Instant Reactions: Big night for Oklahoma Democrats (News OK)

By Ben Felder

Democrats flipped two Republican districts in two special elections Tuesday – Michael Brooks beat Joe Griffin in Senate District 44, while Karen Gaddis beat Tressa Nunley in House District 75.

Both seats became vacant this year when Republican lawmakers resigned amid scandal. 

Republicans have enjoyed several years of election dominance, including last year when they built on their already large majorities in the Legislature.

But Democrats saw Tuesday’s elections as a sign of hope, especially heading into the 2018 election year when they hope to paint the state as suffering under the watch of Republicans.

Following the two elections, here are some instant reactions from politicos on either side of the aisle:

Anna Langthorn, Democratic state chair

“I will admit I was very confident about Michael Brooks but I was less confident about Karen Gaddis in Tulsa, just because it looked to be a more difficult district to win. But I was over the moon in winning both.

“I think our activists and volunteers are fired up that they had a real sense of efficacy. Also, our donors have been very cautious in giving money in the last several years because they don’t think their investments come with returns. But last night’s elections did come with returns. I think we are going to see an increase in giving and involvement.”

Pat McFerron, Republican strategist, CMA Strategies

“There is no mistaking Democrats had a good night last night. But these are two individual races. Both of these special elections were created from sex scandals. Any vacancy caused by a scandal makes it very difficult on the incumbent party.

“Both of those who won last night had run in the previous general election. This did two things: It gave them a head start on structure, experience, and name recognition and probably more important gave them credibility because before the scandals, they had told voters not to vote for the people who later had scandals exposed.

“The Democrats outworked Republicans in both seats. Just like Republican activists were motivated by Obama, Democrat activists are motivated by Trump.  I don’t think these races were nationalized among voters, but I do think the campaign activity (volunteers, intensity, etc.) did swing because of the national dynamic.  For example, it is my understanding Inman and Edmondson both had volunteers knocking doors in the Tulsa house seat.”

Bryan Fried, FKG Consulting

“Any win is a good win and good news, but it’s hard to draw conclusions from low voter turnout special elections, especially special elections to replace officials who have resigned amid scandals. Last election cycle, two Democrat candidates won special elections in seats that were previously held by a Republican, but the special election trend did not hold in the general election. It remains to be seen if these two special elections effect the political landscape in Oklahoma”

Bailey Perkins, Oklahoma Policy Institute

“Yesterday showed that Oklahomans are looking at candidates over parties. The elections also energized a subset that felt their voices weren’t heard. It’s exciting to see more diverse Oklahomans running for and being elected to serve in the legislature.”

Andy Moore, Let’s Fix This

“We were excited to see so many people getting involved with these campaigns. Special elections are always tough – they aren’t well-publicized and voter turnout is usually very low. Yesterday was no exception – turnout was around 10 percent and both races were decided by just a couple of hundred votes. It’s a great example of why we all need to stay more engaged throughout the year, such as by registering to vote by mail and signing up for election reminders. 

“We strongly encourage everyone who lives or works in these districts to begin building relationships with the newly elected legislators. The state economic report and cuts to DHS services that were announced yesterday are haunting reminders of Oklahoma’s precarious fiscal situation. Regardless of where you live, now is a great time to contact your state legislators. We’d love to see constituents and legislators across the state meeting for coffee and pie and talking about how to fix our state budget.”


Margaret (Maggie) den Harder obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Theology from Seattle Pacific University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma. Originally from the Pacific Northwest area of Washington state, Maggie has called Tulsa home for the past 8 years. Since living in Tulsa, Maggie has worked in the legal field, higher education administration, and the nonprofit sector as well as actively volunteering in the community. Maggie also recently spent time at the City of Tulsa as a consultant and wrote the content for Resilient Tulsa, an action-oriented strategy designed to better equity in Tulsa. Through her work, community involvement, and personal experiences, Maggie is interested in the intersection of the law and mental health and addiction treatment issues, preventative and diversion programs, and maternal mental health, particularly post-partum depression and post-partum psychosis. While working at Oklahoma Policy Institute as a research intern, Maggie further developed an interest in family dynamics and stability, economic security-related stress, and intergenerational trauma.

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