The 2010 election of Mary Fallin as governor, complemented by Republican victories in every statewide race, completed a remarkable shift to GOP control of Oklahoma state government. Few states can match it.
Indeed, the website Ballotpedia, which tracks political and government-related issues in the 50 states, says Oklahoma is one of six states with shifts of 20 percent to 40 percent from Democratic to Republican control since 1992 (five others saw shifts toward GOP control exceeding 40 percent). During the same time, eight states shifted Democratic by 20-40 percent.
From 1992-94, Democrats controlled the governor’s office and both chambers of the Oklahoma Legislature. For the next eight years, we had a Republican governor (Frank Keating) and a Democratic Legislature. Brad Henry’s first two years as governor marked a return to all-Democratic control, but the GOP’s winning of the House following the 2004 elections began a shift that hasn’t abated.
Oklahoma had two years of shared control of the Senate (2007-2008), but it’s been all GOP since. In fact the Republican majorities have done nothing but grow — only 12 of the Senate’s 48 members are Democrats; in the House, the GOP has a whopping 72-29 advantage just eight years after first winning control of the chamber.
This shift, particularly in recent years, is due at least partly to Oklahomans’ rejection of Obama administration policies. GOP candidates running for statewide offices in 2010 made sure to tie their Democratic opponents to Barack Obama or the national Democratic Party, and they all won handily.
Republicans appear well-positioned to keep their grip, as GOP voter rolls continue to swell while Democrats’ wane. But another finding by Ballotpedia is noteworthy: Since 1992, an average state would have had 11.6 years of divided governments, 5.5 years of all-Republican control and 4.9 years of Democratic control.
So things can change quickly. Having earned control of state government, Oklahoma Republicans shouldn’t assume it will always be thus.