I live in Oklahoma City. This week I’ve done a little research about the candidates we’ll be voting for in advance of our November elections. Publicly reported and aggregated campaign fund statistics from around the United States are available on the website FollowTheMoney.org. I hope the information and examples I provide in this post will inspire you with some ideas about how to use local campaign finance statistics with your own students this month as our election season in the United States kicks into high season.

'VOTE' photo (c) 2012, Sean McMenemy - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

This PDF from the Oklahoma State Election Board includes the official list of candidates running for public office in our state. In District 85, where our family lives, David Dank is running unopposed this year for our state legislature. David was elected in 2010 to the Oklahoma House of Representatives. According to FollowTheMoney.org, in the last 2010 election, David Dank raised $229,043 for his successful state house campaign. His Democratic challenger, Gail Vines, raised $18,575. Dank’s independent challenger, Edward Shadid, raised $47,882. In the Republican primary, Aaron Kaspereit raised $2,200. The combined, reported campaign funds of these three challengers to David Dank in 2010 was therefore $68,657. This can be expressed in the following ways using ratios:

David Dank raised over three times as many campaign funds as all his challengers combined in 2010.

David Dank raised over twelve times as much money in the 2010 District 85 race for the Oklahoma Legislature as his Democratic Challenger, Gail Vines.

David Dank raised almost five times as much money in the 2010 District 85 race for the Oklahoma Legislature as his Independent Challenger and Green Party Candidate, Edward Shadid.

David Dank raised over one hundred times as much money in the 2010 District 85 race for the Oklahoma Legislature as his challenger in the Republican Primary, Aaron Kaspereit. (Less funds are raised for candidates who only compete in a primary election versus a general election, of course.)

Those are pretty dramatic statistics to use in discussions about elections, incumbents, campaign finance, political parties, and whether or not money buys power through political influence in the USA in 2012.

This is the most eye opening statistic and quotation I found in my cursory research this week. In Patrick McGuigan’s October 2010 article for Capital Beat in Oklahoma City, “Gail Vines, Ed Shadid hope to unseat Rep. David Dank” he noted:

Shadid’s literature stresses his support for major ballot access reform in Oklahoma. He notes in that material, “No Independent has won election to the Oklahoma state House of Representatives in 76 years and no member of a party other than the Democrats and Republicans has won in 96 years.”

That’s both eye opening as well as instructive. The power of political parties in Oklahoma is vast. The “ballot access reform” which Shadid called for in his 2010 campaign is still direly needed in our state. I’m interested to learn what groups, if any, are currently advocating for these kinds of changes which would make independent candidate campaigns for state elected offices more viable.

On the questions of how powerful money is in local, state and national politics, as well as the power of incumbents to retain power in office, it’s also interesting to calculate some simple sums based on the years in office for the Oklahoma District 85 House of Representatives seat. When he was elected as an Oklahoma state representative in 2010, David Dank took the place of his wife, Odilia Dank. According to the current English WikiPedia entry for Odilia Dank, she was a public educator in the OKC area for 28 years and served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives for district 85 for 12 years from 1994 to 2006. Our Oklahoma Constitution imposes a 12 year cumulative term limit on how long individuals can hold public office in either our state House of Representatives or Senate, combined. David Dank’s official page on the Oklahoma House of Representatives website indicates he’s term limited to potentially serve until 2018, if he continues to be re-elected every two years. Since his official biography doesn’t indicate prior elected service in the Oklahoma legislature, I’m not sure why that number isn’t 2022. (2010 + 12 = 2022, not 2018)

If David Dank is term limited until 2018 and serves in the Oklahoma House of Representatives until that time, he and his wife will have held power in District 85 for a combined total of 20 years. If David’s term limit expires in 2022, that total would be 24 years.

It’s also interesting to Google the candidates who opposed David in the 2010 District 85 House race and see what they are doing now. David’s Republican party challenger in 2010, Aaron Kaspereit, is running this year for the Oklahoma House in District 88. According to Aaron’s FaceBook page he won the primary with 59% of the vote, so he’s running in the general election. I’m willing to bet an incumbent was NOT running this year for the District 88 House seat. My best wishes go out to Aaron. I have volunteered (via his electronic support form) to help support his campaign. Aaron is a current Oklahoma public school teacher teaching debate, drama and speech.

Edward Shadid is now serving as the Oklahoma City Councilperson for Ward 2. He’s updating both his Twitter and FaceBook page regularly.

Gail Vines continues to serve on the board of Oklahoma City Public Schools for District 2. She was elected to her seat in 2006. I couldn’t find a Twitter account, FaceBook page, or personal website for her, so I’m betting she’s not running for another public office this year.

FollowTheMoney.org has more ideas for civics / social studies / math lessons related to campaign finance statistics for communities around the United States. As teachers transition to Common Core State Standards this year which emphasize multi-disciplinary approaches to instruction, writing across the curriculum and the utilization of “real world math examples,” the resources on FollowTheMoney.org can be put to good use with students!

If you use these lesson ideas with your own students, please let me know via a comment or a Tweet so I can share your student examples with others! Also, if you have more insights into the politics of District 85 legislative races and history please let me know. Inquiring minds in central Oklahoma have a lot of questions still to answer…..

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