Republicans picked up two seats in the state Senate on Tuesday in one of the unlikeliest of places — a longtime Democratic stronghold in rural southeast Oklahoma.
“All your big name Democrats came from that area in McAlester,” said Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “We had the numbers down there, but until it actually happened you kind of have to pinch yourself on that one.”
The new composition of the Senate will be 36 Republicans to 12 Democrats, a growing supermajority from what the GOP had at the end of May. The party also picked up two seats in the primaries where Democrats failed to field candidates to defend seats vacated by liberal incumbents.
“When I came into the Senate my first two years we were in a tie 24 to 24 and just in the short time I've been there, just the last two cycles, we've gained 12 seats. That's pretty amazing,” Bingman said. “In the 1930s there were zero republicans in the Oklahoma state senate, and just in 2008 was the first time we've taken a majority in state history.”
Larry Boggs, a Republican from Wilburton, ran a well-funded and organized campaign to claim Senate District 7, a seat in Haskell, Latimer and Pittsburg counties.
There are roughly 33,000 registered Democrats in that district compared to 9,000 registered Republicans. Yet Boggs claimed 54 percent of the vote and the Democrat running for the seat, J. Paul Lane, came away with 46 percent.
In a neighboring district Wayne Shaw, a Republican from Grove, outpaced a Democrat for Senate District 3. That seat was last held by Sen. Jim Wilson, a Democrat, who held the office since 2004. Shaw had roughly 54 percent of the vote to Jim Bynum's 46 percent.
There are 23,000 registered Democratic voters in that Adair County district, and 15,000 registered Republican voters.
Democrats were able to easily hold onto seats where they had incumbents in office. Sen. Jerry Ellis, D-Valliant, won his second term for Senate District 5 over Republican candidate Howard Houchen. Earl Garrison, D-Muskogee, won re-election with 70 percent of the vote.