How to win 650,000 votes without actually campaigning


Saundra McGeem center,, of Tulsa, Okla., puts voting stickers on her grandsons Cameron McGee, right, 3, and Grant McGee, 2, as she votes in a primary election at the W.L. Hutcherson YMCA, on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Tulsa World, Cory Young)

Jim Rogers might be the world's most successful perennial candidate -- especially when you consider that he doesn't, you know, actually campaign or raise money.

The Oklahoma Democrat, who has run for statewide office every two-year cycle since 2002, has taken more votes than a lot of candidates who actually try. In fact, he passed the 650,000-vote mark Tuesday night.

Here's a recap:

  • 2002 Senate primary: 34,000 votes (about 10 percent)
  • 2004 Senate primary: 20,000 votes (6 percent)
  • 2006 lieutenant governor primary: 32,000 (13 percent)
  • 2008 presidential primary: 4,000 votes (1 percent)
  • 2008 Senate primary (yes, you can run for both): 77,000 votes (40 percent)
  • 2010 Senate primary: 158,000 (65 percent) -- won nomination
  • 2010 Senate general election: 266,000 votes (26 percent)
  • 2012 presidential primary: 15,500 votes (14 percent)
  • 2014 Senate primary: 57,500 votes

That's a total of about 664,000 votes over 12 years.

The 2010 Senate primary -- in which Rogers won the Democratic nomination against Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) -- and the 2012 presidential primary in which he stole 14 percent from the sitting president of the United States were certainly Rogers's neatest tricks.

That's because Rogers is basically never seen on the campaign trail and never even spent enough on an election ($5,000) to be required to file a financial report with the Federal Election Commission.

Here's the Oklahoman on his 2010 nomination win (emphasis ours):

Name recognition and a well-known last name in Oklahoma fueled Rogers' vote totals. The former college professor, who refuses to say where he taught, received 65 percent of the vote with 157,926 votes. His opponent, Mark Myles, an attorney who worked for IBM for 20 years before going to law school, got 83,709 votes.

"Names matter," said Ben Odom, an attorney and longtime political consultant. "If you're going to run for office in Oklahoma, you can't have a better name than Rogers."

Some may have assumed Rogers was related to Oklahoma's own Will Rogers, the 1930s performer and political pundit, he said.

"Voters probably went to the polls, not knowing either one of the names," Odom said. "They saw Rogers and said, 'I've heard that one before,' and voted for Jim Rogers."

Rogers, who says he's not related to Will Rogers, is the second candidate nationally who did little campaigning to get the Democratic nod to challenge a Republican incumbent for U.S. Senate. Earlier this summer, South Carolina Democrats elected Alvin Greene, an unemployed military veteran, to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Demint. Greene beat a former four-term state lawmaker.

...

It didn't take glitzy ads or an aggressive social media plan for Rogers to receive the nomination. His signs are handmade. His campaign T-shirts look like they are made with iron-on lettering. Rogers' gets his message out by holding up signs at busy intersections in Midwest City during rush hour. He talks to any voter willing to stop and listen.

...

In past campaigns, Rogers hasn't attended forums or debates. Party leaders say their conversations with Rogers have been few and they don't know how to reach him.

"I kept telling people I was running against a ghost," Myles said. "I knew Mr. Rogers wasn't campaigning, but I had to overcome his name recognition."

It seems that Rogers name has struck again.

And he will only add to his total in August, because he just made the runoff for the Democratic nomination, where he'll face state Sen. Connie Johnson. Johnson led Rogers 42 percent to 37 percent on Tuesday.

And who knows, he might even be the nominee again.

Updated at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Politics
Next Story
Philip Bump · June 24