In the mayor's race here, there are two Kings and two Quinns, a Tom, a Dick, but no Harry.
The number of candidates running for mayor, four City Commission seats and city auditor in Tuesday's general election peaked at 47 when filing closed last Saturday. They include:
The proprietor of Mel's Tee-Shirt Shop; six 18-year-old high school seniors; teacher Lawrence (Night Train) Lane who wants to "restore some good, moral Christian ethics to City Hall," and a retiree who calls himself "The Candy Man." He distributes sweets to people nice to him.
Two hundred other people inquired at the election board about running but did not file. Those who filed but pulled out at the last minute included half of a married couple and a city employe who said God told him to run but the city told him not to.
Welcome to the biennial election in Oklahoma's second-largest city, where a faltering oil economy has triggered business failures and an $8 million budget shortfall.
Unemployment in this city of 380,000 is 7.8 percent, higher than the state average of 7.3 percent. Corporate mergers have eliminated many white-collar jobs, area bankruptcies are up 23 percent over last year and housing sales dropped this month despite the lowest interest rates in seven years. The 1982 recession is claiming its last casualties here even as the recent crash in oil prices claims its first.
A ho-hum campaign had been predicted to match the ho-hum economy, but the city's political establishment is in shock as 36 independents joined 11 victors in the March 4 party primaries for the April Fool's Day election.
Simply put, the campaign got out of hand after the primary defeat of one-term Democratic Mayor Terry Young by sign-builder and political neophyte Tom Quinn.
How new is he? Quinn's vote for himself was his first trip to the polls.
"Our election process is becoming a mockery," said Republican mayoral nominee Dick Crawford. "I think it holds our city up to ridicule."
A quirk in the city charter allows registered Democrats and Republicans to run as independents and to file until 10 days before the general election.
To the relief of Democratic Party leaders looking for someone to support on the sly after Young's defeat, Patty Eaton, a Democratic commissioner since 1980, entered the mayoral race as an independent. Her unexpected jump from the party ticket after winning the primary for water and sewer commissioner brought independent candidates "out of the woodwork," a city official said.
One of the 18 such candidates for mayor is Frank X. Quinn, a registered Democrat, who is not related to Tom. Tom charges that Frank X. is a "plant" to further confuse voters. Frank X. denies it.
"I never heard of him," said Eaton of Frank X., "but the more Quinns the merrier."
Among their rivals are Ron King, who manages a graphic company, and lawyer Kenny King. Kenny filed a formal protest saying that Ron should be stricken from the ballot because his name is "so similar." The board threw out that protest.
Eighteen candidates for the other city offices are independents. Mike West, who lost the Democratic primary for a commission seat, announced that he would run independently for a different seat. His wife, Debra, said she would run for the seat her husband lost, then changed her mind and dropped out.
Even West was confused.
"I'm running for finance . . . I'm sorry, I was running for finance and revenue commissioner," said West, who is running for water and sewer commissioner. The crowd at the Hungry Club candidates' forum snickered.
Now several nominees of both parties are saying that the avalanche of independent candidates should not be allowed to recur. They pledge that, if elected, they will sponsor a change in the city charter to limit their number.
One independent candidate who will not make the mayor's race worked the city center streets down to the wire seeking signatures for his filing petition. Donald R. LaRue, 48, said he moved to Tulsa and set up residence at the YMCA after hearing about the election free-for-all.
On Saturday, the board received a letter from the city's recent arrival and would-be mayor: LaRue said he could not raise the $50 filing fee and would be moving to Bartlesville.