma, at least, candidate Jim Rogers may prove as a truism the famous quip uttered long ago by that other feller with the similar name: "I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat."

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The writer committed a huge error. David Boren was the last Democrat to represent Oklahoma in the Senate. He served in the Senate from 1979-1994 until he resigned his Senate seat to become the President at OU.

December 25 2010 at 4:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Alvin Greene is probably running neck and neck with Rogers, when it comes to earning "mystery candidate" of the election award.

October 28 2010 at 12:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


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