Rep. John Sullivan (R)
Oklahoma 1st District
The gushers of the 1905 Glenn Pool discovery made Tulsa one of America’s oil boomtowns, settled not just by people from the immediate hinterland but also by Midwesterners and New Englanders of Yankee stock. In the 1920s, as its art deco skyscrapers rose on the heights above the Arkansas River, it was still a raw town, but one intent on becoming more cultural. It was optimistic and ready to seek economic change, yet culturally and politically conservative, with a Yankee elite and an American Indian heritage recalled today in one of the nation’s best collections of Western art at the Gilcrease Museum—left by oil millionaire Thomas Gilcrease, who was one-eighth Creek Indian. In the decades since, Tulsa has boomed and occasionally busted. The city also is the headquarters of Oral Roberts University and its 60-story City of Faith Hospital. It has remained cosmopolitan but conservative. A travel writer for The Washington Post once termed Tulsa “a fine replica of European grandeur.” People here do not resent the oil companies or the new rich; they identify with them. In 2003, voters approved the Vision 2025 economic development referendum, a $900 million investment funded by a one-cent sales tax increase, as part of Tulsa’s efforts to diversify from being solely one of America’s leading petroleum centers. After Citgo Petroleum announced that it was moving its corporate headquarters from Tulsa to Houston, local officials persuaded American Airlines to move its maintenance and engineering center and over 7,000 jobs to Tulsa from Kansas City; that move spurred other aerospace-related development in the city. In 2008, the Salary.com website ranked Tulsa 12th-best among 69 cities for building personal wealth. Plano, Texas came in first, and New York City was last.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 1st Congressional District of Oklahoma includes Tulsa, Wagoner, and Washington counties, and slices of Rogers and Creek counties—just about all of the Tulsa metropolitan area. The political tradition here is heavily Republican, strengthened in recent decades by opposition to national Democrats’ cultural liberalism. Even during the collapse of oil prices in the 1980s, Tulsa maintained its contagious enthusiasm for new business enterprises and innovations. But some business groups worried that the state’s strict 2007 law to force out illegal immigrants would cause a loss of workers and hurt Tulsa’s economic base.
Rep. John Sullivan (R)
Elected: Jan. 2002, 4th full term.
Born: Jan. 1, 1965, Tulsa .
Education: Northeastern St. U., B.B.A., 1992.
Family: Married (Judy); 4 children.
Elected office: OK House of Reps., 1994-2001.
Professional Career: Trucking salesman, 1988-92; Gas and Fleet sales rep., 1991-98; Realtor, 1997-2002.
The congressman from the 1st District is John Sullivan, a Republican who won a January 2002 special election to succeed Steve Largent, who resigned to run for governor. Sullivan grew up in Tulsa and graduated from Northeastern Oklahoma State University. In Tulsa, he worked in the transportation, oil and gas, and real estate industries. In 1994, at age 29, he was elected to the state House, where he served as Republican whip. In the December 2001 primary for the 1st District seat, the best-known candidate was Cathy Keating, wife of Republican Gov. Frank Keating, who enthusiastically backed her campaign. She had a big fundraising advantage, but she stumbled in the course of the five-week campaign. Sullivan accused her of being too moderate for the conservative district, and she had no legislative record to dispute his claims. Sullivan, meanwhile, built a strong grassroots network among conservative activists. He led the first round of balloting, 46%-30%. Under state law, Sullivan’s failure to win 50% entitled Keating to a runoff. But his unexpectedly large lead, plus the unlikelihood that four weeks of additional campaigning over Christmas and New Years would capture voter attention, convinced Keating to drop her candidacy. In January, Sullivan faced the Democratic nominee, Doug Dodd, a Tulsa lawyer and former school board member. Dodd ran a spirited campaign and raised money from organized labor. Even though this is a district that George W. Bush carried with more than 60% of the vote in 2000 and 2004, Sullivan won by only 54%-44%, and national Democrats may have regretted ignoring the race.
|John Sullivan (R)||193,404||(66%)||($1,171,990)|
|Georgianna Oliver (D)||98,890||(34%)||($566,307)|
|John Sullivan (R)||33,563||(92%)|
|Fran Mo-Ghaddam (R)||3,025||(8%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (64%), 2004 (60%), 2002 (56%), 2002 (54%)
Sullivan won a seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, where oil and gas issues are often front and center. With help from GOP Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who managed the 2005 highway bill, Sullivan fought for Tulsa’s share of highway and transit funds. He sponsored a measure for a monument commemorating the 1921 Tulsa race riot, during which more than 300 people died, but he opposed a proposal to suspend the statute of limitations on families seeking legal damages from the riot. He pushed for tougher controls on illegal immigration, contending that truckloads of illegals have been dumped into Tulsa neighborhoods, and he criticized President Bush for not taking a tougher stand against amnesty for illegal immigrants living in the United States. Although Sullivan is a conservative, he declined to join a conservative-led campaign to ban earmarks, the special projects that lawmakers insert into spending bills for their districts and states. “I don’t want to cut myself off from helping my district,” he told a local reporter.
Sullivan has slowly tightened his hold on the seat in two campaign rematches against Dodd. In the first one, Sullivan raised his margin of victory to 56%-42%. In 2004, he faced a primary challenge from Bill Wortman, who attacked Sullivan’s veracity on several issues and was backed by two disgruntled ex-consultants who complained that Sullivan had failed to pay for their services. Sullivan won 70%-25%. In the fall campaign against Dodd, his challenger focused on the high cost of the “mess” in Iraq and the loss of U.S. jobs to outsourcing, but Sullivan ran as an insider and cited the accomplishments of the Bush administration and the Republican congressional majorities. He won 60%-38%. In 2006, he defeated Bartlesville lawyer Alan Gentges 64% to 31%.
In 2008, Democrat Georgianna Oliver, a Tulsa technology company executive who funded her own campaign, challenged Sullivan’s record, charging that he was not attuned to local needs and that he flip-flopped on the bailout bill for financial institutions. Sullivan dismissed Oliver, saying, “I wouldn’t know her if she came up to me.” With national Democrats busy elsewhere, Oliver had little help from the party, and Sullivan won easily. He gained attention with some quotable comments, such this quip about New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential bid: “The Clintons are like cockroaches. They could survive a nuclear holocaust.” And he had this explanation for filing a workers’ compensation claim for injuries—including a blind left eye—he sustained when an aide drove into a barrier while speeding him to a vote at the Capitol. “I am looking at all of my options. I have four children. I may not be in this job forever. What happens then?”