Oklahoma Voters Approve Medicaid Expansion, Decide Legislative Races
Oklahoma becomes the 37th state to expand Medicaid, Stephanie Bice and Terry Neese advance to Congressional District 5 Republican runoff, and more than half of Oklahoma legislative races are now decided.
OKLAHOMANS NARROWLY APPROVE MEDICAID EXPANSION
State Question 802 wins by less than 6,500 votes, making Oklahoma the fifth state run by Republicans to approve the program that will expand the provision of the Affordable Care Act. It will add 200,000 low-income adults to the state-funded health insurance program known as SoonerCare. Under the federal program, the state will receive 90% of the funds from the federal government and will have to come up with the rest.
The other 36 states that have already expanded the program say it has improved health outcomes and has not added an additional cost burden to their state, according to a peer reviewed study done by the New England Journal of Medicine. But Oklahoma lawmakers and Governor Kevin Stitt believe the proposal that was fielded before the pandemic began may create an undue burden for a state budget that is in freefall because of economic pressures created by COVID-19 closures and low oil and gas prices. They call it an unfunded mandate.
The proposal Oklahoma voters approved adds the provision to the state Constitution. Unlike the criminal justice reforms voters approved in 2016, this means state lawmakers will not be able to roll back parts of the provision. It would take an additional vote of the people to overturn it.
BICE AND NEESE ADVANCE TO REPUBLICAN RUNOFF IN CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 5
It's considered one of the most watched Congressional seats in the country because of Democrat Kendra Horn's narrow win in 2018. In a crowded Republican field, Oklahoma State Senator Stephanie Bice entered Tuesday's race with a significant financial advantage.
Bice will advance to the August runoff against Terry Neese, a well known figure in the Oklahoma Republican Party and the co-chair of President Donald Trump's Small Business Advisory Council. Bice received 25.41% of the vote, and Neese received 36.49%. In the waning days of the campaign, Bice was attacked by out-of-state dark money groups that attempted to connect her legislative vote for the state's film rebate program to a kickback for accused sex offender and movie producer Harvey Weinstein.
Businessman David Hill came in third with 18.98% of the vote and former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi received 9.99%. There were five other candidates in the race.
The winner of the August primary between Bice and Neese will advance to the November general election to face Democrat Kendra Horn, who easily won her primary with 85.7% of the vote.
INHOFE, CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICAN INCUMBENTS ADVANCE EASILY
As expected, the four Republican Congressmen and one Republican Senator up for election will easily advance to the general election in November.
With 74.1% of the vote, Senator Jim Inhofe will face former TV news reporter Abby Broyles, who won the Democratic primary with 60.5% of the vote.
With 76.3% of the vote, Congressman Tom Cole will advance to face Mary Brannon, who won the Democratic primary with 63.9% of the vote. Cole has held the seat since 2003.
With 79.9% of the vote, Congressman Markwayne Mullin will move on to face Democrat Danyell Lanier, who ran uncontested. Mullin has held the seat since 2013.
Congressman Kevin Hern ran uncontested. In November, he'll face Kojo Asamoa-Caesar, who won the Democratic primary with 63.6% of the vote. Hern has held the seat since 2018.
Congressman Frank Lucas ran uncontested. In November, he'll face Democrat Zoe Midyett, who also ran uncontested. Lucas has held the seat since 1994.
56% OF OK LEGISLATIVE SEATS DECIDED AFTER TUESDAY PRIMARY
More than half of Oklahoma’s legislative races are decided after Tuesday’s primary. In the Oklahoma House of Representatives, 54 races were decided in the Republican primary because no Democrat filed in the race, and 5 seats were decided in the Democratic primary because no Republican filed.
In the Oklahoma Senate, only half of the chamber’s 48 seats were up for re-election plus one seat vacated early by former Senator Jason Smalley. Eleven of those races were decided in the Republican primary because no Democrat filed. One seat was decided in the Democratic primary because not Republican filed.
FOUR INCUMBENT STATE LAWMAKERS LOSE THEIR SEATS IN PRIMARY RACES
In House District 88, Oklahoma City Democrat Jason Dunnington lost to political newcomer Mauree Turner, who will now advance to the November general election. Had he been re-elected, Dunnington would have been the second most senior Democrat in the House behind Minority Leader Emily Virgin.
Turner is the Regional Field Director for the Campaign for Smart Justice, an ACLU campaign focusing on criminal justice reform. On her campaign website, she says “her life’s work is geared towards fighting for and maintaining the civil rights and liberties for all who enter America. She is an Oklahoma community organizer, born and raised coming from a Muslim and Baptist upbringing.” Turner will face Republican Kelly Barlean in November.
In House District 3, which represents southeast Oklahoma, one-term Republican Representative Lundy Kiger was defeated in the primary by his predecessor Rick West. West served one term in the Oklahoma House from 2016 to 2018 but chose not to run again after the teacher walkouts. West will now face Democrat Mike Sullivan in the November general election.
