It all comes down to Election Day as campaigns GOTV: get out the vote.
Months’ worth of receiving robocalls, tossing mailers into the trash, hiding from door knockers and muting negative TV commercials have left (many) Oklahomans desperately ready to vote and be done with it.
On the line are statewide elected offices, and chief among them is the race for Oklahoma’s next governor. All five of Oklahoma’s congressional seats are also up for election, and numerous legislative districts are in play.
So, first, make sure you have a plan to vote Tuesday. No excuses.
But once you do vote and once polls close at 7 p.m. Nov. 6, here are five things to watch as ballots are counted.
1) Late nights in Tulsa and other gubernatorial factors
With a hat tip to KOKC’s Chad Alexander for pointing this out for both the June 26 primary and the Aug. 28 runoff, be prepared for Tulsa-area results to come in toward the end of the night. That could be good news for GOP gubernatorial candidate Kevin Stitt, who lives and operates Gateway Mortgage Group there.
Should Democratic gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson have a chance, however, discussions with those working date for the race indicate Edmondson could turn out Tulsa, Rogers, Wagoner and Creek counties’ suburbs in a way that Democrats have rarely done before. Driving that opportunity, of course, is the topic of education and the candidates’ respective perceptions. In Oklahoma County, pollsters say Edmondson appears to be out-performing the norm in northwest OKC, as well as Edmond.
But if Tulsa results come in late(r) on Election Day, Edmondson might need a substantial lead across the rest of the state to hold off what could be a Tulsa bump for Stitt, who was endorsed by the Tulsa World in a county featuring a substantial GOP registration advantage.
2) Eastern Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District, Ada and Wagoner County
Another key for any Drew Edmondson upset chance on Election Day would be winning eastern Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District, the last of the state’s five to have been held by a Democrat earlier this decade. Edmondson has a blueprint for doing exactly that if you deem his work to defeat State Question 777 an indication of how he relates to that part of the state. (More than one political operative has noted how an Edmondson victory might resemble a closer version of the SQ 777 results map.)
Edmondson hails from Muskogee, seat of the state’s 11th most populous county. Just to its north, Wagoner County comes in as the 8th most populous. In 2014, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Joe Dorman beat Gov. Mary Fallin in only six counties, five of which were in eastern Oklahoma: Muskogee, Cherokee (Tahlequah), Pontotoc (Ada, in the 4th Congressional District), Coal (population 6,000) and Latimer (population 11,000). If Edmondson struggles in those remaining Democratic strongholds, he would have virtually no shot at victory.
While Edmondson’s attorney general record of engaging poultry companies to protect eastern-Oklahoma waterways earned him powerful enemies, 2018 has seen grassroots water-protection activism percolate in the Tahlequah area and in southeast Oklahoma: McCurtain County (Idabel), Bryan County (Durant), Pittsburg County (McAlester), etc.
When Democrats dominated Oklahoma politics, Republicans routinely discussed how to turn eastern Oklahoma red. Now, Edmondson’s camp needs to re-paint “Little Dixie” blue while brushing extra purple into Oklahoma County, long a Republican stronghold.
For Stitt, support in conservative rural areas like eastern Oklahoma helped him defeat Mick Cornett in the GOP runoff, and advertisements criticizing Edmondson on the topic of firearms and his support of Hillary Clinton seem aimed at such areas.
If Stitt were able to defeat Edmondson in eastern Oklahoma, he could potentially lose Oklahoma County and still become governor.
3) Purple in the middle
Speaking of Oklahoma County, the state’s most competitive congressional seat is its fifth, which features a matchup between incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Steve Russell and Democratic challenger Kendra Horn. While Russell has led in polls, a third-party group criticizing Russell and touting Horn made a large TV buy for the final week of the campaign.
Russell and Horn squared off in a debate Oct. 24 hosted by NonDoc and Generation Citizen at City Presbyterian Church in OKC. (Full video here.) As Oklahoma City has become more friendly to Democrats and with Edmondson potentially pulling a stronger-than-usual blue showing in Edmond and OKC suburbs, large voter turnout in Oklahoma County could help Horn thread a needle and pull an upset.
