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.
But the most resounding victory was that of Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada, who won with 76 percent of the vote over a Republican candidate who spent time in jail during his campaign.
Republican incumbents also held onto all their seats.
Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, won his third and final term in office with 79 percent of the vote over independent Richard Prawdzienski, who didn't spend any money on his campaign but pledged to shake things up at the Capitol.
Pharmacist Rob Standridge, a Republican and small business owner in Norman, will be the new senator for District 15 in parts of northern Cleveland County and southern Oklahoma County.
Standridge defeated Democrat Claudia Griffith, a registered nurse and longtime Norman resident. The incumbent senator in the race, a Republican, had reached his term limit.
Another new senator will take office in the newly created Senate District 43, which was moved entirely out of Oklahoma County during redistricting and is now in McClain County and parts of Stephens, Garvin and Grady counties.
Corey Brooks, a Republican from Washington who returned home to ranch after serving in the Navy, easily won the conservative district over Mike Fullerton, a Democrat from Newcastle, who was concerned with education issues and infrastructure.
Brooks, 33, won with 71 percent of the vote.
“We are very excited and incredibly grateful to voters,” Brooks, 33, said. “We are certainly eager to live up to that expectation and doing the things that they want and expect.”
Bingman said he's excited to welcome the new senators into the caucus.
“They've worked very, very hard,” Bingman said. “Next week we'll get down to business in putting our agenda together. We have a lot of work to do.”