2022 Statewide Candidate Filing Period This Week (Capitol Update)

Sometime in the late fall preceding an election year, most politicians begin to occasionally sense an ever-so-slight tightening in the pit of their stomach that they can’t readily explain. It’s not too bad, but it’s there. Seemingly unrelated, they observe the actions of their constituents and begin to wonder who might be thinking of challenging them in the upcoming election. They pay attention when someone new starts to show up regularly at meetings, perhaps asking questions or making comments—or just being quietly omnipresent. They begin watching social media for regular comments or criticism.

Sometime later the inevitable rumors begin. “So-and-so is thinking about—or is going—to run against you.” There may be a phone call from a potential opponent. Most politicians know there is someone, at least one, among their constituents who, if they chose to run, could probably defeat them. It’s not the end of the world, but for those who want to serve, losing, especially as an incumbent, can be a painful experience. As winter turns into the beginning of election year, the anxiety grows.

What I’ve described fits the situation for most legislators, namely those who have a good possibility of being re-elected without opposition. Of course, some already have announced opponents, and they are already in campaign mode. A few are very unlikely to draw opposition, and it wouldn’t matter much if they did. But most are sweating out whether they’ll have an opponent and thus spend the summer and fall defending their seat. For them, the anxiety will end this week, but not until Friday. The filing period for state office is this Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Filing period for incumbents is something only those who have experienced it, and those close to them, can appreciate. If you make it through the first day unopposed the exhilaration is tempered by the thought of two more days of filings. If you make it through the second day, you’re feeling much better. Surely any rational opponent would have filed by now! As the third day begins you might resolve to not check the filings until after the closing at 5 p.m. But most can’t resist the urge to check several times during the day. Finally, you’re down to the last hour. It seems that every year—whether it’s out of indecision or pure cruelty–there will be a straggler who waits until nearly 5 p.m. to file. Those are the hardest to take.

At 5 p.m. on Friday the celebration for many will begin. They’ve been re-elected without opposition! For others, the anxiety of waiting is over, and it’s time to get to work. Most incumbents, with the benefit of name recognition, fundraising advantage and a record of accomplishment will win. But being on the defensive, having to explain why you did what you did, is not always comfortable. And in today’s politics even a non-competitive race can get nasty. So, everyone should give all House members and the half of the Senators who are up for re-election a break if they seem preoccupied this week. I’m sure a kind word will be appreciated.


Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1990. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

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