If recent special elections are any indication, Democrats have a chance to improve their numbers in Oklahoma’s House of Representatives during special elections Tuesday.
The general election for House District 28 will replace former Rep. Tom Newell, who resigned in December to pursue private-sector opportunities that include advocating at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Meanwhile, a primary election for the House District 75 seat will set the stage for replacing former Rep. Dan Kirby, who also announced his resignation in December following allegations of sexual harassment and wrongful termination.
Given that both former lawmakers were Republicans, these special elections could offer an opportunity for Democrats to flip seats within the GOP-dominated Legislature. Over the past two years, Democrats have won special elections in HD 85 — Rep. Cyndi Munson (D-OKC) — and SD 34 Sen. J.J. Dossett (D-Owasso).
For voters in HD 28, which includes Seminole County and a portion of northern Pottawatomie County, the field has been narrowed to three candidates following a March primary. In HD 75, which includes a portion of Tulsa County, four Republicans and two Democrats currently vie to make it to the general.
For registered voters in those areas, the following cheat sheet intends to bring you up to speed on who stands where. (Candidates are presented in alphabetical order according to last name.)
HD 28: Steve Barnes (D)
On his official campaign Facebook account, former highway patrolman and public defender Steve Barnes lists funding for public education, infrastructure, gun rights and rural Oklahoma as tenets of his platform. Now an attorney based out of Wewoka, Barnes won 41 percent of his party’s vote during the primary in March.
Barnes has received support in the race from former Gov. David Walters and former Gov. Brad Henry, who represented part of the district when he was a state senator.
HD 28: Cody Presley (L)
An employee of the City of Shawnee, Libertarian candidate Cody Presley possesses neither an official campaign website nor discernibly campaign-related Facebook account. His personal Facebook account, however, emphasizes his Masonic membership and Libertarian leanings.
HD 28: Zack Taylor (R)
Billing himself on his website as a “New Conservative Champion,” Seminole native Zack Taylor works for his family’s oil and gas company. His platform includes a pro-life stance, protecting gun rights and emphasizing constitutional conservatism. Taylor won 57 percent of the Republican primary vote.
HD 75: Nik Berg (R)
Native Tulsan Nik Berg emphasizes his Christian faith and a three-year mission trip to Sweden on his official website. The 21-year-old champions small businesses and would seek to create a more business-friendly environment if elected. Criminal justice reform also constitutes a leg of the conservative’s platform.
HD 75: Karen Gaddis (D)
Listing education as her No. 1 priority on her campaign website, longtime public educator Karen Gaddis of Tulsa previously sought this seat in 2016. Kirby defeated Gaddis by about 20 points in that race. Besides education, Gaddis also cites health care, economic development and infrastructure as central to her platform.
HD 75: Tressa Nunley (R)
Tulsa-based Realtor Tressa Nunley describes herself as a constitutional conservative and believes government should mainly protect the “God-given rights” of its citizenry. Education, economic growth, pro-life, gun rights and states’ rights round out her platform. In addition to approval from the Oklahoma Conservative PAC, the District Attorney and County Assessor in Tulsa County have both endorsed Nunley.
HD 75: AJ Oatsvall (R)
Billing himself as “a different kind of Republican,” Tulsa-based blogger AJ Oatsvall exhibits a penchant for posting politically oriented memes as well as an affinity for Rand Paul on his Facebook profile. After serving in the U.S. Navy and attending community college, the 32-year-old settled in Broken Arrow.
HD 75: Jamie Smith (D)
A 29-year-old post-doctoral fellow at OU-Tulsa, Jamie Smith lists half a dozen issues on her campaign’s website. Chief among them are education and infrastructure, but increasing municipal control for cities and towns as well as improving public-service jobs also feature prominently.
HD 75: Skip Steele (R)
“Education, tax reform and public safety” form the foundation of Tulsa Republican Skip Steele’s campaign, according to his campaign’s Facebook page. Formerly a member of Tulsa’s city council, Steele believes government spending should be cut first before raising taxes.