50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 46. Oklahoma

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts so far can be found here

46. Oklahoma

Capital: Oklahoma City

Nickname: Sooner State

Motto: Labor Omnia Vincit

(Hard Work Conquers All)

About the State

The first European to explore Oklahoma was the Spaniard, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, in the 16th century, yet it was the French who later claimed the region, making it part of their Louisiana Territory.  The French ceded control of the land to Spain in the Treaty of Fontainebleau at the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1762, Napoleon then reclaimed it in 1800, before selling the entire colony to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase three years later.  At that time, the area had been home to Native Americans from various nations including the Wichita and Apache, but other tribes from the east coast were later pushed out there by the Federal Government.  In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which sought treaties with the Native Americans to move outside of the United States and into what was called “Indian Territory” – located in what is now eastern Oklahoma.  The Choctaw and Chickasaw realised the inevitability of the move and migrated west; the Seminoles in Florida did sign a treaty, but it was not agreed to by the tribe and they fought two wars, losing most of their number and those that did survive were ultimately forced to the new territory; and the Creek and Cherokee were removed by the US military – the latter tribe lost 4,000 men during the march on what is called the “Trail of Tears”.

The majority of the population of Indian Territory was Native Americans, but they also held around 8,400 black slaves and during the Civil War, there were both pro and anti-slavery factions within the territory.  Congress passed a law that tribes would lose their appropriation money allocated to them by treaties, should they be act in a hostile manner towards the United States so, while there was no outright rebellion, there was a simultaneous internal war over the issue of slavery within the Cherokee Nation.  In the reconstruction period that followed the Civil War, the Federal Government attempted to pursue a policy of assimilation with the Native American tribes, rather than one of separation, and agreements were made for cowboys to lead their cattle drives across the land; for railroads to pass through the Territory; and for some areas being opened up for white settlers.  When previously unassigned areas were made available for settlement under the Homestead Act, it was done on a first-come, first-served basis which resulted in “land runs”, the most famous one occurred in Oklahoma on April 22nd, 1889, when 50,000 people raced to stake their claim to piece of the available two million acres.  Some people cheated and took over a plot before the designated time, which earned them the moniker “Sooners” – which has since become the nickname of the state.

In 1890, the Oklahoma Territory was organised by Congress, in the western part of the state and adjacent to Indian Territory.  The leaders of the Indian Territory attempted to form their own state – Sequoyah – in 1902, but this was unsuccessful as the United States government wished for the two territories to join as one if they were to enter the Union.  Ultimately the leaders agreed to this and, on November 16th, 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt made Oklahoma the 46th state of the USA, which included the areas of both former Territories.

In the 1920s, there were several oil fields discovered in the state and it produced a boon to the economy which lasted until the Great Depression.   The downward trend of the economy was exacerbated by what was called the Dust Bowl Era, during which dust storms blew away fertile soil from arable land and, combined with droughts and poor agricultural processes, left farmers unable to grow crops and resulted in many fleeing the state.  Oklahoma’s economy continued to be based around oil until the 1980s, since when a decline has seen other sectors overtake energy, although it is still the fifth biggest producer of crude oil in the nation and ranks third in natural gas.  Other major industries are aviation, the state is the global home of the maintenance and engineering departments for American Airlines; transportation equipment, where it has the highest output of tires in the country; food processing; and it also has a growing biotechnology sector.

Oklahoma is the 20th largest of the fifty states and, with just under 3.8 million residents, ranks 28th in terms of population.  There is one “Big Four” sports team located there, the Oklahoma City Thunder of the NBA, who were Western Conference champions last season, but lost in the Finals to the Miami Heat.  The capital city is sadly best remembered as being the site of one of the worst terrorist attacks in the United States; in 1995, Timothy McVeigh carried out the Oklahoma City Bombing, using a truck bomb to blow up a Federal Building and killing 168 people, including 19 children, 15 of whom attended a day care that was in the structure.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes: 7

2008 Result: McCain 65.6% Obama 34.4%

Latest Poll: Romney +26%

Like Utah, Oklahoma has only voted for the Democratic candidate in a Presidential election once in the last fifteen contests – Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.  This is another safe state for Governor Romney, who has a huge lead in the polls in the state and is sure to carry it on November 6th.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There are no Senate elections in Oklahoma this year.  The state has five Representatives in the House – the current delegation is made up of 1 Democrat and 4 Republicans, but the GOP are likely to sweep all five this time around, as Rep. Dan Boren (D) is not running for re-election in the 2nd District and the race to replace him between Rob Wallace (D) and Markwayne Mullin (R), is leaning towards the Republican candidate.

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