House District 71
Mike Masters and Amanda Swope are running for Oklahoma's House District 71. (NonDoc)

House District 71 has been in Democratic hands for four years, following decades as a Republican stronghold, but the seat is once again up for grabs as Rep. Denise Brewer (D-Tulsa) departs the House after two terms.

Republican Mike Masters is running for the seat a second time. He won a three-way primary in 2020 and went on to challenge incumbent Brewer, but he lost the general election with 45.7 percent of the vote to Brewer’s 54.3 percent.

This time around, Masters, 41, is running an elusive race: His campaign Facebook page has not been updated since September, his website is listed as a “private site,” and he did not respond to several attempts by NonDoc to contact him for an interview. Oklahoma Ethics Commission records show he has not filed any of the financial reports required for raising or spending money in this election. Information about Masters in this article is taken from other online sources and coverage of his previous run.

Masters is facing Democrat Amanda Swope, a 34-year-old Tulsa native who works as the tribal juvenile justice program director for the Muscogee Nation and who previously served as chairwoman of the Tulsa County Democratic Party.

Though she has been involved in politics for many years, this is Swope’s first time running for office herself. She said it has been a shift from her previous role as a party leader.

“(With) campaigning, not only are you having to sell yourself, but you’re also having to recognize areas where you might have to make concessions to be able to represent your district wholeheartedly,” she said.

Before Brewer was elected, in 2018, HD 71 had been held almost exclusively by Republicans since 1965, the earliest year online records are available from the House. (The one exception was a term when Democrat Roy McClain represented the district, from 2003 to 2005.)

Oklahoma’s general election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8, and polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Early voting runs from Wednesday, Nov. 2 through Saturday, Nov. 5. More details are available from the Oklahoma State Election Board.

Meet the candidates

Swope studied psychology at Northeastern State University and was considering pursuing a Ph.D. in the subject before switching her focus to politics, which drew her interest partly because she “started to see that people’s lives can be largely impacted by the systems around them.”

Swope earned her master’s degree in public administration from OU and has been active in political organizing and campaigns. She worked in the nonprofit sector before going to work for the Muscogee Nation, of which she is a citizen. She was a self-governance analyst with the tribe before moving into her current position.

“I’m someone that is a really hard worker,” she said when asked why voters should choose her. “And, honestly, if I were being truthful with them, I would say that campaigning is my least favorite part of this endeavor. Because I’m just the kind of person that wants to get there and do the work. And I want to do the work for them. I think that I’ve worked really hard to get to the point where I’m capable and ready to take on this role.”

Masters teaches history at Union Public Schools, according to his personal Facebook profile, and he also works as a realtor. In addition to running for HD 71 in the last election, Masters ran for the Tulsa County Commission in 2010, according to a Tulsa World article from that year. Coverage of his 2020 campaign mentions that he served on the boards of the Brookside neighborhood and business associations, though it’s unclear if he still holds those roles.

In 2020, he told NonDoc that he saw running for office as an expression of patriotism.

“Running for office has always been something I’d wanted to do. I didn’t serve in the military when I was younger. I kinda got married at a young age,” Masters said. “I had some guilt about having not served my country that way, and I’m just a very patriotic person and wanted to serve in some shape, way, form or fashion.”

On the issues

Not much information is available on the issues Masters prioritizes in the current race. In March, Masters announced his campaign on Facebook with a link to a short post by the conservative blog the McCarville Report, which said, “Masters will focus his campaign on improving parental input into their child’s education, full funding for law enforcement, and cut red tape for business development and economic growth.”

Swope said her top areas of focus include investing in public education, protecting voting rights and improving voting infrastructure. She said she would also like to push back against the state’s abortion restrictions and to investigate other ways to reduce the number of abortions, such as sex education and access to contraceptives.

She said she believes there are “way more” people in Oklahoma who support abortion access than legislators realize.

“I’m interested to start working with [people who work in women’s health care], as far as what could be accomplished in the immediate to provide women more options,” she said. “And to just make that something that we look at in a more balanced way. I think that a lot of our legislation is tied to regulating things that women can access as far as health care, and leaving the situation of childbirth completely a burden on them.”

She said she also hears a lot from voters in the district about reducing homelesness — an issue that she said requires both “long-term and more immediate approaches,” including increasing affordable housing, revisiting the state’s tenant laws and reducing development by out-of-state companies.

As a Muscogee citizen, she said she is also often asked about the state’s currently fraught relationship with sovereign tribal nations.

“What I typically tell people is, to me, respecting tribal sovereignty is just about approaching these conversations with diplomacy,” she said. “It’s about recognizing that both parties need to be at the table and they need to be willing participants.”

Shortly before the 2020 election, Masters shared a video pitching himself as an active community member who would prioritize education.

“Voters deserve to have someone who is an involved part of their community representing them at the State Capitol,” he said in the video.

Swope said the things she most wants voters to know about her is that, if elected, she will be available to her constituents.

“Regardless of whether or not you’re someone who votes for me, whether you’re someone who even agrees with my stances,” she said, “I’m always going to be available to listen and to give your opinion some consideration.”