State Rep. Rusty Farley, RIP

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Oklahoma State Rep. Rusty Farley died Monday, July 4, 2011, of a pulmonary aneurysm. He was 57.

Farley was responsible for one of the most surprising upsets in the 2010 Oklahoma elections, in McCurtain County, the southeastern corner of Oklahoma, deep in Little Dixie, traditionally home the state's staunchest Democrats.

No one remembers House District 1 ever electing a Republican, but in 2010, Rusty Farley of Haworth ran on a shoestring budget and beat incumbent freshman Democrat Dennis Bailey, who had beaten Farley in 2008. According to the Oklahoman:

Although Republicans made tremendous gains last year in statewide and legislative elections, Farley was given little chance of winning. He spent only $70 of about $170 he raised, state Ethics Commission records show.

The money was used for an advertisement in a local newspaper.

"I didn't really campaign a whole lot," he said in November. "I can honestly say I don't owe anybody any favors for getting elected."

Farley served on the Haworth School Board for 18 years. He unsuccessfully ran against Bailey in 2008.

Farley won with 50.8 percent of the votes in the 2010 election, receiving 134 votes more than Bailey of the 8,102 cast. About 81 percent of registered voters in the district in November were Democrats.

The Oklahoma Republican Party is plagued with consultants who fancy themselves latter-day Boss Tweeds, intimidating Republican candidates into hiring them, convincing candidates that they can't win without raising (through the consultants' connections) and spending (with the consultant taking a cut of every dollar spent) $100,000 to persuade 10,000 voters.

Rusty Farley was a reminder that you can win without the money if you have a record of community service with integrity. Spending $70 on a newspaper ad, he beat an incumbent who spent about $23,000 and enjoyed the advantage of the same party affiliation as 81% of the electorate. (That $23,000 doesn't include another $8,000 spent in 2009 from Bailey's 2008 campaign funds.)

There are some lovely tributes from friends and neighbors on Rusty Farley's Facebook wall.

MORE: Whirled makes an oopsie (emphasis added):

Farley, who ran unopposed in 2010, raised only $170 for his election campaign and spent $70 of that, according to archives.

From the Oklahoma State Election Board website:

FOR STATE REPRESENTATIVE, DISTRICT NO. 1                    31 OF   31
          RUSTY FARLEY                  REP     4,118   50.83%
          DENNIS R. BAILEY              DEM     3,984   49.17%

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 4, 2011 11:28 PM.

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