Years after the Republican Revolution of 1994, Rush Limbaugh recounted the events that led up to the election which ended 40+ years of Democrat control of the House Of Representatives. He said the first signal of doom happened when a retired Democrat rural Oklahoma school teacher defeated the powerful incumbent liberal, Mike Synar, for the Democrat nomination.
Cooper's primary & runoff campaign fund was less than $10K and he had no previous political experience or connections. It took place in the summer & fall of 1994, first placing in the primary, then an outright victory in a runoff.
Synar had failed to reflect the district's conservative values and over time, Synar had developed a dissonance to the complaints his representation had taken on.
Steve Largent also entered politics that summer. The NFL Hall-Of-Famer also defeated 5 other experienced political leaders, winning an outright majority on primary night. The next day, Largent's team went to Washington to meet with Republican congressional leaders. Steve came back and told his Tulsa campaign team;
"I was trying to introduce myself but when they heard I was from Oklahoma, all they wanted to know was 'How did Synar lose?' and 'Who is Virgil Cooper?'"
Steve had been used to multitudes cheering him on in massive stadiums, so it took him aback when Washington was more enthralled with the prowess of a guy named Virgil Cooper of Drumright.
Wikipedia puts it this way:
Oklahoma historian, Lee Wise put it this way:In 1994, Synar was narrowly defeated in a Democratic primary run-off election by Virgil Cooper, a retired high school principal. Though Cooper's campaign spent less than $20,000 itself, some money was spent by outside interests that were opposed to Synar, including the National Rifle Association, tobacco companies, and cattlemen. Cooper seized on Synar's connections with Japanese businesses with a bumper sticker slogan of "Sayonara Synar."Cooper won by just 2,609 votes out of 92,987 cast, a 51-49 margin. Cooper was subsequently defeated in the general election by Republican Tom Coburn by a 52-48 margin.
I remember Virgil Cooper. In 1994, Mike Synar was a Democratic Representative from Oklahoma. He was an eight-term incumbent
Virgil Cooper was a 71-year-old retired principal who ran against Synar in the Democratic primary. His total campaign expenditures (to my recollection) consisted of the cost of printing a couple of campaign signs which he attached to the sides of his pickup truck. His campaigning consisted of driving around town with his signs.
Virgil Cooper won. A complete unknown with a pickup truck defeated an eight-term incumbent.
Virgil Cooper went on to lose to Tom Coburn in the general election. The election was quite cordial and really a very happy evening in Oklahoma.
Memo to The One: never underestimate a man with a pickup truck!
|The Massachusetts Liberals:|
Mike Synar receives honors from the Kennedy family
Oklahoma Rep. Mike Synar, D, one of Congress' leading advocates for federal grazing reform, lost a Democratic primary runoff Sept. 20 to a little-known retired school principal. Virgil Cooper defeated the eight-term congressman 52 percent to 48 percent. Ranchers cheered the defeat of the outspoken critic of "welfare cowboys' using public lands in the West, while environmentalists lamented the loss of a strong ally.
"We're still stunned," says Sandra Rose, chair of Sierra Club's Oklahoma political committee. Rose says Synar, whose environmental voting record regularly landed him at the top of the League of Conservation Voters' list, may have fallen victim to a term limit initiative on the same ballot. "The people supporting term limits showed up in droves," she says.The Los Angeles Times reported it this way;
Mr. Cooper May Go to Washington : Oklahoma: Former school principal, 71, defeated incumbent Rep. Mike Synar for the Democratic nomination. Victory surprised even his friends. 'We thought he was crazy' when he filed to run, one said.
Tom Coburn narrowly defeated Cooper in the November general election. They were both non-experienced in political action and they were both conservatives in many senses of the word. Tony Lauinger of Oklahomans For Life said that his organization's cause is furthered by both candidates. The district had been solidly Democrat since 1920. With a few more bits of Cooper luck, we may never have heard about what Tom Coburn might do for Washington politics.