Oklahoma legislators
Rep. John Pfeiffer (R-Orlando) and Rep. Rusty Cornwell were among 46 incumbent Oklahoma legislators re-elected by default in 2020. Rep. Johnny Tadlock, in back, did not seek re-election. (Michael Duncan)

At the conclusion of Oklahoma’s election filing today, 46 out of 147 incumbent members have functionally been re-elected to the state Legislature without a campaign. The high number of automatic re-elections comes two years after the state’s teacher walkout combined with 18 term-limited Oklahoma legislators and numerous retirements to give 2018 the largest field of candidates in modern state history.

With half of State Senate seats on the ballot every two years and an extra Senate seat vacant owing to resignation, only 126 legislative seats are up for election in 2020. The Oklahoma legislators re-elected by default this year include eight senators and 38 state representatives:

Republican Steve Bashore was the only person to file for House District 7, which is being vacated early by Rep. Ben Loring (D-Miami).

All five legislators who represent Broken Arrow won re-election without challenge, including Rep. Dean Davis, who was arrested in 2019 on suspicion of DUI and was recorded on the jail’s phone system saying that the City of Broken Arrow had “just made an enemy.” An educator, Davis apologized for the incident and has posted his meetings with teachers across his district on Facebook throughout 2020.

Full election filing results can be found on the Oklahoma State Election Board’s website. Filing ended at 5 p.m. Friday, April 10, candidate filing packets that were mailed in had to be received by that same deadline, according to an election board representative.

Candidates who file for office are able to challenge the eligibility of any other candidate seeking the same office by submitting paperwork to the Oklahoma State Election Board by 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 14.

By the end of April 14, the board had received 11 contestations of candidacy, one of which resulted in a candidate withdrawing in House District 82. Democrat Max Federman revoked his candidacy for HD 82, making Rep. Nicole Miller (R-Edmond) the 47th incumbent legislator to win re-election by default.

House Minority Leader Emily Virgin (D-Norman) did not draw a challenger for the second election season in a row. (Michael Duncan)

Other #okleg members re-elected after challenges

On April 21, the State Election Board held hearings over candidacy contests. Rep. Ken Luttrell (R-Ponca City) successfully contested the candidacy of a man named Shawn Wilson, who did not appear before the board to defend his candidacy. Luttrell presented records showing Wilson as a resident and registered voter of HD 38 instead of HD 37. As a result of the board’s decision, Luttrell is the only remaining candidate in HD 37 and has also won re-election by default.

Rep. Brad Boles (R-Marlow) contested the candidacy of fellow Republican Gregory Dunson, saying the challenger had not been registered to vote in HD 51 for the six-month period required in Title 14, Section 10 of Oklahoma State Statutes. The State Election Board agreed and struck Dunson from the ballot, making Boles the 49th incumbent lawmaker re-elected by default.

What’s old is new again

Five former House members filed to seek their former seats in 2020: Former House Minority Leader Steve Kouplen has filed in HD 24, which he lost in 2018 to Rep. Logan Phillips (R-Mounds), who did not campaign. Phillips also faces three Republican challengers: Sam Stampler, Elijah Harelson and John Baca, the city attorney of Wetumka, who infamously sat stone-faced through raucous meetings of the town’s turbulent City Council.

Former Republican Rep. George Faught also lost his bid for a final term in 2018 and has filed to challenge the man who beat him: Rep. Chris Sneed (R-Muskogee). HD 14 will be determined by the GOP primary between Faught and Sneed.

Rick West, who represented HD 3 along the Arkansas border for one term but chose not to run for re-election in 2018, filed against Rep. Lundy Kiger (R-Poteau). The winner between Kiger and West will face Democrat Mike Sullivan in the general election.

Southwest OKC Republican Mike Christian, who lost two races for Oklahoma County Sheriff, has filed to challenge Rep. Mickey Dollens (D-OKC) for HD 93, which Christian represented from 2008 through 2016.

Danny Williams of Seminole filed as a Republican for HD 28, but Williams served the district as a Democrat until he ran for governor in 1994, where he received 10.5 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. He ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for SD 28 in 2014 and now faces Jerri Parker of Okemah in the GOP primary. The winner there will face Democrat Yasminda Choate of Sasakwa.

Former State Rep. Shane Jett is also attempting to rejoin the Legislature. He filed as a Republican against Sen. Ron Sharp (R-Shawnee), who was also challenged by Republicans Brandon Baumgarten and Caleb Foshee. Libertarian Greg Sadler also filed in SD 17.

Term limits drive open seats

Five current members of the Oklahoma Legislature are completing their 12th year of service and are ineligible to run for re-election owing to term limits. In 2018, 18 seats were open owing to term limits.

