Election Day 2020 Live Blog: Bice Wins, State Questions Fail & Republican Supermajority Grows

Voters wait in a long line outside Trinity Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Okla. (Quinton Chandler)

Updated 12:37 a.m.

A record number of Oklahomans voted this year. More than 1.5 million Oklahomans cast ballots during the 2020 general election, beating 2016’s number of about 1.4 million. Oklahoma also saw about an 175% increase in mail and absentee voting compared to 2016.

BICE TAKES BACK CD5 FOR REPUBLICANS

Oklahoma will now be represented solely by the Republican party in both the U.S. House and Senate.

For most of the night, the race between Oklahoma Democratic Incumbent Congresswoman Kendra Horn and Republican state Senator Stephanie Bice remained close. But as soon as Bice pulled ahead of Horn later in the night, she held it with a nearly 13,000 vote gap. Bice won with 52 percent of the vote to Horn’s nearly 48 percent.

In 2018, Horn surprisingly defeated incumbent Republican Steve Russell by a thin margin. A Democrat had previously not held the seat since 1975 or any congressional seat since 2013.

TRUMP WINS OKLAHOMA, REPUBLICANS SWEEP FEDERAL RACES

Oklahoma’s seven electoral college votes will go to President Donald Trump. Oklahoma hasn’t voted for a Democrat for president since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Other races for federal lawmakers also broke for Republican incumbents:

  • Incumbent U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe defeated Democratic challenger Abby Broyles by 467,000 votes to win his sixth term in office.
  • Kevin Hern held onto his seat in Congressional District 1 over Democrat Kojo Asamoa-Caesar for his second term.
  • Markwayne Mullin handily held onto his Congressional District 2 seat for his fifth term. Mullin has promised in 2012 to only serve three terms. He later reversed that decision, calling it ill-advised.
  • Frank Lucas won another term in Congressional District 3. He has been in Congress since 1992.
  • Tom Cole secured another term in Congressional District 4, a seat he’s held since 2002.

VOTERS SAY NO TO BOTH STATE QUESTIONS

Both state questions were defeated by Oklahoma voters.

State Question 805 failed in a landslide. More than a 20 percent gap separated the ‘yes’ votes from the ‘no’ votes. The question’s supporters said they were disheartened by the vote.

Kris Steele, the head of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, and a representative for the coalition Yes on 805, said they’re going back to the drawing board.

“We will certainly start in the morning to make sense of what happened in this election and prioritize our agenda moving forward and make sure that we have a strategy that hopefully will resonate with the Legislature and the people of Oklahoma,” Steele said.

He said Oklahoma’s incarceration rates are still far too high and no single policy will be the silver bullet to disrupt that trend.

State Question 805 would have changed the state’s constitution to end the state’s practice of increasing the maximum allowable prison sentence for defendants who have been convicted of more than one nonviolent felony. The question also would’ve allowed people already convicted to apply for sentence modifications.

Opponents to the question say it would have put crime victims in more danger and rewarded people convicted of serious felonies not listed under state law’s violent crime list. They also say the constitutional change would have locked the state into the policy because it would’ve required another vote of the people to make future changes.

Oklahoma voters also rejected State Question 814, a proposal to shift public health funding to Medicaid.

The measure would have moved annual payments away from the Tobacco Endowment Settlement Trust, or TSET, to pay for Medicaid expansion.

Matt Glanville, the government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, was part of the opposition coalition. He said the vote signified Oklahoma’s support for TSET and its public health programming, including tobacco cessation and cancer research. The expansion unlocks about $1 billion in federal funding, but Oklahoma has to put up about $150 million.

The opposition has maintained State Question 814 was not necessary to pay for Medicaid expansion.

“They’ve proven that they can already do that through the passage of a bill this year that would have provided the lion’s share of funding for Medicaid expansion and was vetoed by the governor,” Glanville said.

State Senator Kim David, who authored the measure that put State Question 814 on the ballot, said that because of the pandemic’s blow to the economy, their options have narrowed.

“The money has to come from somewhere,” David said. “And with the pandemic — the cuts that we’ve already had. You know, I hope, I certainly hope that the cuts don’t come to the existing population.”

The Legislature will have to tackle the issue when it reconvenes in February.

OKLAHOMA COUNTY ELECTS FIRST BLACK SHERIFF

Republican candidate Tommie Johnson will become Oklahoma County’s first Black sheriff after defeating Democrat Wayland Cubit.

Johnson defeated incumbent P.D. Taylor in the August runoff. The Oklahoma City native campaigned on a platform of safer communities, fiscal responsibility and partnerships. He also wants to focus on modernizing the sheriff’s office to improve relationships with the troubled Oklahoma County Jail and various constituencies.

The 31-year-old will take command at a time when policing of minority communities is under intense scrutiny.

STATE HOUSE SUPERMAJORITY GROWS LARGER

Partisan numbers are a wash in the state Senate after the parties swapped two Tulsa seats.

  • Democratic incumbent Allison Ikley-Freeman resoundingly lost her Tulsa Senate seat to Republican challenger Cody Rogers by more than 11,000 votes. Ikley-Freeman took a three-month break from the campaign trail to recover from serious injuries sustained in a car accident in May.
  • The Democrats did however pick up a seat when Jo Anna Dossett beat Republican Cheryl Baber by more than 600 votes. The Tulsa seat was previously held by Republican Gary Stanislawski since 2008, but he was term-limited.

Meanwhile, the Republican supermajority in the State House picked up five additional seats for a new total of 82.

  • In Tahlequah, Democratic incumbent Matt Meredith was defeated by Republican challenger Bob Ed Culver by nearly 1,400 votes.
  • Democratic incumbent Kelly Albright also lost her Midwest City House seat to Republican challenger Max Wolfley by a narrow margin of 322 votes.
  • In Oklahoma City, another Democratic incumbent — Chelsey Branham — was defeated by Republican challenger Eric Roberts by almost 800 votes.
  • Republicans picked up another House seat when Dick Lowe won House District 56 in southwestern Oklahoma. It was up for grabs following Democratic incumbent David Perryman’s retirement. Perryman had held the seat since 2013.
  • Republicans picked up a seat in far northeastern Oklahoma earlier this year when Democrat Ben Loring declined to seek re-election. Republican Steve Bashore became the new representative by default when no one else ran for the seat.

Several Democratic representatives retained their seats by narrow margins.

  • In a hotly contested race between educators in Norman, Democratic incumbent Jacob Rosecrants squeaked out a win over Republican challenger Nancy Sangirardi by just 79 votes.
  • Another Norman Democratic incumbent Merelyn Bell was re-elected by voters, with about 600 votes separating her from Republican challenger Phillip Hillian.
  • In Stillwater, Democratic incumbent Trish Ranson was re-elected to her House seat by nearly 600 voted over Republican challenger Aaron Means.

And there will be several new names in the state legislature next session, including:

  • Mauree Turner, who will become Oklahoma’s first Muslim lawmaker. The 27-year-old defeated Democratic incumbent Jason Dunnington in June in the left-leaning Oklahoma City House District 88. She easily defeated Republican candidate Kelly Barlean.
  • Self-described abortion abolitionist Warren Hamilton will also join the legislature. Hamilton soundly picked up a Senate seat in southeastern Oklahoma over Democrat Jerry Donathan. He previously defeated Larry Boggs in the Republican runoff in August.

Oklahoma Engaged is an election project by NPR member stations in Oklahoma, with support from the Inasmuch Foundation, the Kirkpatrick Foundation and Oklahoma Humanities.