Republican Jake Merrick will square off with Democrat Molly Ooten in the special general election for Oklahoma State Senate District 22. Merrick defeated Keri Shipley and Ooten bested Dylan Billings in today’s primary elections. At the time of this story’s publication, both Merrick and Ooten held more than 60 percent of their respective primary vote.
The SD 22 special general election is slated for April 6.
A personal trainer, Merrick has worked previously in the roofing and landscaping industries. Ooten has worked as a speech pathologist for Sooner Start, an early education intervention program and is currently pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Central Oklahoma.
An anvil-shaped district spanning parts of northwest Oklahoma City, Yukon, Bethany and Piedmont, SD 22 was vacated when U.S. Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK5) won election to Congress in November. That triggered a special election for SD 22, which Bice had held since winning the seat in 2014.
Results from today’s elections can be found by visiting the Oklahoma State Election Board. All results are unofficial until certified by the board.
SD 22 special election background
If he wins the SD 22 special general election in April, Merrick would join Sen. Warren Hamilton (R-McCurtain) in the State Senate as abortion abolitionists, which refers to a desired criminalization of abortion. Merrick mentions abortion frequently in his campaign materials, but he also wrote in a December blog post that the novel coronavirus was created “in a lab” as part of a plan to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency.
Ooten will attempt to follow in the footsteps of Democrats like Sen. J.J. Dossett (D-Owasso) and Sen. Michael Brooks (D-OKC) who flipped Republican seats during special elections. But the most recent State Senate special election was won by a Republican: Sen. Paul Rosino (R-OKC).
Rosino and fellow Sen. Greg McCortney (R-Ada) hosted a fundraiser for Merrick’s GOP primary opponent — Keri Shipley — on Feb. 2. Shipley works in the Oklahoma House of Representatives as a legislative assistant to Rep. Josh West (R-Grove).
Merrick ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination to Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District in 2020, garnering 2.6 percent of the vote.
The SD 22 GOP primary originally featured four candidates, but a pair of seat seekers — former Sen. Rob Johnson and US Fleet Tracking executive Darrick Matthews — successfully challenged each other’s eligibility for the district. Both men were removed from the ballot following their Oklahoma State Election Board hearings.
The Oklahoma State Senate currently has 38 Republican members and nine Democratic members. The winner of the April 6 special general election for SD 22 will be sworn in prior to the conclusion of the 2021 legislative session in May.