Stories about Oklahoma

Six candidates file to run in Oklahoma State Senate special election

Candidates interested in running in a special election for a seat in the Oklahoma State Senate had until December 9, 2020, to file. The primary is scheduled for February 9, 2021, and the special election will be held on April 6.

In the District 22 special election, Dylan Billings and Molly Ooten are running in the Democratic primary. Former state legislator Rob Johnson, Darrick Matthews, Jake Merrick, and Keri Shipley are running in the Republican primary.

The special election became necessary after Stephanie Bice (R) was elected to represent Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District on November 3, 2020. Her resignation is effective on December 31, 2020. Bice was elected to the state Senate in 2014. She won re-election in 2018 with 68.3% of the vote.

Oklahoma has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the state Senate by a 39-9 margin and the state House by an 82-19 margin.

As of December 2020, four state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in three states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

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Oklahoma voters defeat both statewide ballot measures on the November ballot

Oklahoma voters defeated State Question 805 by a vote of 61% to 39%, thereby maintaining current law that a person convicted of a non-violent felony can receive longer sentences based on past felony convictions.

Voters also defeated State Question 814, by a vote of 59% to 41%. If passed, 814 would have decreased the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust’s funds and would have appropriated money to the state’s Medicaid program.

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Oklahoma holds primary runoff: Eight state legislative seats on the ballot, three incumbents defeated

The statewide primary runoff for Oklahoma was held on August 27, 2020. Candidates competed to advance to the general election scheduled for November 3. A primary was held on June 30. In races where no candidate received a majority of the vote (50% plus one vote), the top two vote-getters advanced to the primary runoff.

Eight seats in the state legislature were on the primary runoff ballot; five in the Oklahoma State Senate and three in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. All eight races were Republican primary runoffs.

A total of 24 out of 48 seats in the Oklahoma State Senate are up for election in 2020. Fourteen contested partisan races were on the primary ballot. Districts 5, 7, 17, 35, and 43 advanced to the primary runoff, roughly 36% of contested state Senate primary races. Three of the five state Senate primary runoffs featured incumbents, all of whom were defeated. The remaining two primary runoffs were for open seats.

All 101 seats in the Oklahoma House of Representatives are up for election in 2020. Thirty-nine contested partisan races were on the primary ballot. Districts 71, 79, and 96 advanced to the primary runoff, roughly 8% of contested state House primary races. No state House primary runoffs featured incumbents in either the primary or the primary runoff.

Oklahoma has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

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Bice defeats Neese to win Republican nomination in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District

Stephanie Bice defeated Terry Neese to win the Republican nomination in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District on August 25. As of 9:45 p.m. Central Time on election night, Bice had 53% of the vote to Neese’s 47%. The two advanced to a runoff after no candidate won a majority of the vote in the June 30 primary. Neese led in the primary with 36.5% to Bice’s 25.4%.

Bice, a state senator whose endorsers included former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), said she would be the more effective legislator. Neese, a business owner and the national co-chairwoman of President Trump’s small business advisory council, said she would be the stronger ally to the president.

Incumbent Kendra Horn (D), who was first elected in 2018, advanced from the Democratic primary with 86% of the vote. Election forecasters say the general election between Horn and Bice is a toss-up.

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Neese, Bice to compete in Republican primary runoff in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District August 25

Image of a red sign with the words "Polling Place" a pointing arrow.

Terry Neese and Stephanie Bice will compete in the Republican primary runoff in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District on Tuesday, August 25. The two advanced to a runoff when no candidate won 50% of the vote in the June 30 primary. Neese won 36.5% and Bice won 25.4% in the primary.

David Hill, who finished third in the primary with 19% of the vote, endorsed Neese on July 14 saying, “Terry Neese is a pro-life, pro-gun, conservative, and she has our full support as she fights to beat Kendra Horn and deliver President Trump’s agenda.”

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) endorsed Bice on August 6, saying, Stephanie is a proven conservative who is committed to defending our Second Amendment rights, protecting the unborn, and standing up for Oklahoma’s taxpayers.”

Incumbent Kendra Horn (D) is running for re-election. In 2018, she defeated incumbent Steve Russell (R) by a margin of 1.4 percentage points to become the first Democrat to hold the office since 1975. Oklahoma’s 5th is one of the 31 Democratic-held House districts that President Donald Trump (R) won in 2016, with Trump defeating Hillary Clinton (D) by a margin of 13.4 percentage points.

In February 2019, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee identified Oklahoma’s 5th as a Frontline district and the Republican National Congressional Committee identified the district as an offensive target for the 2020 election cycle.

Oklahoma to hold primary runoffs on August 25

Oklahoma’s statewide primary runoff is scheduled for August 25, 2020. Tulsa’s general election is scheduled for the same day.

Oklahoma’s statewide primary was on June 30, 2020. If no candidate received a majority of the vote in the primary, the top two vote-getters advanced to the primary runoff. The runoff winners will advance to the general election on November 3, 2020. The filing deadline passed on April 10.

