We Know We Belong to the Land - A Hundred Years of Oklahoma and the Congress
46th Star - Continuing to Rise
A century of statehood has altered much of what marked Oklahoma as a “brand new state.” The once exuberant liberalism, even downright radicalism, of the statehood era has aged into a conservatism that pervades everything from the pulpit to the polls.
In a strange twist of political events, incumbents now fell to primary challengers. At the time, Oklahoma Democrats could scarcely conceive an outcome more dismal than in 1994. The most stunning defeat that year was when the Second District’s Mike Synar, a sixteen-year veteran, lost in the primary to a retired schoolteacher. Four brand-new Republican congressmen—Steve Largent in the First District, Tom Coburn in the Second, J. C. Watts in the Fourth, and Frank Lucas in the Sixth—joined the Fifth District’s one-term incumbent Ernest Istook and left the Third District’s Bill Brewster as Oklahoma’s sole Democrat. Istook had won election in 1992 following incumbent Mickey Edwards’s sound defeat in the primary. When Wes Watkins announced that he planned to leave Congress to run for governor in 1990, Brewster launched a successful campaign for his first of three House wins. Interestingly, when Brewster decided not to seek a fourth term, Watkins regained the seat only this time as a Republican! Never before had the GOP enjoyed such an advantage, but even worse times lay ahead for state Democrats. In both 1996 and 1998 Oklahoma put all-Republican delegations in Congress, including both U.S. senators, Don Nickles and James Inhofe. In addition, in 1998, Watts was elected GOP Conference chair—the fourth-ranking spot in the House leadership.
Steve Largent
Above: A strong fiscal conservative, Steve Largent (R-OK, 1994-2002) repeatedly tried to eliminate the tax code and to decrease federal funding for public broadcasting. Yet, he broke with conservatives in the international custody fight over returning Elian Gonzalez to his father in Cuba.
J.C. Watts
Left:
J. C. Watts (R-OK, 1995-2002) tosses a football with his son near the Capitol.  An excellent orator, Watts was frequently called upon by the GOP faithful to assist with campaigning and espousing the party line.  His major legislative effort was the Community Renewal Act which targeted low income rural and urban areas and recommended local and faith-based problem solving.
Bill Brewster
Right:
Bill K. Brewster (D-OK, 1991-1996), a registered pharmacist, served on the Hospitals and Health Care Subcommittee of the Veterans Affairs Committee. A life member of the National Rifle Association, he had a 100 percent NRA voting record. As the co-chair of the Congressional Sportsman’s Caucus, he found himself at odds with environmental and animal rights activists, whom he believed wanted to end “consumptive” use of wildlife.
back
next

Copyright © 2007 Carl Albert Center at the University of Oklahoma
Last Modified 04/05
/07 cacarchives@ou.edu
Disclaimer | Copyright

OU Disclaimer