Special Elections for Legislature
By: Constitution Staff
Special Elections to fill vacancies in the Oklahoma Legislature continue, with four of eight vacant positions now filled. The vacancies are the result of the resignation of seven legislators, three in the House and four in the Senate, and the death of a member of the House. Since all eight seats were held by Republicans, Democrats saw an opportunity to add to their dwindling numbers after suffering losses in last year’s elections and have flipped several of the seats. Three of the resignations were the result of the lawmakers taking new employment opportunities, and three involved scandals.
The process to fill vacancies is a little different in Special Elections. Unlike the regular primary elections to select a party nominee, the candidate that finishes first in the Special Primary is the nominee. In the regular primary elections there is a runoff if a candidate does not get over 50 percent of the vote.
House District 28
State Rep. Tom Newell (R-Seminole) announced his resignation from the Oklahoma House of Representatives last December. His announcement came just weeks after being reelected in the November General Election. Newell delivered his resignation letter to Gov. Mary Fallin with an effective date of December 31, 2016. The district covers Seminole County and the northern portion of Pottawatomie County in east-central Oklahoma.
Rep. Newell accepted a position as a senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability, a conservative Florida-based think tank. Newell, a pastor, served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives since he was first elected in 2010. He was one of the more conservative members of the Legislature, earning an 82% cumulative average on the Oklahoma Conservative Index published by the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper.
The filing period for the Special Election was January 9-11. The Special Primary Election was held on March 7 and the Special General Election on May 9. Four Republicans, five Democrats, and a Libertarian filed for the seat. Seminole oil and gas producer Zack Taylor, 33, of Seminole won the Republican nomination in the Special Primary Election and went on win the general election. He is part owner of RKR Exploration Inc. where he works in field operations and management of oil and gas wells with his dad and uncle. In the May 9 Special General Election Taylor won with 1,221 votes (50.48%) over Democrat Steve Barnes, who had 1,165 votes (48.16%), and Libertarian Cody Presley with 33 votes (1.36%).
House District 75
Rep. Dan Kirby (R-Tulsa) came under scrutiny by a special investigative committee focused on sexual harassment complaints against House members. Kirby was investigated following allegations by his legislative assistant involving sexual harassment. When the committee released its findings, and recommended that the House expel Kirby, he resigned before that could happen. His resignation was effective on March 1. He was one of the more moderate members of the Oklahoma House, earning a 55% cumulative average on the Oklahoma Conservative Index. The filing period for the special election was February 27, 28 and March 1. The Special Primary Election was May 9 and the Special General Election on July 11. House District 75 covers part of eastern Tulsa County.
Four Republicans and two Democrats filed for the Special Election. Karen Gaddis, 67, of Tulsa won the Democrat nomination with 64% of the vote. She was also the Democrat nominee against Kirby in last year’s general election where she received 40% of the vote. In the July 11 Special General Election, Gaddis won with 52 percent of the vote over Republican Tressa Nunley who received 48 percent.
Senate District 44
Special elections dates were set to fill the vacancy in Senate District 44, caused by the March 22 resignation of Sen. Ralph Shortey (R-Oklahoma City). The filing period for the special elections was May 1-3. The Special Primary Election was set for July 11, and the Special General Election for September 12.
Sen. Ralph Shortey resigned after being charged with child prostitution. City of Moore police said they found Shortey in a motel room with a 17-year-old boy on March 9. He was first elected to the seat in south Oklahoma City in 2010. He was one of the more moderate Republican members of the Senate, earning a 62 percent cumulative average on the Oklahoma Conservative Index.
Since only one candidate filed from each political party for the Senate seat, the Special Primary Election was not necessary, and the Special General Election was shifted to July 11. In that election, Republican Joe Griffin faced Democrat Michael Brooks. Brooks ran for the Senate seat in 2014 under the name Michael Brooks-Jimenez, and he also operates a law firm by that name. However, Brooks, 46, filed as Brooks for the Senate seat. Griffin, 37, was a television reporter who later served as the chief communications aide for the Oklahoma Speaker of the House. He was in law school last year when he unsuccessfully sought a House seat. In the July 11 election Brooks defeated Griffin by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.
House District 46
State Rep. Scott Martin (R-Norman) announced that at the end of this legislative session he would resign his seat in the Legislature to lead the Norman Chamber of Commerce beginning on June 1. Term limits prohibited Martin from running for another term for the Norman area district in 2018. He has been one of the more moderate GOP members of the House, earning a 60% cumulative average on the Oklahoma Conservative Index, but only scored 30% in this year’s session.
The filing period for the special elections was May 1-3. The Special Primary Election was set for July 11, and the Special General Election for September 12. Three Republicans filed for the seat and Darin Chambers, 48, of Norman won the GOP Primary with 57 percent of the vote. Jacob Rosencrants, 39, also from Norman, ran against Martin in 2016 and was the only Democrat to file. Rosecrants won the seat with 60 percent of the vote. Before taking his seat, Rosecrants had to resign his public school teaching position since legislators cannot hold a job paid for by state funds.
House District 76
The sudden death of state Rep. David Brumbaugh (R-Broken Arrow) created another vacancy. The district includes part of Broken Arrow and Tulsa. Brumbaugh had served House District 76 since 2010, winning the seat after former state Rep. John Wright was term-limited. Brumbaugh had a cumulative Oklahoma Conservative Index score of 93 percent, and had scored a perfect 100 percent rating for four years in a row.
