Jake Merrick has won the special election in Oklahoma State Senate District 22, securing the district for Republicans with 65.5 percent of 11,330 total votes cast. He defeated Democrat Molly Ooten.
The seat, which was vacated when U.S. Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK5) was elected to Congress in November, has been firmly in Republican hands for decades, and registered Republicans in the district outnumber Democrats by more than a 2–1 margin. Merrick will serve the remainder of Bice’s term, which ends in 2022.
Merrick, a minister and former bodybuilder and personal trainer who lives in Yukon and co-owns a construction business, told the Yukon Progress that he was running for office because he believes “fundamental rights are being threatened” and he doesn’t want his children to live in a “socialistic Oklahoma.”
Merrick has campaigned as an uncompromising Donald Trump conservative, expressing support for the former president, writing that the coronavirus was created “in a lab” as part of a plan to undermine Trump’s presidency, and refusing to talk to most media outlets.
According to his campaign website, as a legislator Merrick wants to “End abortion in Oklahoma,” “Ensure businesses can stay open” and “Ensure bodily autonomy” for people who don’t want to get vaccinations. He also mentions wanting to incentivize small businesses and protect them from government regulation. He expresses support for school choice and says he wants to increase education funding “via privately funded scholarships and provide tax incentives to private donors.”
Merrick will be sworn into the State Senate in the coming days to become the 39th member of the Senate Republican Caucus. He will join freshman Sen. Warren Hamilton (R-McCurtain) as so-called “abortion abolitionists” in the Senate.
Merrick was backed in the race by the Senate Majority Fund, a PAC affiliated with Republican legislative leadership. His campaign Facebook page also touts endorsements from Bice and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt.
The Senate Majority Fund formerly supported Merrick’s opponent in the Republican primary, Keri Shipley, who captured only 41.6 percent of the vote, despite also having higher fundraising numbers than Merrick.
Merrick’s opponent in the general election was Democrat Molly Ooten, a speech pathologist with Oklahoma County SoonerStart. Ooten recently told The Oklahoman that she believed a Democrat could win the overwhelmingly Republican district by focusing on relevant local issues and pushing hard for Democratic voter registration and turnout. And though Ooten had raised $16,000 more than Merrick according to the most recent campaign filings, it was not enough to overcome the strong Republican bent of the district. Ooten finished with only 34.6 percent of the vote.
Senate District 22 lies in eastern Canadian County and northern Oklahoma County, and covers parts of Yukon, Piedmont, Edmond, and Deer Creek.
Results from today’s elections can be found by visiting the Oklahoma State Election Board. All results are unofficial until certified by the board.