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January 5, 2014

Dorman a likely candidate

DUNCAN — Joe Dorman, who for the past 11 years has represented District 65 of the Oklahoma House of Representatives that includes the northernmost tip of Stephens County, is serious about seeking the governor’s job.

He knows running against an incumbent is a challenge.

He realizes a lot of money must be raised to conduct a reputable campaign.

He understands a strong economy might prompt many to assume all is well in the Sooner state.

And he recognizes some may think his is a campaign more for name recognition that leads to a better chance for seeking the state’s highest office in 2018 when term limits empty the office.

But now, he says, is his time.

A Rush Springs native, Oklahoma State University graduate and a respected leader, Dorman has learned much in recent weeks while pushing statewide a petition to allow residents to vote on a plan to issue $500 million in bonds for construction of storm shelters in public schools across the state, using franchise tax revenue to repay the bonds.

He suggests Gov. Mary Fallin, who defeated then-Lt. Gov. Jari Askins of Duncan in 2010, is not as popular or as invincible as she might think and adds people aren’t satisfied with state leadership. He says many want changes in critical areas.

One, he explains, is support for rural health care where Fallin rejected federal funding that might have added physicians and services in less populated, more isolated areas. .

Another is education, where a current one-size-fits-all policy is confusing, where teachers feel under assault and where a voice in the governor’s office is sought.

And another is lack of support for state employees and teachers, who despite hard and productive labor, have seen little in the way of pay raises.

Formation of an exploratory committee and filing a statement of organization with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission has allowed him to travel the state, listen to suggestions and ideas from fellow Oklahomans and raise funds to support a likely run for office.

A campaign staff is taking shape. Kendra Horn of Chickasha, who ran his first legislative campaign, is its manager. She is experienced, he said, and is the right person for the job. Leslie Thomas of the Enid area will head fundraising work. While she has little political experience, she has strong success in the non-profit arena and widens his reach beyond politics and makes inclusive its goal.

A web-site soliciting ideas and contributions is up and running.

And the core of his issues-oriented message will focus on education, student safety, health care, common man needs, and efficiency in government, his “listening” tour is geared to expand and shape additional topics that connect with residents and voters.

Askins won’t officially be part of the campaign, but her encouragement, advice and counsel have already been meaningful.

“I can’t say enough nice things about her,” Dorman said. “She has been a mentor to me since I worked in the mailroom and she was a freshman legislator.

She admitted, he said, it will be an uphill battle, but embraced his energetic approach and issue-seeking agenda.

Finding adequate financing is an obvious challenge.

He expects it will take $4 million to run a creditable campaign. The governor has $1.3 million in the bank and seemingly endless access to pockets of supportive monies. He has $307 in his account, but expects more funding as he delivers his common man, common sense message.

“My previous campaigns were all under $100,000, so it’s a new world for me,” he said.

A Democrat, he tosses aside concerns about Republican dominance in a state said to be the reddest of all Republican strongholds, noting there remains a deep history of Democratic success in Oklahoma.

“Oklahomans vote for the person in what is still a very populist state,” he said. “A Democrat can win if the message is right and I believe our type campaign will appeal to the people.”

It was forged in southwest Oklahoma, in places like Rush Springs, Marlow and Duncan, he said, a place from where many leaders have emerged, where he has learned many life lessons and where his roots remain at home.

 He hopes to be the party’s standard bearer, but will likely face primary opposition in June. R.J. Harris has announced he will run. Others may follow.

“Voters will decide that,” he said.

His legislative reputation is sound. He comes across as progressive and level-headed, a deep thinker, an articulate voice and a man of reason whose interest is in making Oklahoma a better place.

A firm decision on running is necessary by the April filing period.

What he hears and what he feels between now and then will determine that decision, but today, it certainly seems Joe Dorman is a candidate for governor in the great state of Oklahoma.

edarling@duncanbanner.com

(580) 255-5354, Ext.130

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