The June 5-7 filing period attracted five Republicans and two Democrats. All of the candidates are from Broken Arrow. In the primary elections on August 8, Ross Ford secured the Republican nomination, while Chris Vanlandingham will be his Democratic opponent in the November 14 general election. Ford, 56, finished first in the Republican primary with 30.8 percent of the vote, while Shelley Brumaugh, widow of Rep. Brumbaugh, came in second with 29.9 percent of the vote. Vanlandingham, 53, won the Democrat nomination with 54.5 percent of the vote. Ford is a retired Tulsa police officer. Vanlandingham is a member of the social studies faculty at Cascia Hall Preparatory School.
Senate District 45
On April 27, state Senator Kyle Loveless (R-Oklahoma City) submitted a letter of resignation effective immediately. In the letter to Senate President Pro Temp Mike Shultz, Loveless said: “I tender this resignation with much regret. Mistakes I have made are the responsibility of no one other than myself.” It had previously been announced that Sen. Loveless was under investigation by the Oklahoma Ethics Commission for failing to properly report campaign contributions during the last two election cycles. Loveless was elected in 2012 to the District 45 seat that includes parts of southern Oklahoma City and Cleveland and Canadian Counties.
The filing period was June 5-7. Seven GOP candidates filed for the seat and two Democrats. Republican Paul Rosino, 54, of Oklahoma City won the special primary election with 32.6 percent of the vote. He will face Democrat Steven Vincent, 51, of Mustang in the special general election on November 14. The Democratic primary featured only two candidates with Vincent easily beating Noah Ynclan with over 92 percent of the vote. Rosino is the owner and operator of Rosino Realty. Vincent works as a 911 dispatcher for the Oklahoma City Police Department.
Senate District 37
State Senator Dan Newberry (R-Tulsa) announce that he is leaving the Legislature to pursue a professional opportunity with his resignation date effective January 31, 2018. He was first elected to the seat in 2008. He has been one of the more moderate GOP members of the Senate, earning a 61% cumulative average on the Oklahoma Conservative Index, but only scored 36% in this year’s session.
Seven Republicans and one Democrat filed during June 26-28 filing period. In the Republican Special Primary held on September 12, Brian O’Hara, 56, of Jenks won the nomination with 42 percent of the vote. O’Hara is a field representative for First District Congressman Jim Bridenstine and is a former Jenks city councilor. He will face Democrat, Allison Ickley-Freeman of Tulsa in the Special General Election on November 14.Ickley-Freeman works as a therapist at a Tulsa community mental health agency.
Senate District 27
Gov. Mary Fallin has called a special election to fill the vacancy created by the September 12 resignation of state Sen. Bryce Marlatt (R- Woodward) who resigned from office after the Oklahoma County District Attorney filed felony sexual battery charges against Marlatt. He is accused of grabbing a female Uber driver and kissing her on the neck while she was driving. He also is accused of making sexual advances toward the driver while being transported by her on the night of June 26 in Oklahoma City. Marlatt was first elected to the state Senate in 2008 and reelected in 2012 and 2016. He has been one of the more moderate GOP members of the Senate, earning a 59% cumulative average on the Oklahoma Conservative Index, scored 39% in this year’s session. District 27 state Senate seat covers Beaver, Cimarron, Dewey, Ellis, Harper, Major, Texas, Woods and Woodward counties. The Special Primary Election is scheduled for December 12 and the Special General Election is set for February 13, 2018.
During the October 2-4 filing period, six Republicans and one Democrat filed. Amber Jensen, 36, of Woodward the Democrat candidate. She is office manager of Jensen Renovation and co-owner of Maiden Name Designs. She is also the Chair of the Woodward County Democratic Party.
Tommy Nicholson,66, of Mooreland ran against Marlatt in the two past elections. He ran as an Independent against Marlatt in the 2012 General Election and went up against the former State Senator in the 2016 Republican primary. He is a retired veteran of the U.S. military, is a farmer and rancher, and has also worked for several state agencies.State Representative Casey Murdock (R-Felt), 47, was elected in 2014 and reelected in 2016. He is one of the more liberal Republicans in the House with a 37% cumulative average on the Oklahoma Conservative Index, and only scored 10% in this year’s session. Carolyn McLarty, 67, of Mutual is the Republican Committeewoman representing the Oklahoma Republican Party on the Republican National Committee (RNC). She has served on the RNC Resolutions Committee and was Chairman of the RNC Resolutions Committee for the 2016 Republican National Convention. She has served as the Chairman of the Conservative Steering Committee and as a founding member of the Republican National Conservative Caucus. Dr. McLarty is a retired veterinarian who operated the Animal Care Clinic in Woodward for 20 years. Travis Templin, 44, of Seiling is a teacher and coach at Seiling Public Schools. Jeff Hall, 47, of Mooreland is a retired Army veteran who served two tours of duty in Iraq. The remaining GOP candidate is Michael Medill, 60, of Woodward
The number of vacancies which have occurred in the Legislature over the past year is more than any other time in Oklahoma history. Many of the vacancies have left the citizens of those districts unrepresented for much of the last legislative session.
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