Special election victory: Democrats flip two deep red seats in Oklahoma


On Tuesday, Democrats flipped both vacant seats in the Oklahoma state legislature, eroding the GOP majority and punching into Trump territory.

The past few weeks have been nothing but bad news for the GOP.

The news cycle has been dominated by two main stories — Senate Republicans being savaged at home as they try to ram through their cruel and massively unpopular health care repeal, and the email showing that Donald Trump Jr. met last year with a Russian government lawyer to ask for stolen information on Hillary Clinton, with the knowledge of major Trump campaign officials.

But there is more bad news for Republicans — Democrats are beating them on their home turf. On Tuesday, Democrats won a shutout victory in special elections in the Oklahoma state legislature.

Democrat Karen Gaddis defeated Republican Tressa Nunley in House District 75, while Democrat Michael Brooks beat Republican Joe Griffin in Senate District 44.

The special elections were called to replace state Rep. Dan Kirby of Tulsa, who resigned following sexual harassment allegations from staffers, and state Sen. Ralph Shortey of Oklahoma City, who was indicted on three felony counts of child prostitution.

Both of these districts are extremely Republican. House District 75 voted for Trump 58 to 36, and Senate District 44 votes for Trump 56 to 37.

More generally, Oklahoma is one of the most heavily Republican states in the country. It is one of only two states in which Trump carried every single county. Right-wing extremism is heavily entrenched in the state legislature — one Oklahoma lawmaker made national news for calling Islam "a cancer on our nation that needs to be cut out," and another proclaimed from the House floor that "I've seen many people of color who didn't want to work as hard."

Democrats are usually so uncompetitive in the Sooner State that last year, they did not even run candidates in 21 state house races.

But there have been recent signs of growing Democratic strength in Oklahoma. In May, another special election in a house district Trump won 73 to 23 points was breathtakingly close, with Republicans only winning by 2 points.

This year, Republicans managed to hang on to congressional districts in Georgia, Kansas, Montana, and South Carolina with intense political spending. But at the state level, Democrats have been drubbing them.

The GOP failed to flip legislatures in Delaware and Connecticut. They lost local elections in Illinois and Virginia. They lost heavily red seats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives and the New York State Assembly.

After years as the dominant political force in state politics, Republicans are suddenly finding themselves playing defense in the age of Trump. Democratic victories in Oklahoma are the latest sign of a shift that is only just beginning.