Additionally, Senate District 30 and Senate District 40 could result in two previously Republican-controlled seats flipping if OKC does, in fact, turn out heavily for Democrats.
4) Education the top issue for #okleg seats
Education advocates are hoping those two Senate seats do go to Democrats. For example, Julia Kirt (SD 30) and Carri Hicks (SD 40) have been supported by the Oklahoma AFT and endorsed by the Oklahoma Education Association.
The OEA gained in numbers during April’s teacher walkout and has spent months rallying volunteers to knock doors for their preferred candidates. While dozens of educators are running for the Legislature, the OEA has not endorsed in the majority of legislative races.
The organization’s limited endorsements have occasionally confused onlookers, as in the case of Ada’s open House District 25 seat. Republican Ronny Johns serves as an Ada principal and has worked in public schools for 30 years, but the OEA endorsed Democratic firefighter Daniel Manuel, noting in their full Election Guide (embedded below) that Manuel drives a bus for Byng Public Schools and participated in the walkout.
The OEA’s election guide also displays how much the Legislature’s make up has already changed after primary campaigns. As detailed recently by Campbell Robertson of the New York Times, the majority of the 19 Republican House members who voted against last session’s historic revenue increase for education funding were either term-limited, chose not to run again or were defeated in GOP primaries.
Rep. Sean Roberts (R-Hominy) is the only anti-revenue voter guaranteed a return in 2019, and three others will attempt to earn re-election Tuesday: Rep. Tom Gann (R-Inola), Rep. Tommy Hardin (R-Madill) and Rep. Kevin West (R-Moore).
All three face Democratic challengers, though the OEA’s committee process ultimately endorsed none of them. Gann’s opponent, Darrell Moore, is married to a former teacher. Hardin’s opponent, Miranda Shelton, is a special education teacher. In the Legislature’s upper chamber, Sen. Mark Allen (R-Spiro) is the only no-voter on revenue who will appear on ballots Tuesday. The OEA also did not endorse Allen’s challenger, Democrat Eddie Martin.
But the OEA did endorse Democrat Dennis Dugger who is challenging Rep. Todd Russ (R-Cordell) for House District 55 in western Oklahoma. Russ has drawn public criticism from a former Roger Mills County commissioner who took out the following newspaper advertisement to air grievances against Russ:
As a result, Russ’ re-election campaign could be close, which might surprise some in conservative western Oklahoma. Likewise, the open Senate race to replace term-limited Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz (R-Altus) could be tight owing to the two candidates’ different hometowns in SD 38. Democrat Jeff Berrong hails from Weatherford and Republican Brent Howard lives in Altus.
A full spreadsheet of what legislative seats are in play Tuesday is located within this article.
5) African American turnout will be …?
One unknown that could help or hurt Democrats’ chances at a blue wave (blue spill?) will be turnout among Oklahoma’s African American voters.
With three African Americans running as Democrats for statewide positions — Sen. Anastasia Pittman (D-OKC) for lieutenant governor, Mark Myles for attorney general and Kimberly Fobbs for insurance commissioner — logic might follow that turnout among black voters could be higher than normal, especially considering Pittman lives in OKC, Myles hails from Lawton and Fobbs resides in the Tulsa area.
But asked about that possibility, both Democratic and Republican campaign operatives have discussed on background how Oklahoma’s African American voters could be less motivated as a demographic than other segments of the state. In recent weeks, we have heard anecdotes to the same effect as well.
On the other hand, north Tulsa has a hotly contested county commissioner seat on the ballot, and east OKC’s Ward 7 City Council seat pits an African American woman, Nikki Nice, against a white man, Kirk Pankratz. Lawton legislative races — HD 62 and SD 32 — also feature African American candidates as Democratic nominees.
Underscored by Brooklyn rapper Talib Kweli and OKC rapper Jabee Williams’ get-out-the-vote concert Oct. 28 at the Tower Theatre, turnout among African Americans could prove vital for Edmondson, Horn and other Democrats hoping to pull upsets.
Tuesday is Election Day
Polls are open on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Find your polling location and answers to other election questions on the Oklahoma State Election Board’s website.