Shortly after noon on Wednesday, hundreds crowded outside of the Oklahoma State Capitol. Some held signs reading, “stop the steal,” “fight for freedom” or “Patriots! Duty Calls.”

Flags covered with QAnon symbols, Trump 2020 campaign slogans and profane messages targeted against President-elect Joe Biden flapped in the wind. 

Similar to a series of recent past pro-Trump rallies outside the Capitol, speakers including several Republican state lawmakers, repeated vague and unsubstantial claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

“The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a Republican form of government,” State Rep. Jay Steagall, R-Yukon, who is part of a group of lawmakers who urged Congress to fight the electoral college results, told the crowd. “I submit to you the fact no such form of government can exist whenever the people are systematically denied representation by our elected appointed officials, judges, bureaucrats or otherwise.”

Later that afternoon, a pro-Trump crowd stormed the U.S. Capitol in a stunning and brazen display that left five dead including a U.S. Capitol police officer, widespread destruction of the building and a nation reeling.

The Republican-led scheme to throw out millions of votes and overturn Joe Biden’s presidential election win, however, failed Wednesday. 

Several including Oklahoma U.S. Sen. James Lankford changed course late Wednesday following the violence at the Capitol and decided not to object to the state-certified counts and acknowledged that Biden will become president later this month. 

Others, including all five of Oklahoma’s U.S. House representatives, continued to back the doomed challenge.  

Adding to the list of those who are apparently still standing by their call to challenge the election results are 38 Oklahoma legislators — making up 25% of the entire Legislature — who signed a pair of letters in December urging Congress to throw out millions of votes.

Oklahoma Watch called or emailed the offices of the 15 state senators and 23 House members, all Republicans, who signed those letters to see if they regretted their decision after Wednesday’s siege on the Capitol or release of audio days earlier that showed President Trump pressuring Georgia election officials to “find” votes to give him the win. 

Only three lawmakers — Sen. Roland Pederson, R-Burlington; Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, and Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Roland  — responded. All said they don’t regret urging Congress to block the votes. 

In an emailed response, Pederson said he was “very disappointed and embarrassed by the actions of the people who stormed the nation’s Capitol.” But he said he still “simply wanted election integrity” and that Congress challenging the results “seemed like the last way” to contest the results. 

“When more people vote than are registered it should be investigated,” he said in reference to a popular conspiracy theory that has repeatedly been disproved by fact-checkers. “People must be assured when they vote it counts.”

Olsen, who chairs the House Committee on Elections and Ethics, similarly said in the aftermath of Wednesday’s violence that he too has no regrets. 

“Violence does not change the substance or the propriety of the challenge,” he said.

Olsen, also without offering any evidence, alleged that ANTIFA was “responsible for at least some of the violence.” That claim has been widely discredited.

Though top leadership in both state chambers did not sign onto the letter urging Congress to challenge the election, lawmakers voted several who did to leadership positions. 

This includes Sheila Dills, R-Tulsa, who was elected earlier in the week to be the House Republican Chair and Denise Crosswhite Hader, R-Piedmont, who was named caucus secretary.

Democrats, meanwhile, have swiftly condemned Oklahoma Republicans who wanted to throw out votes in other states.  

In a release Thursday, the Oklahoma Democratic Party called for Oklahoma’s congressional delegation to resign and claimed their actions that day, and the days and weeks leading up to, contributed to the violence. 

“We say to these so-called representatives of Oklahoma that, ‘Now you have a choice:  Keep spreading a false narrative that has no chance of success but will make you more popular with the base of your party, or stand today, now, this very minute with the citizens of our country,” said Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairwoman Alicia Andrews. “Do you care about Democracy or only your political ambitions?”

The Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus also sent out a release rebuking those that claimed fraud without any evidence. 

“All fair votes of the people should count and not be overthrown,” said Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, who chairs the caucus. “Democracy should not be destroyed. President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris won. Despicable lies do not prove otherwise.”

Trevor Brown has been an Oklahoma Watch reporter since 2016. He covers politics, elections, health policies and government accountability issues. Call or text him at (630) 301-0589. Email him at tbrown@oklahomawatch.org. Follow him on Twitter at @tbrownokc

MORE FROM OKLAHOMA WATCH


Support our publication

Every day we strive to produce journalism that matters — stories that strengthen accountability and transparency, provide value and resonate with readers like you.

This work is essential to a better-informed community and a healthy democracy. But it isn’t possible without your support.