There are no Democratic primary runoffs on the ballot. Republican candidates are competing in primary runoffs for the following offices:
Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District
Oklahoma State Senate Districts 5, 7, 17, 35, and 43
Oklahoma House of Representatives Districts 71, 79, and 96
Cleveland County Sheriff

Oklahoma County Sheriff

Meanwhile, candidates in Tulsa are competing in general elections for mayor and Districts 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 9 on the city council. A general runoff election, if necessary, is scheduled for November 3, 2020. No primary election was held for these races. The filing deadline passed on June 10, 2020.

Tulsa is the second-largest city in Oklahoma and the 47th largest city in the U.S. by population.

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Oklahoma campaign finance reports published show Yes on 802 campaign raised nearly 19 times as much as No on 802 campaign

Oklahoma State Question 802 was on the June primary ballot in Oklahoma where it was approved by a vote of 50.49% to 49.51%. The measure expanded Medicaid eligibility to adults between 18 and 65 whose income is 138% of the federal poverty level or below. Campaign finance reports were not due from the campaigns until after the election on July 31, 2020.

Campaign finance reports for the Oklahoma State Question 802 campaigns show aggregate totals through the life of the campaigns. The report filed by Yes on 802-Oklahomans Decide Healthcare covered information as far back as March 6, 2019. The Vote No on 802 Association‘s report covered information from June 8, 2020. Both reports covered through June 30, 2020.

The Yes on 802 campaign raised $5.5 million in cash and $295,000 in in-kind contributions. Of all the funds, 95% came from eight donors, which contributed the following amounts:

  1. Oklahoma Hospital Association: $2.5 million
  2. St. Francis Hospital: $940,000
  3. Tulsa Community Foundation: $923,000
  4. Stacy Schusterman, chair of Samson Energy Company: $500,000
  5. Ascension St John Foundation: $250,000
  6. The Fairness Project: $247,616.61 (in-kind)
  7. Chickasaw Nation: $100,000
  8. Oklahoma Medical Association: $25,000

The support campaign reported $5.47 million in cash expenditures. Sponsors of the measure hired Fieldworks LLC to collect signatures for the petition to qualify this measure for the ballot. A total of $1,836,261.73 was spent to collect the 177,958 valid signatures required to put this measure before voters, resulting in a total cost per required signature (CPRS) of $10.32.

The Vote No on 802 Association, chaired by John Tidwell, state director of Americans for Prosperity, reported $210,600 in cash contributions, $100,084 in in-kind contributions, and $114,950 in cash expenditures. Four donors contributed 100% of the funds:

  1. Americans for Prosperity: $200,000 cash and $99,850 in-kind
  2. Jim Antosh, owner of Round House Workwear LLC: $10,000
  3. Nobel Systems, Inc: $500
  4. John Tidwell: $100 in cash and $234.19 in-kind

Comparison to citizen initiatives of 2018:

Two citizen initiatives were on the 2018 ballot in Oklahoma. The CPRS for State Question 788, which was designed to legalize medical marijuana was $0.41. Sponsors spent $26,988 to collect the required 65,987 signatures. State Question 793, concerning optometrists and opticians operating in retail stores, used volunteers to collect the 123,725 valid signatures, resulting in a CPRS of $0. The number of signatures required to qualify initiatives for the ballot in Oklahoma is tied to the total votes cast for governor in the last gubernatorial election. The number of required signatures increased for initiated constitutional amendments and state statutes in 2020 after the gubernatorial election in 2018.

In 2018, supporters of State Question 788 raised $280,117, and opponents raised $1.26 million. It was approved. Supporters of State Question 793 raised $4.6 million, and opponents raised $3 million.

As of August 3, 2020, 110 statewide ballot measures had been certified for the 2020 ballot in 33 states. Committees registered to support or oppose these statewide measures have reported a combined total of $335.7 million in contributions and $144.2 million in expenditures so far. Of the total contributions in support of or opposition to the 110 statewide measures certified, the 32 citizen-initiated measures featured about 73% of contributions. In 2018, the 68 citizen-initiated measures featured about 83% of the $1.19 billion in campaign contributions for the 167 statewide measures.

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Oklahoma voters to decide initiative to prevent sentencing enhancements due to previous non-violent felonies in November

State Question 805 qualified for the ballot on July 29, after the state supreme court had found that the campaign submitted 248,521 valid signatures and after the 10-day challenge period ended on July 28 without any signature validity challenges filed. Yes on 805, sponsors of the amendment, turned in 260,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office on June 1.

The measure would amend the state constitution to prohibit a convicted person’s former felony convictions, except for violent felonies, from being used to “enhance the statutorily allowable base range of punishment.” In other words, the measure would not allow a convicted person’s sentence to be made longer or harsher due to past felony convictions.

The measure would not apply to those who have ever been convicted of a violent felony. Such offenses include assault, battery, murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, human trafficking, burglary, robbery, child abuse, rape, rioting, arson, terrorism, and more.

The initiative would provide for sentence modifications for persons convicted of a felony with a sentence that was enhanced due to former felony convictions and which resulted in a sentence that is greater than the maximum sentence currently allowed for such felonies.

