House District 72
Rep. Monroe Nichols and Maria Barnes will rematch their 2016 election for Oklahoma's House District 72 in 2020. (NonDoc)

When Rep. Monroe Nichols (D-Tulsa) first won his seat in House District 72, he beat his only opponent, Maria Veliz Barnes, by 71 votes.

Four years later, Barnes has decided to challenge now-incumbent Nichols to a rematch in the north Tulsa seat, which has been held by a Democrat for more than 50 years. Nichols handily beat his opponent in 2018, receiving more than three-quarters of the vote.

During April’s filing period, HD 72 drew a Republican candidate for the first time since 2012: Ismail Shan. Nichols filed a petition to contest Shan’s candidacy, alleging Shan did not meet residency requirements. The Election Board removed Shan from the ballot, meaning the primary between Nichols and Barnes on June 30 will decide the seat.

Nichols serves as the vice-chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and sits on the House Appropriations and Budget, Energy and Natural Resources, Government Efficiency and Transportation committees.

The following overview of the candidates was derived from publicly available information.

House District 72 at a glance

Officeholder: Rep. Monroe Nichols
ZIP codes represented: 74055, 74073, 74104, 74110, 74112, 74115, 74117, 74120, 74126, 74130
Counties represented: Tulsa
Cities/municipalities represented: Owasso, Sperry, Tulsa, Turley

Democratic candidates

Rep. Monroe Nichols (D, incumbent)

Rep. Monroe Nichols

Town: Tulsa
Profession: Director of network growth at Strive Together
Platform: Nichols does not have a campaign website for his 2020 re-election effort, but in an “about” page on his Facebook from 2018, Nichols cites past achievements in supporting educators, victims of rape and sexual assault and workers as reasons for re-election. More on Nichols’ legislative record can be found here.

Nichols, who has been an advocate for police reform since his initial pitch to establish a state task force for examining community policing standards, hosted a press conference June 10 to call for a slate of police reforms in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd and subsequent nationwide protests. Nichols’ proposed reforms would include requiring independent investigation of excessive force cases and creating a law enforcement database to alert departments of previous investigations of applicants, as well as the previously pitched task force. The initiative, titled March for Reform, is expected to be built upon prior to the 2021 legislative session.

The son and nephew of police officers, Nichols has also been vocal about police brutality on his personal Facebook, condemning Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum’s assertion that the 2016 killing of Terence Crutcher by a Tulsa police officer was not related to his race. Nichols has also voiced support for the removal of statues of confederate leaders.

A former wide receiver for the University of Tulsa football team, Nichols was one of 15 Oklahomans who received salaries from Mike Bloomberg’s campaign for president in early 2020. The campaign identified him as a senior advisor.

Nichols has been endorsed by the Oklahoma Public Employees Association and the Tulsa World, whose endorsement states: “Nichols has been an effective advocate for education funding and smart-on-crime reforms. He advocates for Medicaid expansion and affordable housing — important issues for his district.”
Links: Facebook | Twitter

Maria Veliz Barnes (D)

Maria Veliz Barnes

Town: Tulsa
Profession: Former city councilwoman, community outreach
Platform: Barnes’ website describes her as “your public servant for our public good.” She highlights her community service experience, and her website describes her as “an outspoken and committed community advocate for children, seniors and our neighborhoods for almost 30 years.”

The three issues Barnes mentions in her platform are education, health care and senior citizens. She hopes to increase education funding to improve teacher recruitment and retention. She wants to expand Medicaid, bring down the rate of uninsured Oklahomans and find “alternative ways” to ensure care for seniors.

On June 2, Barnes released a video condemning racism and violence against people of color and supporting peaceful protestors.

Barnes served as the representative for Tulsa’s District 4 City Council seat from 2006 to 2008 and again from 2009 to 2011. After her first election, she chased down a robber who stole her wallet at her victory party.

When Barnes first ran for House District 72 in 2016, a Republican sent a letter endorsing her to the Tulsa World. “We need someone like Barnes who can bring balance, fairness and a common-sense approach to improve the many dismal results Oklahoma faces,” the letter read.

According to Barnes’ website, she has served on the boards of Crosstown Learning Center, Kendall-Whittier Main Street, the Harmony Project, Life Senior Services, Tulsa Educare and the Human Rights Commission.
Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

The primary election between Barnes and Nichols will be held on Tuesday, June 30.