legislative incumbents lose
Clockwise from top left: Sen. Jessica Garvin (R-Duncan), Senate Floor Leader Greg McCortney (R-Ada), Rep. John Talley (R-Stillwater) and Sen. Cody Rogers (R-Tulsa) all lost their reelection efforts in Oklahoma's Republican primary Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (NonDoc)

The shocking power struggle in the Oklahoma State Senate received extra volts and jolts Tuesday night when the Republican Caucus’ next designated leader lost his seat and a pair of other senators — one on each side of the conservative ideological divide — were also shown the door.

Senate Floor Leader Greg McCortney (R-Ada) fell to veteran Jonathon Wingard, a political unknown who reported raising only $26,100 and who benefited from conservative furor over the Senate’s decision not to vote on an income tax cut and other topics. Wingard finished with 51.78 percent of the vote, topping McCortney’s 48.22 percent. In all, 7,348 Republicans voted in the SD 13 primary.

“Not sure what to say at the moment,” McCortney texted Tuesday night.

McCortney himself drew criticism for controversial remarks made about a Department of Public Safety training center. DPS Commissioner Tim Tipton said McCortney lied during this year’s budget negotiations, which slogged along in an unprecedented public setting that kept incumbents out of their districts and in the Capitol through May 30.

Less than three weeks later, the dynamics of the Senate’s tumultuous 2024 regular session — and a 2023 unanimous Republican decision to push up the year’s primary election one week — culminated in the surprising defeat of McCortney, as well as his friend and political ally, Sen. Jessica Garvin.

“I keep telling people, don’t be sad for me,” Garvin (R-Duncan) said by phone. “I get to go home and tuck in my kids. I get to be a wife again, and I get to do all of the things. I have no regrets. I am happy that I get to be home and go grow my business and just be present.”

Garvin faced criticism from anti-abortion advocates and at least one marijuana industry member during her one term in the Senate, which came after she ousted Sen. Paul Scott (R-Duncan) in a 2020 runoff.

This year, McClain County Assessor Kendal Sacchieri challenged Garvin from the right. Endorsed by the National Rifle Association and the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association, Sacchieri criticized Garvin for supporting a mileage tax and for her position on the state’s Health information Exchange.

A resident of Blanchard who hails from Illinois, Sacchieri received 53.25 percent of the vote compared to Garvin’s 46.75 percent. In all, 9,650 Republicans voted in the SD 43 primary.

“I’m not sad at all, and I really hope other people are not sad for me either. I’ve done a lot of really, really good things in the last four years, and I am walking out of that building with my head held high,” Garvin said. “God did not call me to win. God called me to run, and I am just hanging my hat on that. So whatever His plans are next for my life, I can’t wait to figure that out, but I don’t want people to be sad for me.”

In campaign literature, Wingard took aim at McCortney for legislation he backed that would track childhood immunizations and other COVID-19 vaccine-related subjects. Wingard was endorsed by Oklahomans for Health and Parental Rights, which opposes vaccine mandates.

A retired employee of the Oklahoma National Guard, Wingard served in Afghanistan and Kuwait. Wingard told The Oklahoman he was concerned how McCortney served as floor leader, criticizing him for not allowing certain bills to be heard.

With McCortney defeated and a dozen other seats potentially turning over in the Senate, the next president pro tempore election has been lofted back into the air.

The Senate will formally vote on its next president pro tempore after the November election results on organizational day for the 60th Oklahoma Legislature. Under the Oklahoma Constitution, organizational day is held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January in odd-numbered years, which will be Jan. 7 in 2025. All senators — Republicans and Democrats — vote on the floor for their chamber’s president pro tempore.

Aaron Reinhardt ousts Sen. Cody Rogers in SD 37

(Editor’s note: In the days following the publication of this article, Sen. Cody Rogers filed a challenge to the election results, which was ultimately dismissed June 25 by a district court judge. The following summary remains in its original form.)

In Tulsa, a separate Republican incumbent lost his Senate District 37 seat, although Sen. Cody Rogers’ tenure had landed him in a separate GOP Caucus camp from McCortney and Garvin.

On Tuesday, however, Aaron Reinhardt defeated Rogers in the Republican primary, earning 51.02 percent of the vote compared to Rogers’ 48.98 percent. A total of 4,116 Republicans cast ballots in the race.

Rogers’ campaign finance reports drew attention in the closing days, with Gentner Drummond sending letters related to a report of $0 for expenses despite evidence of campaign materials.

Reinhardt, 42, is a commercial insurance agent in Jenks and a guidance counselor at Metro Christian Academy. He is also vice president of the Bixby Educational Endowment Foundation and has been endorsed by Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready and former House Speaker Chris Benge (R-Tulsa). Reinhardt told the Tulsa World he is running for the Senate after being asked by local leaders. He said a “fresh voice” was needed at the State Capitol.

Reinhart will face 43-year-old independent Andrew Nutter in November.

Molly Jenkins ousts Rep. John Talley in Stillwater-area seat

In the House, only one incumbent lawmaker lost their seat Tuesday: Rep. John Talley (R-Stillwater). In 2022, Talley won reelection by 205 votes, but he fell far short of victory this year.

Challenger Molly Jenkins, a former teacher who lives with her husband on a farm outside of Coyle, defeated Talley. Jenkins received 60.39 percent compared to Talley’s 39.61 percent. In all, 4,090 Republicans voted in the primary for HD 33, which drew no other candidates.

Jenkins has pledged to reject all lobbyist money, and she attacked Talley for having a “proposal to give driver’s licenses to illegal aliens” and called him “an ensconced liberal.”