Republican incumbent Derrel Fincher lost his Republican primary for House District 11 in Bartlesville after serving just one term. Wendi Stearman advances to the general election to face Emilie Tindle.
In Oklahoma Senate District 3, which represents the Grove area, Republican Wayne Shaw lost to Blake Cowboy Stephens. Shaw was first elected to the Oklahoma Senate in 2012. Stephens will now face Democrat Dyllon Fite in November.
MASKS A SIGN OF POLITICS AT PRECINCTS TUESDAY
Many poll workers and voters took precautions against COVID-19 during Tuesday’s elections, but some voters said the politicization surrounding the mask issue was obvious.
Poll worker and Chair of the Oklahoma County Democratic Party Robbie White said her polling location in northwest Oklahoma City had a steady amount of voters come in throughout the day, with about 90 percent wearing masks.
“People are excited to vote, but everyone has that sort of pause when they walk up to interact with us at the table,” White said. “They’re like “Okay, what do I do with my thing? How do I proceed with handing my ID to the judge?”... So there’s been a little bit of awkwardness, but it’s been very cheerful and upbeat all day.”
While masks weren’t required to cast a ballot in person, the state distributed disinfectants, and many precincts implemented social distancing and disinfection protocols such as instructing people to stand six feet apart in line and disinfecting pens between voters. White said the Oklahoma County Election Board provided her voting site with an adequate amount of personal protective equipment.
In Kingfisher, Mike Brown said he didn’t see many other people wearing masks as they came to vote, but people in line were respecting social distancing protocols. He also noticed that the process took longer than usual because of safety measures surrounding the coronavirus.
Michelle Wagner also voted in Kingfisher and said the political division around the practice of wearing a mask was obvious.
“You know they ask you ‘Republican or Democrat?’ when you get to the table. I could sort of tell what they were going to say by whether or not they put on a mask,” Wagner said.
Even with most polling locations implementing safety protocols… some voters took further precautions such as Isaiah Flowers, who wore a mask, brought his own pen and voted at a time that is typically less busy at his polling location in Norman.
Flowers says it’s important for him to vote in person because he’s skeptical about absentee voting.
“I don’t know if I necessarily trust the whole sending my vote through the mail thing. I feel better about my vote going in and doing it myself in person,” Flowers said.
Oklahoma voters head to the polls today for the June 30th primaries to decide party nominees in Senate and Congressional races, state lawmaker races and a state question to expand Medicaid.
State Question 802 will be the only state question on the ballot for Oklahoma voters for the June 30 primary election. The question asks whether or not to expand Medicaid, a government-sponsored health insurance program for qualifying low-income persons, in Oklahoma.
If the proposal passes, approximately 200,000 more people will be eligible for the state’s Medicaid program. That’s about 20 percent of Oklahoma's total estimated population.
Voting yes, for the proposal, is a vote to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income adults aged 64 or younger. Voting no, against the proposal, is a vote to keep Medicaid coverage as is in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma is one of 14 states, including neighboring states Texas, Kansas and Missouri, to have not yet expanded Medicaid.
Here's a several stories Oklahoma's NPR stations have done on Medicaid Expansion:
- The Long Road to Oklahoma's Medicaid Expansion Vote
- Can SoonerCare Capacity Meet Medicaid Expansion's Demand?
- What Medicaid Expansion Could Mean For Oklahoma's Native American Tribes
- The Economic Benefits And Perils Of Adopting Medicaid Expansion
Oklahoma's 5th Congressional District incumbent Kendra Horn, the only Democrat in Oklahoma’s congressional delegation, faces perennial candidate Tom Guild in Tuesday’s primary.
Horn won against incumbent Republican Steve Russell by a thin margin in 2018. Just two years prior, the district voted for President Donald Trump by a margin of about 13 points.
Nine Republican candidates are vying for the chance to turn the 5th congressional district red again. State Senator Stephanie Bice has leads in terms of campaign donations, with more than $1 million. Terry Neese, the co-chair of President Trump’s small business advisory council and the first female nominee for Lieutenant Governor in 1990, is also running. Janet Baressi, a dentist and former Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction, is also vying for the Republican nomination.
The crowded Republican field also includes Michael Ballard, David Hill, Shelli Landon, Jake Merrick, Charles Pringle, and Miles Rahimi.
A runoff election between the top two Republican vote-getters is likely in August.
VOTING IN A PANDEMIC
Due to the coronavirus, Oklahoma election officials are seeing high numbers of voters requesting absentee ballots. As of 4:00 p.m. Monday, more than 120,000 Oklahomans have already voted absentee or early in-person.
Those who choose to head to the polls in person on Tuesday will find some new procedures in place. Oklahoma State Election Board spokesperson, Misha Mohr said the state agency worked with the the OU Health Sciences Center to develop new protocol on voting days.
Voters will be asked to maintain safe-distance and to follow signage and poll worker instructions for receiving ballots. Poll workers and precinct officials will be provided masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and disinfectant.
Voters are not required to wear masks to the polls, but election officials are strongly encouraging people to do so.
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