OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Democrats added another win in the deep-red Oklahoma Legislature on Tuesday, continuing the minority party's string of success and chipping away at the Republican Party's hold on state government.
The previously GOP-held House seat and two Senate seats on the ballot were all in mostly Republican districts around Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
But Democrat Allison Ikley-Freeman, a therapist at a nonprofit mental health agency, eked out a win in Senate District 17 over Republican Brian O'Hara, a former Jenks city councilor and district director for U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine. The seat that represents parts of Sand Springs, Jenks and west Tulsa.
A Republican held on to the Senate District 45 seat as Paul Rosino, a real estate agent and retired Navy man, defeated Democrat Steven Vincent, an Oklahoma City police dispatcher. Rosino will serve the balance of the unexpired term of former Republican state Sen. Kyle Loveless, who resigned in April and later pleaded guilty to embezzling campaign funds. The seat represents parts of Mustang, Yukon and south Oklahoma City.
The House District 76 seat that represents parts of Broken Arrow and south Tulsa also stays in GOP hands as Ross Ford, a retired Tulsa police officer, defeated Democrat Chris VanLandingham, a high school government and politics teacher. Ford will succeed Republican Rep. David Brumbaugh, who died in office.
The elections come at a time of voter frustration over years of state budget shortfalls and recent scandals that led to the resignation of Republican incumbents.
Oklahoma is among the most conservative states in the U.S. and there are nearly twice as many registered Republicans as Democrats in the areas where voters headed to the polls Tuesday. Oklahoma Democrats had already won three GOP-held seats in special elections this year and they nearly won a fourth in a heavily Republican district in Seminole County.
The special elections in Oklahoma also followed last week's sweeping Democratic victories in Virginia, in which the party comfortably won the governor's race and fielded challengers who unseated several Republican incumbents in state House races. The Democrats' success in Virginia has them hoping for even bigger wins in next year's nationwide midterm elections.