Capitol Insider: Special Elections, AG Responds To Fee Challenge

Jul 14, 2017

Democrats picked up two seats in the Oklahoma legislature on Tuesday, winning a pair of special elections. They will fill the terms of former Republican Sen. Ralph Shortey and Rep. Dan Kirby.

Voters in southwestern Oklahoma County elected Democrat Michael Brooks, who beat his Republican rival Joe Griffin with approximately 55 percent of the vote.


Brooks will serve the remainder of Ralph Shortey’s term, who resigned in March facing child prostitution charges. Brooks lost to Shortey in the 2014 general election.


In Tulsa County’s 75th House District, Democrat Karen Gaddis defeated Tressa Nunley with 52 percent. She’ll fill the seat of Dan Kirby, who left office amid allegations of sexual harassment. Gaddis is a retired teacher who unsuccessfully challenged Kirby in last year’s election.

“Special elections are unique animals,” eCapitol News Director Shawn Ashley told KGOU. “They come at a time away from other elections and I think what has happened to a certain extent, is that these type of elections have become responsive to the issues of the moment,”

Ashley says very low voter turn out also makes special elections different from a campaign’s point of view.  Only 3,619 people voted in the Senate race, and 2,049 cast a ballot for the House seat.


Cigarette Fee

The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office has responded to the legal challenge against the proposed $1.50 fee on cigarettes.

In the document filed with the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the AG’s office argues the fee increase was a policy decision aimed at reducing smoking, rather than a revenue decision.

The response says “While Petitioners claim that the Fee is ‘completely untethered from any regulatory aim’ they ignore the broadly accepted fact that such a fee is the single best smoking deterrent. Public and nonprofit health organizations throughout the State proposed the Fee on cigarette sales to reduce smoking and thereby improve public health.”

The State Board of Health held a meeting with the Oklahoma City County Board of Health and the Tulsa County Board of Health before the legislative session, and their only policy recommendation was a $1.50 sales tax increase on cigarettes in order to decrease smoking in the state.  

Oral arguments are scheduled for August 8. The fee is set to begin August 25.


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