The Yes on 805 campaign said, “Repeat sentence penalties, marketed as so-called ‘sentence enhancements’ during the tough-on-crime era, became popular when it was thought longer sentences would deter people from crime and lower recidivism, but data have shown that is just not true. The best research shows that long sentences do not make us safer and reducing these sentences will strengthen our economy and reunite families without weakening public safety. We already have evidence this reform will work in Oklahoma. SQ 780, which passed in 2016, lowered sentence lengths for several property offenses such as theft. Since then, property crime has fallen 3% while Oklahoma’s prison population declined by 10%.”

State Question 780, on the ballot in 2016, changed certain non-violent drug- and theft-related crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, which come with a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a fine of $1,000. The measure reduced the number and duration of state prison sentences for those crimes. The measure was approved by a vote of 58% to 42%. The prison cost savings brought about by State Question 780 were earmarked according to the companion initiative, State Question 781. State Question 781, which was also approved, allocated the funds made available by the prison cost savings to counties in proportion to their population. The funding could be claimed by privately-run rehabilitative organizations that provide drug and mental health treatment, job training, and education programs.

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, which describes its mission as “advancing principles and policies that support free enterprise, limited government, individual initiative, and personal responsibility,” conducted a fiscal analysis of State Question 805. The group concluded that the measure would “reduce Oklahoma’s prison population by 8.5% over the next 10 years. That would reduce state expenses between $45 million and $186 million, with expected savings of at least $142 million. Taxpayer savings of up to $27 million per year would continue indefinitely into the future.”

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (R), said, “Trying to put this into our state’s constitution, it peels back enhancements for DUIs, human trafficking, domestic violence — some of the things I don’t think we need to put into our constitution.” Candida Manion, executive director of the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said, “When abusers aren’t held accountable, the violence escalates and that’s when they end up killing someone. In Oklahoma, we don’t hold offenders accountable already, but whatever was there, [SQ 805] will remove that, making it worse.”

One other measure is certified for the ballot in Oklahoma: State Question 814. The measure would decrease appropriations made to the state’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) Fund and direct the legislature to make appropriations to secure federal matching funds for the state’s Medicaid program. State Question 802, which expanded Medicaid in the state, was approved by voters in June.

Two other 2020 initiatives were cleared for circulation in Oklahoma. State Question 808 would create a constitutional right to consume cannabis and require those convicted of marijuana offenses to be exonerated and/or released from incarceration. It faces a signature deadline of August 3. State Question 812 would decriminalize certain marijuana-related offenses. It faces a signature deadline of September 4 to qualify for the 2020 ballot and October 5 to qualify for a later election ballot. To qualify, 177,958 valid signatures are required.

Decade-high number of incumbents slated for Oklahoma’s state legislative general election

On June 30, 2020, voters across Oklahoma cast their ballots in the state’s legislative primaries.

This year, 125 state legislative seats are up for election. Following the primaries, at least 106 incumbents are advancing to the general election, the highest number within the past decade. The higher number of incumbents in the general election is due to a decade-low number of open seats in both chambers and similarly low numbers of incumbents defeated in the primaries.

In the Senate, two of the 24 incumbents, both Republicans, did not seek re-election, leaving their seats open. In the House, three Democrats and six Republicans retired. In addition to these 11, four incumbents—three Republicans and one Democrat—were defeated in the June 30 primaries. They were:
• Sen. Wayne Shaw (R), Senate District 3
• Rep. Lundy Kiger (R), House District 3
• Rep. Derrel Fincher (R), House District 11
• Rep. Jason Dunnington (D), House District 88

Additionally, Sens. Ron Sharp (R) and Larry Boggs (R) advanced to primary runoffs on August 25. Sen. Paul Scott (R) and Rep. Ajay Pittman (D) ran in primaries that remain too close to call.

In total, 15 incumbents either retired before or were defeated in the June 30 primaries. Pending runoffs and too close to call elections, that number could increase to 19. In either scenario, it is the lowest such number within the preceding decade.

In total, there were 54 party primaries, 15 in the Senate and 39 in the House. By partisan affiliation, there were eight Democratic primaries and 46 Republican primaries. Overall, this marks a 54 percent decrease from 2018, which saw 117 total primaries.

Heading into the general election, Republicans hold a 38-9 supermajority in the Senate and a 77-23 supermajority in the House. Oklahoma is one of 21 Republican state government trifectas with Republicans controlling the governorship and both chambers of the legislature. General election winners will be responsible for redrawing district lines after the 2020 decennial census. The legislature is responsible for drafting congressional and state legislative district plans, both of which are subject to gubernatorial veto.

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Neese and Bice advance to Republican primary runoff in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District

Businesswoman Terry Neese and state Sen. Stephanie Bice were the top two finishers in the Republican primary for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District. As of 10:30 p.m. Central Time on June 30, Neese was first with 37% of the vote and Bice was second with 25%. Because neither candidate received more than 50% of the vote, the two will advance to an August 25 primary runoff.
Nearly all of the satellite spending in the primary was by Club for Growth Action, which opposed Bice, and American Jobs & Growth PAC, which supported her. The winner will challenge incumbent Kendra Horn (D).