With his lawsuit against several poultry companies over pollution in the Illinois River system nearing an end, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said he is considering a run for the office of governor in 2010.
Edmondson said that the lawsuit, filed in 2005, almost certainly will end prior to that election.
"The most important thing is, it is now becoming very apparent that the Illinois River litigation would be completed during this term," he said. "My statements up until now have always been that if it were not completed that I would run for re-election, that the industry could not win by a delay."
With that, Edmondson said, he has always considered three options:run for the governorship, run for re-election to the attorney general's office, or retire
"I've ruled out a federal race," he said. "The latest publicity is that I'm leaning more for running for governor than the other two options."
Edmondson, a Democrat, said that among the burgeoning issues he sees facing in an upcoming run for the office, Oklahoma's water resources are gaining status " a subject he feels confident he can weigh in on. In addition to pollution from corporate farms, he said, water rights and their sale are becoming important.
"Water is becoming a critical issue and will be even more critical down the road," he said, citing litigation over:the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer, the Tarrant regional water district's application for water out of the Cash, Beaver and Kiamichi rivers, the quality of the water in Eastern Oklahoma due to the surface poultry waste, and corporate hog farms and their impact on surface water and the Ogallala Aquifer.
"People get very upset when there is a discussion of transferring water and very protective," Edmondson said. "Across the country, states are suing other states over water. This is going to be a continuing issue."
In prior years, he said, the issue that many people considered important was the death penalty. Edmondson, who has been a staunch defender of Oklahoma's death penalty laws, said that the matter is probably not as strong an election issue because of his office's success in its carrying forth the death penalty.
"We worked to change the law on death penalty appeals and I think those issues are very clear," he said.
Edmondson acknowledged he would have opponents, many among the pork and poultry industry, whom he believes would almost certainly bankroll an opponent. He noted recent efforts in Oklahoma's legislature to pass laws that would have forbid him the ability to sue or bring charges against alleged polluters. Those laws didn't succeed.
"I think that will always be a battle in the legislature because (poultry and pork companies) have influence with people in the house and senate," Edmondson said. "But nobody is going to campaign against me saying we need more dirty water. I expect it will be a source of funding for my opponent, no matter which race. But I don't see it hurting me with the people." "Ben Fenwick