Just a few days before the biggest players in the state Republican Party came to Duncan for a fish fry fundraiser, State Senator Connie Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, arrived in Stephens County looking for support and campaign donations.
Without actually saying so, Johnson, the presumptive Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Tom Coburn, realizes she’s a longshot.
Speaking to 25 people who gathered at Bob’s Restaurant on Thursday night for the regular monthly meeting of local Democrats, Johnson said unless she raises $100,000 for the campaign, the Democratic National Committee won’t kick in any money for the general election.
First elected in 2005 and re-elected in 2010, Johnson is a vocal critic of most Republican policies, but she is particulary forthright about the prohibition of marijuana, which she thinks should be legalized.
“Behind the marijuana issue, we have the ability to flip this state,” she said.
She has filed bills in the Republican-controlled Legislature on the issue that have gone nowhere.
Even so, she insists Oklahoma’s approach is wrongheaded.
There are 49 inmates serving life prison terms without parole for marijuana convictions that were use to enhance previous felony convictions, she said.
“Marijuana has never killed anyone -- not like alcohol,” Johnson said.
She also touts the idea that Oklahoma agriculture would benefit greatly by harvesting hemp for fuel, fiber, paper and other uses.
Moreover, she said, while Colorado reaped $140 million in marijuana sales taxes in one month, Oklahoma and the federal government are busy burning down marijuana that either is cultivated or growing wild.
Johnson chided Gov. Mary Fallin and Republican lawmakers for their recent attacks on the state’s judiciary after justices temporarily halted the scheduled execution of condemned killer Clayton Lockett over legal issues about the drug combination to kill him.
“I’ve never seen that before,” Johnson said.
“When one branch (of government) is telling another branch how to behave, then we’re losing,” she said.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court ultimately allowed the execution, which was halted in mid process after the inmate complained of severe pain. Lockett died of a heart attack. The execution, criticized as being “botched” by death penalty opponents, has renewed debate over capital punishment and the procedures that should be used to carry it out in the 32 states that have the death penalty.
Johnson, 62, has two opponents in the June 24 Democratic Primary for the U.S. Senate. They are Patrick Michael Hayes, 39, of Anadarko, and Jim Rogers, 79, of Midwest City.
The deadline to register to vote in the either the Democratic or Republican primary is May 30.