GOP Takeover In Oklahoma Explained (KGOU)

By Kurt Gwartney
You can click through to the original article hear the panel discussion moderated by Megan Benn on  Oklahoma’s changing political landscape at our Summer Policy Institute.

 It wasn’t long ago that to be involved in a meaningful way in Oklahoma politics, office seekers had to have a “D” after their names. But in just a few years, that has turned around so that an “R” is now necessary to have a significant influence in state politics.

That change was not as sudden as it seems, according to political consultant Pat McFerron,“To me the question isn’t, ‘Why we’re so Republican now? It’s why were we so Democrat before?’”

McFerron was one of the panel members during the Summer Policy Institute sponsored by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. He was joined by University of Oklahoma political scientist Keith Gaddie and former Democratic state lawmaker and Oklahoma American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Ryan Kiesel.

Election officials say the number of independent voters has outpaced Republicans and Democrats in new voter registrations this year.

In March, Election Board officials removed about 145,000 inactive voters from the rolls. According to the Tulsa World, independents have added 4,582 new voters since then.

Republicans have added 1,544 new voters, while Democrats have decreased by 3,306.

There are different theories about the surge in independent voters. Some say the increase is attributed to voter frustration with the two major parties. State Republican Party Chairman David Weston says the increase likely comes from conservative Democrats who feel disenfranchised.

Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins says he wasn’t certain about the reason, but noted that independent voters are unable to vote in primary elections under the state’s closed primary system.


Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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