In mid-April, three colleagues and I went to the Oklahoma State Capitol with a simple mission: Ask candidates filing to run for statewide, congressional, legislative or judicial offices why they’re joining the race.
I spoke with a variety of candidates, from a political newcomer seeking a rural state Senate seat to an established judge vying for one more term before retirement.
For dozens of incumbents and a handful of political newcomers, their campaign ended on April 15 when no challenger filed to run against them. Many other races were decided in single-party primary races in June or August.
In my latest Oklahoma Watch story, I dive into why a growing number of state legislative races lack two-party competition, depriving voters of the opportunity to elect their state representative or senator in November. Nearly 70% of state House and Senate races up for reelection have already been decided. That’s up from 27% in 2018.
The answer to why uncontested races are spiking is complex–both Democrats and Republicans benefited from not drawing a challenger this year. But there are some notable trends.
A growing number of rural and suburban Democrats are opting not to run, citing growing Republican influence and success in fundraising and attracting voters. Some Democrats I spoke with told me they feel the party is at a disadvantage under new legislative boundaries approved by the GOP-controlled legislature last November.
There’s another human element to this story. Running a successful state legislative campaign requires time, money and effort. When the odds of success appear slim, filing to run is not worth the sacrifice for many.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on this issue. As always, I’m available via DM on Twitter or at Kross@Oklahomawatch.org.
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What I’m Reading This Week
- ‘Someone Hit Me in the Face’: Senator-Elect Tom Woods Cited After Fight with Truck Shop Owner: Tom Woods, who Republican voters elected last week to a four-year term representing eastern Oklahoma’s State Senate District 4, was punched in the face by an automotive shop owner on Aug. 27, resulting in police citations. [NonDoc]
- AG’s Office, State Boards Craft Guidance for Doctors, Law Enforcement on Abortion Laws: Attorney General John O’Connor issued a memo Wednesday urging criminal prosecution for anyone who performs or helps perform an abortion. State law doesn’t allow for prosecution of someone seeking or obtaining an abortion, the memo emphasized. [The Oklahoman]
- ‘Sovereignty is on the Ballot’: Oklahoma Candidates Take on Tribal Issues: Native American groups and leaders are ramping up their efforts to increase turnout in Oklahoma and — they hope — to impact the outcome of key races, starting with the governor’s office. [The Oklahoman]
- Kintsel Remains Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Director: Kintsel said earlier this week that he thought the board would fire him due to his decision to run for governor and based on Gov. Kevin Stitt’s recent changes to the board’s membership. [Tulsa World]
If you’ve switched your party affiliation over the past five months, your local County Election Board will process the change in the coming days.
State law forbids party switching during the primary election season.
Oklahoma needs high-quality investigative journalism. That is our mission at Oklahoma Watch. We produce stories that hold government and public officials accountable and that make transparent what some prefer to keep secret. We depend on financial support from readers like you to sustain our coverage. Help us make a difference.