SD 22
Oklahoma State Senate District 22 will feature a 2021 special election after Sen. Stephanie Bice was elected to Congress in November 2020. (NonDoc)

(Update: The article below remains in its original form, but on Wednesday, Dec. 16, the Oklahoma State Election Board struck SD 22 candidates Rob Johnson and Darrick Matthews from the ballot. Learn more about that decision here.)

With Stephanie Bice headed to Congress next month after defeating Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn in a close November election, she has vacated Oklahoma State Senate District 22. That means SD 22 will be filled by special election, and no shortage of candidates filed this week to replace Bice.

The two Democrats and four Republicans who are vying for the seat will square off in their respective Feb. 9 primaries, with a general election to be held April 6. The candidates include a college professor, a former senator and a legislative staff member.

The GOP-majority district encompasses parts of Edmond, Piedmont, Yukon and Oklahoma City across Oklahoma and Canadian counties. Bice easily won her last re-election bid in 2018, beating Democrat William Andrews with 68 percent of the vote. However, Democrats have performed well in special elections for metro-area seats in recent years.

The winner of this special election will hold the seat and serve the remaining two years of Bice’s term. For an overview of the SD 22 special election, the candidates are listed below in alphabetical order with information taken from press releases or campaign websites.

Democratic candidates

Dylan Billings, 31, Edmond
Billings earned a doctorate in political science from the University of Oklahoma where he also taught freshman level courses. Billings is an Edmond native who has served on several committees and as a volunteer tee-ball coach.

Molly Ooten, 31, Edmond
Ooten is an Edmond native with a master’s degree in speech pathology who has worked for the past seven years at Oklahoma County SoonerStart, an early intervention program serving children and their families. Ooten serves as a deacon at Mayflower Congregational Church of Christ.

Republican candidates

Rob Johnson, 46, Edmond
Johnson previously represented SD 22 as senator from 2010 to 2014, when he opted out of running for another term. He previously served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. After leaving the Legislature, Johnson worked as a lobbyist at the State Capitol from 2017 through 2020, most recently representing the Reynolds American tobacco company, the Oklahoma Automobile Dealers Association, Adobe, the Hanor Company of Wisconsin and Mednax Services. A supporter of outgoing President Donald Trump, Johnson has been endorsed by Trump’s senior campaign chief of staff.

Darrick Mathews, 39, Edmond
Matthews bills himself as a soccer dad who is a conservative committed to growing jobs. Mathews works in the oil and gas sector and currently serves as an executive with US Fleet Tracking. He is married to his wife, Jesse, who is a war veteran who served in Afghanistan.

Jake Merrick, 39, Yukon
A local businessman, Merrick sought the Republican nomination for Oklahoma’s CD 5 in 2020, earning 2.6 percent of the vote in a crowded GOP primary. If elected, Merrick promises to ban abortion, human trafficking, government shutdowns and mask mandates.

Keri Shipley, 48, Edmond
Shipley has worked as a legislative assistant for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, serving two Republican representatives in 2020: Kevin McDougle and Josh West. An Edmond resident, she has been involved in several community organizations including the Edmond Soccer Club. Shipley is married with two daughters.