© 2024 KGOU
The statue As Long as the Waters Flow by Allan C. Houser stands outside the Oklahoma Capitol
News and Music for Oklahoma
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Numbers Don’t Bode Well For Oklahoma’s Democrats In 2018

Oklahoma House Minority Leader Rep. Scott Inman, D-Del City, left, speaks on the floor of the Oklahoma House - May 27, 2016.
Sue Ogrocki
/
AP
Oklahoma House Minority Leader Rep. Scott Inman, D-Del City, left, speaks on the floor of the Oklahoma House - May 27, 2016.

A lot can change in 12 years.

In 2004, before the November election, Oklahoma Democrats controlled 80 of the 149 seats in the Legislature.

But after suffering legislative losses in each of the next seven elections – they lost a net of seven seats Tuesday – Democrats now hold just 32 seats. And the party may have trouble gaining back substantial ground.

That’s because seven of next year’s Democratic lawmakers, or 22 percent, will be barred from seeking another term in the 2018 elections. They will have reached the legal term limit of 12 years. By comparison, 13 of the 117 Republicans, or 11 percent, will reach the limit.

Put another way: Up to 104 Republicans have the potential to seek re-election in 2018 while only 25 Democrats will have that chance. And, although things can change, if this year is any indication, it will be hard for either party to flip an incumbent’s seat.

 

Credit Oklahoma Watch
/
Oklahoma Watch

Every sitting lawmaker on Tuesday’s ballot was re-elected, and seats for the three GOP incumbents who lost in the primary remained with the GOP.

The only party switches occurred in open races in which a sitting lawmaker couldn’t, or chose not to, run again. This year, Democrats took two of those seats from Republicans while Republicans took nine from Democrats.

If the trend continues, Democrats in 2018 will need to protect at least the seven open seats.

Oklahoma Democratic Party spokeswoman Sarah Baker said Democrats will need to work harder to win more seats in 2018.

Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit journalism organization that produces in-depth and investigative content on a range of public-policy issues facing the state. For more Oklahoma Watch content, go to www.oklahomawatch.org.
Oklahoma Watch
Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit journalism organization that produces in-depth and investigative content on a range of public-policy issues facing the state. For more Oklahoma Watch content, go to www.oklahomawatch.org.

“We are seeing a lot of grassroots efforts with people knocking on doors or supporting their candidates,” she said. “But we are seeing a lot of it just on social media or online. And it’s not translating enough as actually getting out there, working and helping those candidates.”

The problem for Democrats is also compounded partly by the departure in 2018 of some key leaders: Minority Floor Leader Rep. Scott Inman, D-Del City; Assistant Minority Leader Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa, and Democratic Senate Floor Leader Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman, who all are term-limited.

But it is not all bad news for the party.

Bill Shapard, who runs Oklahoma City-based SoonerPoll, said historically the party that doesn’t control the White House and Congress, which Republicans will through 2018, often performs better in mid-term elections. That could extend to down-ticket races at the state level.

Also, the governor’s race could be in play in 2018, and Democrats might field a strong candidate who could reclaim the position after two Republican terms.

Oklahoma Watch is a non-profit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. Oklahoma Watch is non-partisan and strives to be balanced, fair, accurate and comprehensive. The reporting project collaborates on occasion with other news outlets. Topics of particular interest include poverty, education, health care, the young and the old, and the disadvantaged.
More News
Support nonprofit, public service journalism you trust. Give now.