It is, some perceive, the Classic Battle.
The entrenched politico versus the fresh face.
By Mike McCarville
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The McCarville Report Online,
Oklahoma's trusted source of political news
The bright-ideas guy versus the old-way guy.
The newcomer versus the veteran.
The old versus the new.
Democrat versus Republican in the heaviest of Democratic enclaves.
Jay Paul Gumm versus Josh Brecheen.
Followers of Oklahoma politics know well the peril a Republican faces in "Little Dixie," that southeastern portion of the state where the political roots run deep and far, its ancestry in uprooted Civil War veterans and displaced Indian tribes.Since 1907, the number of successful Republican candidates for office in this area totals...zero? Sure, national ticket Republicans have done well. But for local offices? (Actually, as Jamison Faught at Muskogee Politico notes, it has happened: In state House races, a Republican won in Atoka County once (1909), and Coal County once (1921).
Thus it is that we arrive on the cusp of the 2010 race for the Oklahoma Senate in District 6, where veteran Democrat Jay Paul Gumm, an affable, successful advocate of the 2nd Amendment and coverage of autistic children by insurance companies, and a man with a growing family, faces Republican newcomer Josh Brecheen, an affable, successful horseman and businessman with a growing family.
The race began slowly enough. Gumm had the campaign cash, the name, and Brecheen wasn't considered much of a threat, at least by those outside the district, the oh-so-knowing "experts" whose overview sometimes extend only as far the tips of their noses.
Then It began to happen. Brecheen's reputation, his persona, his hard work, his whatever, prompted a bit of a buzz. The little gatherings grew larger. Some volunteers showed up. Calls were made. Some in the Brecheen camp began to believe.
Time passed. The crowds grew. The buzz intensified. There was open talk on the streets about Brecheen and his campaign. Around Tishomingo, his home grounds, lots of folks were throwing him a thumbs up.
In the Brecheen campaign, there was notice of increased contributions. The buzz was louder.
Then, more than 100 local volunteers showed up to walk and ride with Brecheen in the Chickasaw Festival Parade in Tishomingo, making the entry the largest participant, drawing the attention even of those of us observers perched far away in the Capital city. Gumm's entry had few walkers and some noticed they seemed to be out-of-towners; some also opined they might be union members from the Big Cities. One of Tishomingo’s former mayors, Dustin Rowe, who has attended the festival for the past 15 years, said of Brecheen's participation, "It was the largest single entry for a candidate that I have ever seen. It seemed as if the Brecheen for State Senate entry went on and on and on, and was filled primarily with Johnston County residents."
Brecheen, who worked for six years as a field representative in the district for the seriously-popular Senator Tom Coburn, is also a past state FFA President and draws support from both experiences. When Coburn showed up at a Durant event recently to endorse Brecheen, more than 200 crammed a meeting room and prompted a capacity check to make sure the fire chief wouldn't shut them down.
So now it is slightly more than two weeks before upstart Brecheen and veteran pol Gumm face the voters, a group that should, by logic, provide Gumm a convincing win. In 2002, the last time a Republican ran for the Senate seat, Johnston County alone was won by Gumm by over 1,600 votes. This time, there's a shadow in the background that Gumm and other Democrats wish would go away: Barack Obama. The less-popular-than-your-local-lout president is a drag on Oklahoma candidates from the top to the bottom, the pollsters say.
Privately to this point, GOP vote-counters in Oklahoma City, eager to expand their control of the Senate and sensing something historic going on in Little Dixie, are growing ever-more optimistic. Their optimism is no doubt rooted in survey research The McCarville Report Online is told that shows Brecheen within grasp of victory.
Whether Josh Brecheen is a precursor to a future Little Dixie victory for a Republican, or is himself that victor remains for District 6's voters to decide.
Regardless, the Brecheen-Gumm race has become one of the year's most interesting to watch.