Incumbents in the Oklahoma Legislature overwhelmingly held onto their seats in Tuesday’s primary elections. Only two representatives and one senator lost their reelection campaigns, but several open races in the House and the Senate still ensure fresh faces for the 59th Legislature.
Rep. Wendi Stearman (R-Collinsville) and Rep. Logan Phillips (R-Mounds) both lost their primaries to political newcomers John Kane and Chris Banning, respectively. Sen. Jake Merrick (R-Yukon) lost his primary to Kristen Thompson, who campaigned with the endorsement of Gov. Kevin Stitt, the State Chamber of Oklahoma and the Edmond Fraternal Order of Police.
Kane’s victory over Stearman gives House District 11 a representative from Bartlesville again. Former House Appropriations and Budget Chairman Earl Sears represented HD 11 for 12 years until he was term-limited after the 2018 session. A Republican educator named Derrel Fincher won the open HD 11 seat in 2018, but Stearman defeated him with 55 percent of the vote in 2020.
Stearman became one of the House’s most stringently conservative members, notably passing an anti-abortion measure this session and saying Oklahoma has “too many” social services to support low-income families.
“I believe that the role of the representative is to represent the individual against an ever-growing government and to protect those rights,” Stearman said in an interview with NonDoc. “[Kane] believes that government should do good for citizens, and I disagree with that.”
Kane called Stearman’s perspective “negative.”
“If you go in with that negative of an attitude, how can you really be part of making government serve the role that it’s intended to serve in a positive way?” he said.
Phillips served his four years in the House focused on education and technology initiatives, notably working for the expansion of broadband internet access and once confronting a national anti-pornography advocate who wanted to mandate content filters on all electronic devices sold in Oklahoma.. This session, as the topic of book banning gained traction around the state and nation, Phillips maintained a bookcase in his legislative office featuring dozens of books that had been the subject of criticism by some of his fellow Republicans.
A business professor at Tulsa Community College, Phillips took an unorthodox route to joining the Legislature. In 2018, he filed for House District 24 against then-House Minority Leader Steve Kouplen, intending not to campaign, but rather to gain name recognition for the 2020 election when term limits would prevent Kouplen from running again. To everyone’s surprise, Phillips defeated Kouplen outright. Kouplen said the result left him “bumfuzzled,” and Phillips noted that national issues appeared to drive heavy Republican turnout in rural eastern Oklahoma.
Phillips won reelection in 2020, but when he ran this year, HD 24 had been heavily redrawn during redistricting. Instead of stretching through Okmulgee and Hughes counties, HD 24 constricted to become a district representing suburbs south of Tulsa. With so many new voters in the district, Phillips faced an uphill battle against a well-financed opponent in Chris Banning, who also had Stitt’s endorsement, possibly owing to a broadband kerfuffle in 2020. Phillips also faced campaign attacks from groups supporting school choice.
The reelection campaign of Merrick, who won Senate District 22 in a 2021 special election after Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK5) ascended to the U.S. House, was viewed as a bellwether in the State Senate for the ongoing battle between far-right Republicans and business-focused Republicans. To the surprise of some, Merrick debated and voted against the Stitt-supported private school voucher bill this session, and Stitt ultimately endorsed Thompson, whose family owns a new speakeasy in downtown Oklahoma City. (She will face Democrat Blake Aguirre in the Nov. 8 general election.)
All results posted by the Oklahoma State Election Board online are unofficial until they are certified by the board.
Among bevy of open House seats, six head to runoffs
In the Oklahoma House of Representatives, more than 30 seats featured primary elections. Of those, 11 seats featured no incumbents Tuesday. Six of those are now headed to Aug. 23 runoffs, two saw winners advance to face challengers in November’s general election, and three people won their seats outright on Tuesday night.
Those new representatives will be:
- HD 49 in southern Oklahoma: Josh Cantrell, a Republican who currently serves as Marshall County commissioner;
- HD 55 in western Oklahoma: Nick Archer, a Republican who currently serves as mayor of Elk City;
- HD 89 in southwest Oklahoma City: Arturo Alonso, a Democrat who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in May with an engineering degree.
Meanwhile, 18 incumbent representatives secured renomination from their party on Tuesday, and only three will face opposition on the ballot in November.
The representatives who secured their place in the next Legislature on Tuesday are:
- Rep. Eddy Dempsey (R-Valliant)
- Rep. Josh West (R-Grove)
- Rep. Randy Randleman (R-Eufaula)
- Rep. David Smith (R-Arpelar)
- Rep. Sherrie Conley (R-Newcastle)
- Rep. Kyle Hilbert (R-Bristow)
- Rep. Kevin Wallace (R-Wellston)
- Rep. John Talley (R-Stillwater)
- Rep. Ken Luttrell (R-Ponca City)
- Rep. Tammy Townley (R-Ardmore)
- Rep. Marcus McEntire (R-Duncan)
- Rep. Mark McBride (R-Moore)
- Rep. Anthony Moore (R-Clinton)
- Rep. Rhonda Baker (R-Yukon)
- Rep. Ross Ford (R-Broken Arrow)
A few primaries involving incumbents came down to the wire. The House Common Education Committee chairwoman, Rhonda Baker, secured reelection by only 72 votes after school choice and pro-voucher organizations financed several attack ads against her, McBride and Moore. Baker beat challenger Ron Lynch with 50.86 percent of the vote.
Some of the attacks against Baker, McBride and Moore were orchestrated by a political action committee connected to the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, which has had beef with McBride for years. Earlier this month, Moore’s wife requested a protective order against four OCPA executives, alleging text-message harassment related to the campaign and rumors about her husband.
