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Tulsa World

Cockfighting: Shurden is a sore loser, say backers of initiative petition

By MARIE PRICE World Capitol Bureau

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Sen. Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta, is a sore loser, say officials of the group that backed the successful initiative petition banning cockfighting last November.

"Frank Shurden is trying to rewrite the rules of a statewide election after the votes have been counted," said Cynthia Armstrong, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Coalition Against Cockfighting.

"He's a sore loser, and his plan is a formula for chaos."

Shurden is pushing for a law that would outlaw cockfighting only in the 20 counties where yes votes for the ballot question outdistanced no votes. Those 20 counties cut a diagonal swath across the state, from northeast to southwest, with none of them in prime cockfighting territory.

Most are clustered near Tulsa and Oklahoma counties.

Under Shurden's proposal, the other 57 counties could vote for or against legalizing the sport on a county-option basis.

Armstrong said a more appropriate way to analyze the November election results rather than county by county would be by legislative districts, because state laws are put on the books through a representative government process.

Using state Election Board data, she said, voters in 33 of the 48 Senate districts and 64 of the 101 House districts voted for the statewide ban.

"About two-thirds of the districts favored the measure," Arm strong said. "If this law had been made through the usual representative process, with state senators and representatives voting the will of their constituents, the measure would have passed by an overwhelming majority."

Legislators should listen to their constituents and respect the will of the people, she added.

Coalition chairwoman Janet Halliburton reiterated the organization's opposition to other Shurden legislation that would lower cockfighting from a felony to a misdemeanor and removing penalties for related activities such as raising gamefowl.

"Shurden's plan is a thinly veiled plan for cockfighters to break the law by gutting penalties and allowing possession of fighting animals," Halliburton said.