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Close leadership elections leave sore feelings for some

Anna Langthorn could be the youngest chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party in state history. She’s only 24.

Langthorn was elected in a hotly contested race for Oklahoma Democratic Party leadership at the state convention Saturday.

She represents youth, but also pragmatism over ideology.

“I am in the unique position where I am in the middle ground between the two major coalitions in the party,” Langthorn told Free Press after turning over the gavel for a few minutes for our interview.

Until February,  she was a junior partner at Skyfire Media, an Oklahoma political advertising and consulting firm.

Skyfire has earned increasing credibility for its campaign work in recent years.

The firm coordinated successful campaigns for Democrats in recent election cycles in spite of the state voting heavily Republican for most state offices and in presidential elections.

Langthorn has made a name for herself working in various capacities with the state party and then with Skyfire Media coordinating successful campaigns.

The other top party leaders elected Saturday are:

  • Vice-Chair: Brian Jones
  • Secretary: Dave Ratcliff
  • Treasurer: Rachael Hunsucker

Langthorn was one of three vying for the chair.

Active race

Longtime delegates told of years past where the mood of the convention was somber and the voting outcomes for leadership were not much in question ahead of time.

But in the era of anger at President Donald Trump, the super majority Republican Party fumbling budgets in both state houses, there was far more passion among state Democrats this year.

ODP convention 2017
Saturday evening, ODP convention 2017

And there is the anger over Bernie Sanders’ defeat in the primaries, which some saw as having been engineered too heavily by Democratic Party traditionalists who wanted Hilary Clinton to get the nomination.

Langthorn thought that situation had an animating effect on the party around the state.

“Bernie Sanders has inspired people, and we had record turnout for this convention for our county meetings and district meetings,” said Langthorn.

Late in the evening, some of the delegates were clearly upset at the outcome of the leadership races, but many more were confident that it was the right thing.

The original vote between Langthorn, Mark Henricksen, Sarah Baker and Mike Workman had been close with narrow margins between the first three. But in a run-off with Henricksen, Langthorn was the winner.

Baker ran for the District 43 house seat in 2014 and lost. Since then, she started a marketing firm and filled several staff positions in the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

Trial attorney Mark Henricksen is a well-known liberal in Oklahoma City having served on the board of American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma.

His supporters were passionate and mostly from the urban counties. His appeal was to those who thought the party should take a more progressive ideological tone and clearly stake out ground there.

Longtime political activist Mike Workman had his supporters, too.

Anna Langthorn after election
Anna Langthorn after her election

But Langthorn’s history with the party and of running successful Democratic candidate campaigns coupled with her youth gained the most support from delegates.

“I am in the unique position where I am in the middle ground between the two major coalitions in the party,” Langthorn said. “We’ve got traditional old guard and we’ve got very enthusiastic newcomers who are ready to revolutionize the party and the world.”

She claimed some of the progressive wing of the party, though.

“I am a young woman. I am very progressive,” said Langthorn. “I am the person who has been trying to revolutionize the party for the last seven years and so I did speak to a lot of the people in the newcomer coalition as well.”

Also, she wants to listen to those who have been in the party for many years.

“I understand the reality that there are people there who have dedicated their lives to this,” Langthorn said. “They’ve been doing it for the last 30, 40, 50 years and they don’t want to be disrespected. They don’t want to be told their life’s work is a waste or a failure.”

Activated party

Many who were still there late Saturday concluded that they had witnessed the most interest in stepping up to lead that they had seen in years.

“Counties that have not been active in the last 20 years are now active,” said Langthorn.

David Glover from Oklahoma County is one of the long-term party faithful and was upbeat about Langthorn’s election.

“We can’t go wrong, we can’t lose with her. Between Trump and Bernie, people are ready to work hard and win,” he said.

According to Angela Allmond, Oklahoma Democratic Party communications director, this was one of the best attended conventions the party had seen in many years.

Allmond estimated the attendance at the peak of the convention to be somewhere around 700.

“People were really packed in here,” Allmond said. “There weren’t many empty seats left.”

Both Allmond and Langthorn said the Carl Albert dinner was completely sold out with about 600 in attendance, the most in recent memory.

The proceeds from ticket sales help fund the work of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

The line-up of speakers revealed the state party’s desire to appeal to young progressives and those who had been among the party faithful for many years.

Keith Ellison, deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, and favorite of young progressives was the honored speaker.

Former Governor David Walters spoke as did former Governor George Nigh representing yet other generations in the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

Disappointed progressives

It was hard to ignore the disappointment of some of those progressives who had been for Mark Henricksen and his running mate for Vice-chair, T. Sheri Dickerson.

Dickerson (no relation to this reporter) is a pastor in Oklahoma City and recently lost a race for the Ward 7 Oklahoma City Council seat.

She is the president of Black Lives Matter – Oklahoma and organized a large peaceful rally June 2016.

One passionate supporter of Henricksen and Dickerson was Sam Frederickson.

“It was a day of victory for the establishment,” the disappointed Frederickson said. “I don’t know her, but from what she says, it’s straightforward establishment message.”

Serenity Jackson, organizer for the Oklahoma City branch of the NAACP and daughter of Dickerson said on her way out “I don’t know about this party anymore.”

Dr. Ed Shadid, Ward 2 Oklahoma City Council member, gave only a “no comment” response to our request for his thoughts on the leadership elections.

Clearly, the party has some work to do healing the wounds from a close election.

Corrections: Spellings of last names for Sam Frederickson and Mark Henricksen were misspelled in the original version of this story. Our apologies. Mike Workman was left off the list of people who were nominees for chair in the original version of this story.

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