House District 88
From left: Democrats Nicole Maldonado, Ellen Pogemiller and Paula Sophia running in the June 18, 2024, for the open Oklahoma House District 88. (NonDoc)

Oklahoma House District 88 will have a new representative after incumbent Rep. Mauree Turner (D-OKC) opted out of running for reelection, citing health concerns. Turner was first elected to HD 88 in 2020 and became the nation’s first nonbinary legislator.

“I’ve got some health issues that I’d like to focus on right now,” Turner told KOSU in April. “I got a diagnosis at the beginning of the year. I think it just kind of made the decision a lot easier to step back.”

Turner’s decision created interest in the district from Democratic candidates with a variety of backgrounds: Paula Sophia, a transgender woman who previously served in the U.S. Army and as an OKCPD officer; Nicole Maldonado, Turner’s legislative assistant who spent part of her childhood in Colombia before settling in the U.S. permanently; and Ellen Pogemiller, who has worked as a lobbyist at the Oklahoma State Capitol since 2018.

If no Democrat wins more than 50 percent of the vote on June 18, the race will go to an Aug. 27 runoff with the top two candidates. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will face independent Bobby McCollum, a former auditor for the Oklahoma Tax Commission, in the Nov. 5 general election.

House District 88 is among the most densely populated districts in the state.
It includes much of central Oklahoma City between Interstate 44 and Interstate 235, primarily spanning Northwest 36th Street to Northwest 10th Street.

The following cheat sheet for the House District 88 Democratic primary includes information from publicly available sources, such as campaign websites and social media. Candidates are presented in alphabetical order.

For the June 18 primary election, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Early voting runs June 13 through June 15.

Nicole Maldonado

House District 88
Nicole Maldonado is a candidate for Oklahoma House District 88 in 2024. (Provided)

Age: 24

Profession/background: Maldonado is Turner’s current legislative assistant serving HD 88. Raised by her mother and grandmother, Maldonado spent part of her childhood living in Colombia. She studied political science and played tennis at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. On her campaign website, Maldonado describes herself as a “queer, Latina woman” and “a community organizer advocate.”

Platform: Among her top priorities if elected is to expand protections for LGBTQ+ communities while working to end discrimination in health care. Maldonado would also work to expand opportunities for affordable housing and efforts to improve access to mental health care in Oklahoma.

Online: Website | Facebook

Ellen Pogemiller

House District 88
Ellen Pogemiller is a candidate for Oklahoma House District 88 in 2024. (Provided)

Age: 43

Profession/background: Born and raised in rural Texas, Pogemiller attended the University of Missouri. Pogemiller has worked in Congress as an assistant in the House of Representatives and also at a homeless shelter in Dayton, Ohio, while her husband served in the Air Force. According to Oklahoma Ethics Commission lobbyist registration records, Pogemiller represented the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma County Immunization Coalition in 2018 before becoming a lobbyist for the Oklahoma Education Association in 2019.

Platform: Pogemiller initially announced her candidacy and campaigned for months in the open Senate District 46 seat, but she chose to file for HD 88 after Turner revealed their decision not to seek reelection. Among Pogemiller’s top priorities is increasing funding for public education and increasing teacher pay to help improve recruiting efforts. Better access to affordable health care while also keeping the government out of the doctor’s office when it comes to reproductive health decisions are among her other priorities. She also supports expanded mail-in ballots for state elections and same-day voter registration.

Online: Website | Facebook

Paula Sophia

House District 88
Paula Sophia is a candidate running for Oklahoma House District 88 in 2024. (Provided)

Age: 58

Profession/background: Sophia served in the U.S. Army during Operation Desert Shield and later as an Oklahoma City Police Department officer. Today, she works as a social worker, therapist and caseworker. She ran for HD 88 in 2014 and lost in the runoff by 22 votes.

Platform: Among her priorities is supporting women’s rights, reproductive rights and body autonomy. Sophia has also advocated for police reform while serving as a member of the city’s Community Policing Working Group. Sophia said she decided to run because she grew tired of feeling helpless and hopeless as a transgender woman living in Oklahoma. If elected, Sophia states she would work to expand access to higher education and health care, as well as high-paying jobs with good benefits.

Online: Website | Facebook