The seat opened after the April death of state Rep. David Dank. Munson earned nearly 54 percent of the vote Tuesday. She lost to Dank by a similar 56-44 margin in 2014.
“You shouldn’t read too much into the result of any special election,” said University of Oklahoma political scientist Keith Gaddie. “That being said, Cyndi Munson’s victory up in House District 85 in Oklahoma City is significant.”
The northwest Oklahoma City district includes portions of the affluent Nichols Hills area, as well as The Village and Warr Acres. It’s been held by a Republican ever since it was created in 1965. The Dank family held the seat since 1995, when David Dank’s wife, Odelia, won election. David Dank took office in 2006. Gov. Mary Fallin represented the district between 1991 and 1995.
“If you talk to people up in Crown Heights and Nichols Hills, they’ll tell you [Munson] just flat-out campaigned that district,” Gaddie said. “Campaigned it hard. Knocked doors. Sent mail. A lot of voters up there felt like they didn’t get a lot of contact from the Republican candidate.”
Campaign finance reports show Carter raised nearly twice the funds as Munson as of late August. Munson is a native of Lawton who most recently worked as a Community Programs Manager with the Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma.
“It really is an indication that there’s a new generation of Democrat coming along,” Gaddie said. “They’re younger, they’re more diverse.”
Carter had been endorsed by Fallin, both of Oklahoma’s U.S. Senators, and Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett. Carter is the vice president for Oklahoma City-based Jones Public Relations. He previously served as the director of development for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a conservative think tank. He also worked as a staffer for U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe in the 1990s.
It was a low turnout election, with fewer than 5,000 votes cast. Gaddie says it’s possible the district flips back to the GOP in 2016, when voters will decide on the next U.S. president, and possibly a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution over the controversial Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol.
“The voter turnout model may not bode well for Munson seeking reelection,” Gaddie said. “That being said, this is a very smart and driven young politician who will work very hard to convert that district. The GOP isn’t going to just pluck it back up. They’re going to have to fight to get it back.”