Rep. Brad Carson said Tuesday he will run as a Democrat in the congressional district he once held in Oklahoma, a seat being vacated by Rep. Dan Boren.
Boren, the only Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation, will give up the seat in 2012. His retirement puts the conservative eastern Oklahoma district into play as Democrats and Republicans jockey for control of Congress.
Carson, an enrolled tribal member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, held the seat from 2001 to 2005. He gave it up to run, unsuccessfully, for U.S. Senate against Tom Coburn.
Carson, who describes himself as a conservative Democrat, is just the first to indicate an interest in the seat. The district is considered one of the more conservative ones in the nation.
The district supported John McCain, 66%, over Obama in 2008 and went for George Bush with 59%. Despite that strong Republican tilt, Boren has handily won election, with 70% of the vote in 2008 and 56% in 2010.
Boren, who will be 38 this summer, is scheduled to formally announce that he is stepping down at a news conference in his hometown of Muskogee. He becomes the first member of the House in this election cycle to announce that he will retire rather than seek another office.
Democrats had high hopes for 2012 after they captured a recent special election in upstate New York, running against Republican proposals to change Medicare, the health plan for the elderly, and Medicaid, the health program to aid the poor. The battle over Medicare will likely be the centerpiece of numerous congressional campaigns in 2012, as well as for the presidency.
Boren comes from political royalty in Oklahoma. His grandfather was a congressman and his father a former governor and senator.
During his tenure, Boren has been a strong conservative voice in a party that generally leans the other way. He was a player in the Blue Dog coalition, the Democrats’ conservative caucus. He voted with the GOP to repeal President Obama’s healthcare overhaul bill.
Boren was also publically critical of Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s decision to become minority leader this year after the GOP won control of the House and she lost the speakership.