O'Rourke, Sanders lead Democratic fundraising in Oklahoma
Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders raised the most money in Oklahoma for their Democratic presidential campaigns in the first quarter of the year.
O’Rourke raised $18,331 in Oklahoma in the span of two weeks following his announcement in mid-March. He reported a total of nearly $9.4 million in receipts for his presidential campaign, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Sanders, of Vermont, who won the Democratic presidential primary in Oklahoma in 2016, reported raising $11,754. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, of California, raised $7,302; South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg raised $6,625; and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, collected $4,139 in Oklahoma, where she grew up.
Former Vice President Joe Biden had not announced his candidacy in the first quarter, which covered January through March.
President Donald Trump, a Republican who will be heavily favored to win Oklahoma in the general election, raised $130,958 in Oklahoma in the first quarter of the year. He is not expected to have a competitive primary.
Oklahoma’s presidential primaries are set for March 3, on a Super Tuesday that may include 13 states, including California, Texas, Colorado and Virginia.
Former Oklahoma Gov. David Walters, a member of the Democratic National Committee who also sits on the party’s executive committee, said Oklahoma will get attention from the candidates.
“We have delegate votes,’’ he said.
Oklahoma Democrats had 42 delegates in 2016, though not all were awarded after the primary. Sanders won 21, while Hillary Clinton won 17.
After the early contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina shrink the Democratic field, now at 23, “it will be a competitive nomination process,” Walters said.
“So I would expect that most of the candidates make their way here.
“We’re certainly on the way to the larger state of Texas. But I do think the delegate votes for the convention will be important and we’ll see most of the candidates come through here.”
Joe Calvello, spokesman for the Sanders campaign, said, “Senator Sanders will be visiting Oklahoma before the March primary.
“In 2016, we won Oklahoma by a large margin, and since then, our grassroots movement has only grown stronger. In 2020 we plan to not only compete in Oklahoma but to win the primary by speaking directly to the voters and addressing the issues that are important to them."
Sanders made campaign trips to Oklahoma City and Tulsa in 2016 and won 52 percent of the vote and four of the five congressional districts in Oklahoma. Hillary Clinton did not campaign in the state.
With most of the resources being focused in the early states — and Super Tuesday nine months away — candidates have not been organizing in Oklahoma.
Walters said he met recently with campaign aides for Warren and discussed whether people think of her as being an Oklahoman. She was raised in Norman and Oklahoma City and graduated from Northwest Classen High School. She frequently mentions her Oklahoma roots.
But Walters said Oklahomans don’t really think about her connection to the state.
“She needs to do some work on that,’’ he said.
He said he wasn’t surprised O’Rourke, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate last year in Texas, topped other Democrats in fundraising.
“A lot of people in Oklahoma paid attention to his race against (Republican U.S. Sen.) Ted Cruz,” Walters said. “I knew Republicans who were sending him small checks. I think he was inspirational.”
Walters said he would “probably be leaning to Biden.”
“But I frankly appreciate the fact that we have so many candidates because each of them will stir a body of support and will be out there on the hustings.”