Written by: Michael Straw
Edited by: Annie Phan
A lifelong Oklahoman and educator with more than 40 years of public service, Karen Gaddis (D) runs for Oklahoma’s 75th State House seat for the second time on July 11th, 2017, following her 2016 loss to former state Representative Dan Kirby (R). The sexual misconduct scandal that shook Kirby’s brief tenure resulted in his resignation and the re-opening of the HD-75 seat.
The scandal, coupled with an economic downturn, has left Oklahomans hungry for change and Gaddis could be the face of reform. Gaddis’ platform is built on three main pillars: education, healthcare, and the state economy. She faces the Republican candidate, Tressa Nunley (R), a realtor and 4-way primary winner with 64% of the vote. Gaddis won a two-way primary with 64% as well on May 9th, 2017.
When Ready2Vote asked Gaddis why she wanted to run again, she told us, “I decided to run in the special election based on the fact that I garnered over 5,000 votes in my first election, demonstrating that I had name recognition in the district.”
Flip Opportunity - Factors at Play
This seat is a prime pickup opportunity for Team Blue. Lately, Democrats seem to have an advantage in special election participation in Oklahoma. Of the past three special elections, Democrats picked up a state House seat and a state Senate seat. Democrats nearly picked up another state House seat that went under the radar earlier this year. In this special election, Steven Barnes (D) was badly outspent by his Republican opponent Zach Taylor (R) and yet only lost 50%-48%-2% with a Libertarian in the race for Oklahoma’s 28th state House seat on May 9th, 2017. That 2% loss was only 56 votes. Meaning that if Barnes was able to get merely 57 more Democrats to the polls, he would have won. The Barnes (D) vs. Taylor (R) special election results offer evidence of the continuing blue shift.
One huge factor aiding Democrats in predominantly red states is economics - Oklahoma now operates under a budget crisis that is underfunding many government services to the point where some schools are operating under 4-day weeks. Republicans in the state government have failed to alleviate the financial decline from reduced oil prices and the budget crisis that ensued, thus allowing Democrats to pick up a few seats in past special elections.
Additionally, Gaddis has an advantage in this race in terms of cash on hand. Yes, you read that correctly! Democrat Karen Gaddis currently leads Republican Tressa Nunley in cash on hand in red Oklahoma:
This slight fundraising advantage is further proof that this is a very winnable situation for the Democrats in Oklahoma. In 2016, Democrats picked up one open Republican-held seat in Oklahoma while the only seats Republicans picked up were open Democratic seats; incumbents have had a much better chance at holding their seats. That is why it is so important that Gaddis wins this special election - incumbency will be a big benefit for her in future elections. Even the Democrat, Cyndi Munson, who won OK-HD-85 in a special election in 2015 won her seat again in 2016 with 54% of the vote. Investing in these seats will help rebuild the Democratic Party in Oklahoma over time.
As of now, the standing of the Oklahoma Democratic Party is quite weak. Democrats do not hold a single statewide nor a federal office. The current state legislative breakdown is as follows:
Oklahoma House of Representatives
Republicans 72 - Democrats 26 - Vacancies - 3
Oklahoma State Senate
Republicans 40 - Democrats 6 - Vacancies - 2
Help Karen Gaddis (D) Cinch the Win
This is a seat Democrats MUST win. Tulsa County is one of the few counties that swayed towards Clinton in 2016. If Democrats take and hold this seat, it will be pivotal in developing a bench for the Democratic Party. Democrats have three noteworthy candidates running for Governor, but first, we need to see if seats such as OK-HD-75 are winnable in these special elections. Good luck to Karen Gaddis.
To learn more about Karen Gaddis and to DONATE to her campaign, check out www.karengaddis.com