Special Elections to Fill Vacant Legislative Seats
The process to fill vacancies is a little different in Special Elections. When vacancies occur, the governor issues an order setting dates for filing and the elections. If more than one candidate in the same political party files for the vacant seat, a Special Primary Election is needed to select the party nominee. But, unlike the Regular Primary elections, the candidate that finishes first in the Special Primary is the nominee. In Regular Primary elections there is a Runoff between the top two vote getters if no candidate gets over 50 percent of the vote.
Senate District 32
On July 7, state Sen. John Michael Montgomery (R-Lawton) announced that he would be resigning from the Oklahoma Senate effective August 1, 2023 to accept the role of president and CEO of the Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce. Montgomery previously served two terms in the House (District 62) from 2015-2019 before winning election to Senate District 32 in 2018. He was reelected last year to a second four-year term. The winner of the Special Election will serve the remaining three years of Montgomery’s term.
Gov. Kevin Stitt set the filing period for August 31 - September 2. The Special Primary Election was set for Tuesday, October 10, 2023. The General Special Election is scheduled for Tuesday, December 12, 2023.
Six candidates filed for the open seat – four Republicans and two Democrats. The Special Primary elections held on October10 determined the nominee for each party that will appear on the Special General Election ballot. Dusty Deevers, CEO of Deevers Properties and also the pastor of Grace Community Church in Elgin, finished first with 1,416 votes and captured the Republican nomination with 37.08 percent of the 3,819 votes cast. Jean Hausheer, a Lawton physician, came in second with 1,177 votes, or 30.82 percent. Elgin Mayor JJ Francais received 725 votes, or 18.98 percent. And Jennifer Ellis of Medicine Park, the CEO of Cosmetic Specialty Labs, finished last with 501 votes, or 13.12 percent.
In the Democrat primary, former University of Oklahoma football defensive back Larry Bush took the nomination with 922 votes, or 73.35 percent of the 1,257 votes cast. Johnny Jernigan, a musician and nurse’s aide, received the remaining 335 votes, or 26.65 percent. Both candidates reside in Lawton. Bush is the owner of an insurance agency and was the Democrat nominee for House District 62 in 2018 and 2016 and was defeated in the General Election in both years.
Deevers, 45, and Bush, 49, will face off in the Special General Election on December 12.
House District 39
State Representative Ryan Martinez resigned from his House District 39 seat on September 1, 2023. He resigned after pleading guilty to a felony offense of being in physical control of a vehicle while intoxicated. Under the plea deal, Martinez will serve one year probation and have an interlock device installed on his vehicle for six months. He was first elected to the Oklahoma House in 2016, and was last reelected in 2022. The winner of the Special Election to fill the vacant seat will serve the remainder of Martinez’s two-year term.
Gov. Kevin Stitt set the filing period for September 18-20. The Special Primary Election was set for Tuesday , December 12, 2023. The General Special Election is scheduled for Tuesday February 13, 2024.
Seven Republicans, two Democrats and one Libertarian filed for the seat.
Since Richard Prawdzienski, 75, of Edmond was the only Libertarian to file, he moves directly to the Special General Election ballot. Prawdzienski is a real estate investor and was an independent candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma in 2010. He ran unsuccessfully as a Libertarian candidate for District 41 of the Oklahoma State Senate in 2012 and again in 2016. In the 2014 he was an Independent candidate for Oklahoma Governor.
The seven Republicans will compete in the Special Primary Election on December 12, 2023. The Republican who finishes first, regardless of the percentage of the vote, will secure the GOP nomination.
Kristen Ferate, 45, of Edmond is the wife A.J. Ferate, an attorney who served as the past chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party. She was appointed by Gov. Kevin Stitt to the Oklahoma Department of Libraries Board. She has also served as a member of the Edmond Historic Preservation Trust since August 2022.
William A. Gaige Jr., 47, of Edmond is an operations manager at M-D Building Products, Inc.
Tim Hale, 64, of Edmond is a ministry coordinator for the Officer’s Christian Fellowship.
Erick Harris, 36, of Edmond is an attorney. Prior to entering private practice, he served as an assistant attorney general in the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office. He was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for State Senator in District 30.
Ronda Lee Peterson, 61, of Edmond is a longtime Edmond Public Schools bus driver. She is a conservative activist and leads the Lions Den, a political group which holds monthly meetings and promotes conservative issues and candidates.
Cris Price, 53, of Edmond is a mortgage broker and the founder and president of Price Mortgage Group LLC.
Ross Vanhooser, 63, of Edmond is a semi-retired physician. He was appointed by Gov. Kevin Stitt to the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision. He ran unsuccessfully for District 41 of the Oklahoma House in 2014. In 2016 he was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for District 19 of the Oklahoma State.
Two Democrats filed for the seat and will compete is the Special Primary for the Democrat nomination. Regan Raff, 43, of Edmond is owner of a small business doing bookeeping. Paul Timmons, 62, of Edmond retired as a captain from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol after 34 years. He has since been hired as the chief of investigations at the Oklahoma County Detention Center.
The winner of the Republican and Democrat primaries will join the Libertarian nominee in the Special General Election. The new representative should take office early in the next session of the Oklahoma Legislature which convenes on February 5, but before critical votes on legislation occur.