Sen. Gary Stanislawski (R-Tulsa) is the only member of the State Senate unable to seek re-election in 2020, a year in which all odd-numbered Senate districts are up for grabs.

In the House, four Republicans are term limited:

In addition to those five legislative races that will feature no incumbent, Senate District 28 and House District 89 are currently vacant owing to the resignations of former Sen. Jason Smalley (R-Stroud) and Rep. Shane Stone (D-OKC).

SD 28 will be decided in the Republican primary, which will feature Rep. Zack Taylor (R-Seminole), Mike Haines and Christian Ford.

HD 89 will feature a three-way Democratic primary between Jose Cruz, Chris Bryant and Cristian Zapata. The winner will face Republican John Hutton in November.

Other races are also open owing to an incumbent’s decision not to seek re-election. Rep. Johnny Tadlock (R-Idabel) changed his registration from Democrat to Republican after being re-elected without opposition in 2018, but he chose not to seek another term in 2020. Instead, voters in far southeast Oklahoma’s HD 1 will chose between Republicans Eric Ensley and Eddie Dempsey. No Democrat filed for the district, which features a more Democrats than Republicans but strongly voted for President Donald Trump in 2016 and Gov. Kevin Stitt in 2018.

Rep. David Perryman (D-Chickasha) also decided not to seek re-election, with Republicans Dick Lowe and Randy Talley vying for the chance to meet Democrat Craig Parham in the November general election.

In the only statewide Oklahoma position on the 2020 ballot, incumbent Corporation Commissioner Todd Hiett drew challenges from Republican Harold Spradling and Libertarian Todd Hagopian.

Oklahoma’s federal races crowded

Four Democrats, three Republicans and a Libertarian officially filed to challenge longtime U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe. Former TV reporter Abby Broyles has the most name recognition among the Democrats, who include Sheila Bilyeu, Elysabeth Britt and R.O. Joe Cassity Jr. GOP candidates challenging Inhofe are Neil Mavis, John Tompkins and J.J. Stitt, who is no relation to Oklahoma’s governor. Libertarian Robert Murphy and independents Joan Farr and A.D. Nesbitt also filed.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK1) avoided a primary challenge, but Democrats Kojo Asamoa-Caesar and Mark Keeter joined perennial candidate Evelynn Rogers (currently an independent) in seeking the Tulsa-area congressional seat.

U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK2) drew two primary challengers: Rhonda Hopkins and State Sen. Joseph Silk (R-Broken Bow), who has drawn statewide recognition as the Legislature’s most prominent champion for the abolition of abortion. Democrat Danyell Lanier and Libertarian Richie Castaldo also filed for the eastern Oklahoma congressional seat.

U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK3) drew only one challenger: Democrat Zoe Midyett, a “self-proclaimed computer nerd” who owns and operates a feed store. Lucas was first elected to the sprawling and predominantly northwest Oklahoma congressional seat in 1994.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK4) drew three primary challengers, three Democratic challengers and Libertarian Bob White. Democrats seeking the Norman-to-Lawton congressional seat are Mary Brannon, John Argo and David Slemmons. Cole’s Republican challengers are James Taylor, Trevor Sipes and Gilbert Sanders.

U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK5) is being challenged in her first re-election bid by nine Republicans and frequent Democratic candidate Tom Guild, whose campaign against Horn in 2018 was marred by video of him removing her signs in front of the headquarters of Freedom Oklahoma. Republican candidates for the Oklahoma, Pottawatomie and Seminole county seat are Sen. Stephanie Bice (R-OKC), former Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi, David Hill, Terry Neese, Charles Tuffy Pringle, Michael Ballard, Miles Rahimi, Shelli Landon and Jake Merrick.

2020 election information

Oklahoma’s 2020 primary election is scheduled for June 30, with an Aug. 25 runoff date and the Nov. 3 general election date following. Owing to COVID-19 concerns, some election observers are calling for more Oklahomans to use the state’s mail-in ballot option. Any registered voter is allowed to vote by absentee ballot in Oklahoma.

(Correction: This article was updated at 6:08 p.m. Friday, April 10, to do basic arithmetic properly. It was updated again to correct reference to Frank Lucas’ tenure in Congress. It was updated again at 8:10 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to include additional information. It was updated at 10:20 a.m. Monday, April 13, to reference Danny Williams’ effort to return to the Legislature and at 5:05 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, to reflect Nicole Miller’s default re-election after her opponent resigned. It was updated throughout Tuesday, April 21, to reflect decisions of the Oklahoma State Election Board’s candidacy contestation hearings.)