Oklahoma 2nd District
The land that is now northeast Oklahoma used to be Indian territory, the place where in the 1830s the Five Civilized Tribes were driven from Georgia and Alabama over the Trail of Tears. Almost 15% of people here report their race as American Indian, and in some counties, one-third or more say they are part Indian. The Native American identity is highest in the hilly counties just west of the Ozarks of Arkansas, where county names—Cherokee, Osage, Sequoyah—recall the Civilized Tribes. The street signs in scenic Tahlequah, the Cherokee capital since 1839, are written in both English and Cherokee. The Creek Nation chose its tribal site in Okmulgee in the belief that tornadoes would not strike the area; history has proven the choice correct so far. In the northeast corner of the state, Ottawa County has been home to more Indian tribes than any other county in the nation. This pleasant land of gentle hills and man-made lakes recently has grown at a healthy pace, with the advent of Indian-owned casinos and population spread from Tulsa.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
South of Indian country is Oklahoma’s Little Dixie, settled between 1889 and 1907 by white Southerners, most of them poor. Some of the county names—LeFlore, Pontotoc—are borrowed straight from Mississippi. Interstate highways and turnpikes connect people to jobs in more-vibrant metropolitan areas, while dam-made lakes have spurred resort and retirement communities. Still, traditional cultural attitudes and folkways remain strong. When Oklahoma voted in 2002 to outlaw cockfighting, voters in many Little Dixie towns turned out in large numbers to oppose the ban.
The 2nd Congressional District includes most of the eastern third of Oklahoma, except for metropolitan Tulsa. It includes Muskogee, which inspired Merle Haggard’s song “Okie From Muskogee”; Claremore, Will Rogers’s hometown; and McAlester, former House Speaker Carl Albert’s home. McAlester, originally a rail center for the coal mining industry, is the site of a massive Army ammunition plant that manufactures non-nuclear bombs (during the war in Iraq, it was forced to add a night shift). The abandoned Tar Creek lead and zinc mines left a destructive legacy, and the region became a huge Superfund site in the 1980s. This area was ancestrally Democratic, but in the 1980s, it trended Republican on cultural issues. In the past decade, voters moved back toward the Democrats. Brad Henry carried every county here in his two races for governor. Al Gore was competitive with a 52%-47% loss to George W. Bush, but John Kerry lost 59%-41%. In 2008, John McCain defeated Barack Obama 66%-34%.