HARRAH — Though it’s only a 30-minute drive to downtown Oklahoma City, this town of 6,400 feels more rural than suburban.
Small businesses, churches, single family homes and convenience stores line Harrah’s main street. American flags, as well flags supporting President Donald Trump, are a common sight.
But unlike some rural communities, Harrah is growing and thriving. Its population increased 25.8% from 2010 to 2018. Housing additions, strip malls and fast-food restaurants continue to pop up on the outskirts of town.
“I think more people are trying to escape the Oklahoma City area where it’s more liberal,” said Harrah resident and Trump supporter Cindy Pearson. “Right here is a good melting pot, but we’re still on the side of red.”
In 2016, Harrah was home to some of the reddest precincts in Oklahoma.
In south Harrah’s precinct 68, Trump received 687 (80.4%) votes while Hillary Clinton took just 134 (15.4%) of votes. Trump took between 74 and 79% of votes in neighboring precincts.
Trump, who took 84.5% of Precinct 68’s vote in this year’s election, was declared the winner in Oklahoma early Tuesday night. The majority of Harrah voters who spoke to Oklahoma Watch say their lives have improved over the past four years and they’re again backing Trump.
“We’re prosperous, and growth is phenomenal,” Pearson, a 47-year-old who homeschools her granddaughter, said. “People have jobs, better income and insurance. We’re healthier and happier and go about our business.”
Don Murphey, an 82-year-old retiree and longtime Harrah resident, said he voted for Trump because he’s committed to bringing back blue-collar jobs and staying tough on China. Though he’s no longer working, Murphey said his children and neighbors have done well economically over the past four years.
“He’s a businessman, not a politician,” said Murphey, who wore a red bandana to show support for Trump. “That’s what we need in there.”
Some Harrah voters, including 61-year Melody Patterson, cited the issue of abortion as a major factor in supporting Trump over Biden. She also believes Trump’s social and economic policy positions outweigh his tendency to make offensive and misleading comments.
“I believe he’s done some good things,” Patterson, a retired insurance company employee, said. “He’s said some stupid things, but what person hasn’t at some point? Not that that excuses him, but I think his leadership would get us further away from the socialism that we’re leaning towards.”
Though Harrah is largely Trump territory, a few voters see things differently.
Melanie Burnett and her daughter, Jennifer, say they voted for Biden. They both supported Hillary Clinton in 2016.
According to Melanie, Biden would bring a divided nation together and contain the coronavirus pandemic more effectively than Trump.
“If you’re talking about hiring someone to run the country, you want someone who knows what they’re doing,” Melanie said. “It doesn’t matter if you like them as much as you know they’re competent.”
Jennifer said things have remained calm in Harrah over the past four years, but national unrest indicates the United States needs new leadership.
“Living in a place like Harrah, in rural Oklahoma, that’s not where the biggest differences are going to be found,” Jennifer, a 22-year-old voting in her second election, said. “But when you turn on the news you see it. It’s insulated where we are.”
Harrah voters also showed considerable support for Republicans running for Congress and U.S. Senate. In the Fifth Congressional District race, 84% of Precinct 68 voters backed Stephanie Bice over incumbent Rep. Kendra Horn. In the Senate race, 81% of voters supported incumbent Sen. Jim Inhofe over Democratic challenger Abby Broyles, who received 15% of votes.
Note: This story was updated Wednesday, Nov. 4 to include precinct-level election results.
Keaton Ross is a Report for America corps member who covers prison conditions and criminal justice issues for Oklahoma Watch. Contact him at (405) 831-9753 or Kross@Oklahomawatch.org. Follow him on Twitter at @_KeatonRoss
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