In another close race for a House incumbent, Talley won his primary by 205 votes. His challenger, Brice Chaffin, previously faced Talley in 2020 when Talley won by 357 votes. Chaffin has been critical of Talley’s comparatively moderate policies, and in April, he was removed from a Stillwater Public Schools Board meeting for presenting a sermon opposing a transgender female student using the women’s restroom. Talley ended up winning with just over 52 percent of the vote.
Three other representatives won their party’s nomination, but will still face a challenger in November. They are:
Turner, Oklahoma’s first nonbinary legislator, will face independent Jed Green in November. Burns will face Democrat Sam Jennings and Roe will face Democrat Steve Jarman.
Of the 14 open House seats with no incumbent running, 11 featured primaries Tuesday. Six districts will have GOP primary runoff elections on Aug. 23:
- HD 13, in the Muskogee area, between Neil Hays and Carlisa Rogers;
- HD 21, in the Durant area, between Cody Maynard and Dustin Reid;
- HD 31, in the Guthrie area, between Collin Duel and Karmin Grider;
- HD 36, in eastern Oklahoma County, between John George and Anita Raglin;
- HD 66, in the Sand Springs area, between Gabe Renfrow and Clay Staires;
- HD 87, in Oklahoma City, between Scott Esk and Gloria Banister.
Esk, one of the candidates for House District 87, made headlines in 2014 for saying on Facebook that homosexual people are “worthy of death” and that stoning them would be “totally in the right.” He was also fired by the Department of Public Safety in 2011 for allegedly sending threatening messages to a pastor and an elder at his church after they supported his ex-wife filing for divorce. He will face Gloria Banister, who owns I-44 Riverside Speedway.
Two other candidates in open House races won their primaries Tuesday and will face opponents in November:
- In Norman’s HD 44, musician Jared Deck will face Republican attorney RJ Harris;
- In Norman’s HD 45, retired police officer Teresa Sterling will face Democrat Annie Menz, who has worked at the State Capitol as an executive assistant.
Meanwhile, Paul Hassink won the Republican nomination in House District 79 with just over 52 percent of the vote. He will face Rep. Melissa Provenzano (D-Tulsa) in November.
Nana Dankwa won the Democratic nomination in House District 90 with more than 67 percent of the vote. He will face House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols (R-OKC) in November.
Additionally, two Republican challengers to House District 34 Rep. Trish Ranson (D-Stillwater), Michael Baughman and Andrew Muchmore, will face off in an Aug. 23 runoff.
Sitting representatives who automatically secured re-election can be found here. One other open-seat candidate, insurance agent Mark Tedford of House District 69, became the new representative by default when he was the only person to file in April.
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In Senate, Jech heads to runoff, as do 3 open seats
In the Oklahoma State Senate, four races will head to an Aug. 23 runoff. Three of those are open seats, and one is currently held by Sen. Darcy Jech (R-Kingfisher), who received 42.76 percent of Tuesday’s vote. He will face pastor Brady Butler, who received 37.51 percent of the vote. The runoff winner between Jech and Bulter in Senate District 26 will win the seat.
The open Senate Districts of 2, 4 and 28 will also feature runoffs on Aug. 23 between:
- Jarrin Jackson and Ally Seifried in District 2;
- Tom Woods and Keith Barenberg in District 4;
- Grant Green and Jeff McCommas in District 28.
The winner between Jackson and Seifried will face Democrat Jennifer Esau in the general election for Senate District 2 in Claremore. Jackson is a conservative activist, ammo company owner and author who made national headlines in April when he posted a video of himself shooting a printer upon which he had written “Dominion,” a reference to voting machines. Seifried is a 2015 graduate of Rogers State University, where she played basketball. She works at Müllerhaus Legacy, a Tulsa “family and business heritage” company.
The winner of the Senate District 4 runoff will win the seat, as no candidate from another party filed to run. Woods is a farmer and business owner from Westville. Barenberg is a retired state trooper and former president of the Oklahoma State Trooper Association.
The winner of the GOP runoff between Green and McCommas in Senate District 28 will face Karen Rackley, who defeated Tony Wilson in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. Green calls himself a farmer, rancher and hunter. He is the former owner of Green Propane. McCommas is the owner of McCommas Construction and McCommas Ranch.
Meanwhile, six people won their Senate elections outright after Tuesday’s primary:
- Sen. Bill Coleman (R-Ponca City) won reelection against challenger Emily DeLozier in Senate District 10;
- Todd Gollihare won the open Senate District 12 seat against Rob Ford;
- Jack Stewart won the newly-relocated and open Senate District 18 seat against Hunter Zearley in the Yukon area;
- Sen. John Haste (R-Broken Arrow) won reelection against challenger David Dambroso in Senate District 36;
- Sen. Brenda Stanley (R-Midwest City) won reelection against challenger Christopher Toney in Senate District 42;
- Sen. George Young (D-OKC) won reelection against challenger Rico Smith in Senate District 48.
When no one else filed for the seat in April, Jerry Alvord won the open Senate District 14 by default.
Similarly, several incumbent senators won reelection to their seats in April when no one filed against them:
- Senate Appropriations and Budget Chairman Roger Thompson (R-Okemah)
- Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd (D-OKC)
- Sen. David Bullard (R-Durant)
- Sen. Mary B. Boren (D-Norman)
- Sen. Chuck Hall (R-Perry)
- Sen. Darrell Weaver (R-Moore)
- Sen. Brent Howard (R-Altus)
- Sen. Michael Brooks (D-OKC)
Looking ahead to November, Sen. J.J Dossett (D-Owasso) will face Dana Prieto, who beat Brad Peixotto in the Republican primary Tuesday. Mariam Daly won the Republican primary for Senate District 40 and will face incumbent Sen. Carri Hicks (D-OKC) in the general election.
Candidates in Senate Districts 30 and 32 did not have primary races but will face contests in November.