Cherokee County Democrats have long been viewed as a decisive factor in more than a few elections, and some statewide candidates urged them Wednesday to continue that trend this November.

The local Democrat party officially opened its headquarters Wednesday afternoon, and realizing the significance, three statewide candidates – Attorney General Drew Edmondson, Labor Commissioner candidate Lloyd Fields and Corporation Commission candidate Cody Graves – stopped off in Tahlequah to start stumping for votes.

State Sen. Jim Wilson, who’s not on the ballot this year, announced Gov. Brad Henry will be in Tahlequah next week as part of a whistlestop tour. He will visit with local Democrats at the Restaurant of the Cherokees before making his way to the headquarters at 722 S. Muskogee.

“We wanted to do something to help educate the people before election day,” said Cherokee County Democratic Party Chair Don Brock. “Any Democratic candidate who is running in any part of Cherokee County will have material here.”

The walls are a reminder of who’s on the ballot now, with signs promoting the candidacies of Edmondson, U.S. Congressman Dan Boren, Fields and Graves. But they also tell the story of the party’s past with posters from the candidacy of former Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

A table in one part of the room offers T-shirts for sale, along with campaign materials from an assortment of Democratic candidates. Above that table hangs a banner listing the names of Democratic office holders from the Cherokee County Courthouse to the national capital in Washington.

Isabel Baker welcomed those in attendance to the local headquarters.

“I want to thank each and every one who showed up today,” she said. “We’re pleased to have our state candidates here.”

Baker wanted everyone to know the political process is working.

“And it will work clear through until November,” she said.

Edmondson, who considers Tahlequah a second hometown, said the state has a good slate of Democrat candidates this year.

“It’s great to be home again,” he said. “I used to tell people I majored in river, but I meant that as a joke.”

Edmondson did spend time on the Illinois River when he attended classes at NSU, but he told people it was a lot different than what folks see today. He said that’s a reason he’s in the fight to clean up the river.

Graves, who previously served on the Corporation Commission, said he faces an 18-year incumbent who’s been in office “since the ‘other’ George Bush was president.” He wants to get on the commission and work with Edmondson’s office to help people.

Fields’ campaign has been built on some Cherokee County firsts. He recalled his first speech after announcing his candidacy was delivered at the Restaurant of the Cherokees before the Democrat Women’s Club, and Wednesday he was meeting with people on the first day of the local headquarters’ opening.

Fields wants to get Democrats together for a caravan to promote the party before the general election.

Jerry Moore, fresh off winning the Democratic nomination for district attorney, promised to work as hard as he can to capture the office in November.

“I’ve hardly had time to catch my breath,” he said. “I’m taking this election very seriously.”

State Rep. Mike Brown said he’s worked for the past two years to give the people of House District 4 the representation they’re used to, and he wants to continue his work.

State Sen. Jim Wilson told those at the headquarters they need to tell people what they stand for. He also sees a need to get young people involved in the process.

Jennifer Davies, leader of a student Democrat group at NSU, said she and other members are very excited and have a lot of activities planned.

Brock said the headquarters will be open from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. A phone line, 458-5303, has also been set up so people can call with questions.

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