State legislative races to watch tomorrow (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

Want to know more about what’s on the ballot tomorrow? Check out OK Policy’s 2014 Oklahoma Elections page, with information on voting times, state questions, judicial elections, and more.

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

Steve Lewis
Steve Lewis

The 2014 elections are finally coming to an end tomorrow.  In several states there are hotly contested, well financed campaigns that have filled the airways and mail boxes with campaign ads.  In Oklahoma, not so much.  Joe Dorman has waged a creditable campaign but still faces long odds having been able to raise only about a third of the money Governor Fallin has raised.  The race for State Superintendent seems to be the most exciting-if only because the candidates had several publicized debates.  The candidates in the two U.S. Senate races and the governor’s race have hardly engaged each other.  You really can’t blame a candidate, especially an incumbent who is way ahead, for not agreeing to several debates.  The idea of an election is to win, not to be a good sport.  Why would you want to give your unknown opponent free publicity?

In the legislature there are 12 Senate races and 36 House races to be decided tomorrow.  Nothing will happen tomorrow to change the balance of power or, for that matter to change the major legislative leadership posts.  Of the 12 Senate races there are about 5 that could go either way.  In Senate District 6 in Southeast Oklahoma Republican incumbent Josh Brecheen faces a serious challenge from Democrat Joe B. Hill.  The race got some statewide notice when the State Chamber-usually joined at the hip with Republican candidates-endorsed the Democrat.  Both candidates have powerful backers.  Brecheen is a former staffer for U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn and Hill is a former staffer for Dan Boren.  In South Oklahoma City’s District 44, Republican incumbent Sen. Ralph Shortey faces a stiff challenge from Democrat Michael Brooks-Jimenez.  The other 3 seriously contested races are for open seats, 2 currently held by Democrats and one by a Republican.  Barring a surprise, the other 7 are pretty much set.

Given there are 3 times as many House seats still at issue, it’s hard to predict which ones could be seriously contested.  But I would say there are only a few, mostly open seats, where the outcome might be in doubt.  Two incumbents appear to face stiff challenges.  In Wagoner and eastern Tulsa County’s District 12, Republican David Tackett is again trying to unseat Democrat Wade Rousselot.  Because of the makeup of the district, that could be close.  In Cleveland County District 45 Republican Rep. Aaron Stiles is facing Democrat Claudia Griffith.  That district has a history of changing parties regularly.  In District 10 in parts of Bartlesville and Washington County, open due to the retirement of Rep. Steve Martin, two young well liked newcomers are facing each other.  You’d think the Republican would have the upper hand there, but you never know.  In Lincoln County’s District 32 the open seat left by Jason Smalley is also said to be a close race.  Smalley, a Republican, held it for one term before deciding to run for the Senate, but it was previously held for 12 years by Democrat Danny Morgan.  Finally, the seat left by Joe Dorman in Southwest Oklahoma has two strong contenders.  The Democrat may be helped by a strong local turnout for Joe in the governor’s race.    

When it’s said and done, we can look forward to several new faces in the legislature.  But the overall look of state government won’t be much different than it was the past two years.  You might see Speaker Hickman install some new folks in leadership positions in the House due to the mid-term change in the Speaker’s Office last year.  The Senate is not expected to change since President Pro-Tempore Brian Bingman has his team pretty much in place.

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Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1990. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

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