GOP Senate victory ends Democrats’ streak
Republican Paul Rosino won his state Senate seat Tuesday, putting a damper on a string of four Democratic victories this year that has raised questions about the GOP’s stronghold on Oklahoma politics.
Rosino, who is retired from the Navy and works in real estate, beat Steven Vincent with nearly 58 percent of the vote in the district that covers a swath of the south Oklahoma City metro area.
In Tulsa, however, Democrat Allison Ikley Freeman won a razorthin special election over Brian O’Hara to replace a departing Republican senator.
Rosino waved off the debate that has influenced electoral discussions over the past year, that Republicans have lost urban special elections because of their performance on the state level.
“I think what it says is that my district, they listened to my message and my message is what resonated,” Rosino said. “It’s nice that it happened, that we can say the wave stopped here in Senate District 45, but I want to work with everybody.”
If the legislative special session drags on, Rosino could be sworn in before it ends. However, he declined to comment on current events at the Capitol.
“My main focus was on winning and taking care of things here first. I’ll let the chips fall as they may,” he said.
Senate District 45 covers portions of Oklahoma and Cleveland counties. It became vacant when former state Sen. Kyle Loveless resigned amid accusations that he embezzled his own campaign funds.
Two other seats were up for grabs Tuesday.
Tulsa’s Senate District 37 is held by Dan Newberry, who will depart his seat at the end of the year to focus on his professional career as a banker. Ikley-Freeman is now the fourth Democrat to pick up a GOP seat, but her victory only raises the Senate Democratic caucus count to eight in the 48-member chamber.
If the numbers hold, Ikley-Freeman won the district by just 31 votes out of 4,152 cast. O’Hara can ask for a recount but must pay at least $600 for election workers to review the ballots.
Also in Tulsa, House District 76 was left vacant when state Rep. David Brumbaugh died in April. Republican Ross Ford handily beat Democrat Chris Van Landingham with nearly 70 percent of the vote.
Before Tuesday, Democrats had won three special elections this year in districts formerly held by the GOP. Some have said the victories were a sign that Democrats in Oklahoma had turned the corner after more than a decade of embarrassing losses that reduced the once-majority party to just a handful of lawmakers.
Of 101 House members, Democrats have just 28 seats.
There will be at least three more special elections in coming months. House Democratic Leader Scott Inman said he will leave his post at the end of this year, Republican state Rep. Scott Biggs resigned to take a federal job and state Sen. Bryce Marlatt resigned after he was accused of trying to forcibly kiss an Uber driver.
State Rep. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, filed for Marlatt’s Senate seat. If he wins, there could be another special election in the Oklahoma Panhandle.