The battle for control of the Oklahoma Senate took a new turn Thursday as Republican Sen. Nancy Riley announced she is re-registering as a Democrat because there's no place in the Republican Party for moderates.
Riley, who finished third in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor but got enough votes to force a runoff election, said she got little respect from the Senate Republican Caucus and felt that her discussions about her concerns with the Party were met with a "pat on the head."
A former school teacher, Riley was elected to the state Senate in 2000.
She said there is a movement in the Republican Party to undermine public education with such things as blaming teachers for school problems and pushing for charter schools and vouchers.
Riley's switch gives Democrats something to cheer about since most political observers believe the Republican-Democrat battle for open seats this election year could give Republicans control of the Senate for the first time ever.
Democrats currently hold a 25-23 edge over Republicans, but many Democrats are leaving this year because of term limits.
Senate leader Mike Morgan, D-Stillwater, said Riley's decision to become a Democrat "potentially has a profound effect on the (Senate) election."
He said that Riley first approached him in June about possibly switching parties.