Off to an early start, Sean Cummings is running for Chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.
He told Free Press that the Democratic Party in Oklahoma needs “to be the party that represents people” in contrast to the Republican Party that he described as the “party that represents essentially companies.”
Cummings believes that he has the experience and knowledge to lead the ailing Democratic Party in Oklahoma.
He and his wife, Cathy Cummings, are partners in two restaurants they run in the same building in Oklahoma City: Sean’s Irish Restaurant and Vito’s Ristorante.
As small business owners, they both have seen the hardship of policies that have given some help for small businesses in Oklahoma City but not nearly enough.
In his his younger years, Cummings was an actor and helped produce films. His life represents a broad spectrum of experiences.
The process of running for state chair will take him from precinct meetings in the winter and then winning support through several levels until the state convention in the summer where the selection is made.
The current chair of the party is a Tulsa realtor, Alicia Andrews, who has spent years working in the mechanics of the party before becoming state chair.
Cummings is not exactly the opposite but close to it. He has spent many years in the rough and tumble of the restaurant and pub business and comes to the race as more of an activist than an operative.
Although they raised the ire of not just some of the commissioners but conservatives in the county, the protesters successfully held out for the County’s CARES Act funds to be used for aid to small businesses in addition to improvements on the Jail.
Conservative commissioners originally wanted all of the CARES Act funds to pay for improvements to the Jail, a building the county has recognized as the number one maintenance hog in their inventory.
He says that in that process he learned the value of presenting an opposing viewpoint to prevailing conservative politics in the county.
That experience adds his previous experience in the party when his wife and business partner, Cathy Cummings, made an unsuccessful bid for Lieutenant Governor in 2014 and offered public support for Drew Edmondson as he unsuccessfully ran for Governor in 2018.
Now he believes it’s time for the state Democratic Party to be much clearer that they are the opposition party and need to speak up as such.
“We need a secondary opinion, we need an opposite opinion,” Cummings told Free Press in his Sean’s Irish Restaurant in Oklahoma City. “Right now, we don’t have a governor, Lieutenant Governor … that are Democrats. So there is no voice, the only person that could possibly have a voice statewide would be the chair of the party.”
Certainly, the party has little to lose and perhaps more to gain by shifting strategies from either trying to out-Republican the Republicans or by holding a middle line trying to pick off a few moderate voters.
The Democratic Party now has the smallest delegation in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and in the Senate in Oklahoma history. The only Democrat from Oklahoma in Congress or the Senate, Congresswoman Kendra Horn just lost to state Senator Stephanie Bice for the CD-5 race.
With what he describes as “40 years of media experience,” Cummings believes he is the one who can bring public, high-profile leadership to the state Democratic Party.
“I can share a message properly, I can share a message to different people. So they can hear it. It has to be said in a way that people can hear it,” said Cummings.
But, it’s not just a public effort in the media for one man. He believes that in order to recruit younger candidates who will eventually be “the bench” for higher office, there needs to be training on how to engage in messaging as they knock each door in a campaign.
And he told us that the message needs to be clear that the Democratic Party stands for those who have been hurt the worst by the policies the Republican Party has promoted nationally and in the state in response to the pandemic.
“Shouldn’t you be able to afford food and a roof over your head?” said Cummings about the current descent into poverty of many more people because of the pandemic downturn.
“It’s not happening. And there is no one, no voice speaking up about normal people just hustling and still failing. And that’s not including single moms, minorities and on down the line that are even more in trouble. This is just the working class Oklahoman is just falling behind.”
“COVID has proven to us, we’re all equally vulnerable.”
Sustain our journalism by becoming a supporter
Oklahoma City Free Press is dedicated to providing high quality journalism that positively impacts our community. Click this linkto support our mission.