House Republicans will have a record-high number for next year's legislative session by posting wins Tuesday in 24 of the 34 contested seats based on unofficial returns.
House members will pick up at least one seat, which would give them a 71-30 majority in the 101-member House of Representatives when they convene next year. Their previous high was 70 after the 2010 elections; a death and two vacancies put the tally at 67-31 at the end of this year's session.
The dim spots for Republicans was Rep. Aaron Stiles, R-Norman, who was trailing in his race, and the loss of the House District 56 seat, which had been held by Rep. Phil Richardson, R-Minco, who could not seek re-election because of 12-year legislative term limits.
Stiles, elected in 2010, was losing to Democrat Paula Roberts, of Norman, in the House District 45 race. With 8 of 11 precincts reporting, Roberts had 50.9 percent of the vote.
Democrat David Perryman, of Chickasha, won a close race with 50.5 percent of the vote over Republican Chuck Utsler, of Pocasset, in the House District 56 race.
But Republicans snatched two traditionally Democratic seats — House District 32, the seat held by former Minority Leader Danny Morgan, D-Prague, and House District 22, which is held by Rep. Wes Hilliard, D-Sulphur. Both Morgan and Hilliard opted against seeking re-election.
Republican Jason Smalley, of Stroud, defeated Democrat Keith Kinnamon, of Chandler, for the House District 32 post. Atoka Mayor Charles McCall, a Republican, defeated Democrat Doris Row, of Sulphur, for the House District 22 seat.
“That was a huge victory for us down there,” said House Speaker Designate T.W. Shannon, of Lawton.
Fifteen of the 16 House Republicans and all seven Democratic House members either had won or were ahead, based on incomplete returns.
Republicans appeared headed to win nine of the 11 open seats.
“It was a good night for Republicans in the House of Representatives and it's reflective of the people's endorsement of the pro-growth policies that we've been advancing the last at least six years that I've been there,” Shannon said. “We've got the right message and we've just got to continue Oklahoma forward.
“Success on election night is determined a year out when you're doing candidate recruitment,” Shannon said. “Frankly, we had superior candidates.”
The House District 14 seat will remain held by a Republican. Arthur Hulbert, a Republican from Fort Gibson, won 54.9 percent of the vote against Democrat Jerry Rains, of Muskogee, based on all 15 precincts reporting. Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, did not seek re-election.
House Speaker Pro Tem Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, said the growing Republican numbers in the House and Senate reflect the growth of Republican registered voters, which have been gradually increasing the past 50 years in the state.
“Oklahoma is a conservative state,” Hickman said. “Obviously our registration is trending more Republican than Democrat at this point in history. A lot of that has to do what's happening nationally … frustration with the federal government, the spending, the debt, the policies of this president.”
Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, said Tuesday night during an interview with the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority that Democrats were hoping to hold onto 31 seats. Two years ago, Democrats lost three open seats and lost five incumbents.
“Tonight every single one of our incumbents is coming back,” he said. “We have an opportunity to get back to 31, which is where we failed to last time around to kind of hold our own.
“When you look at the head winds that we're up against, if we come out tonight with 30, 31 or 32, that's a successful night for the House Democratic caucus,” Inman said.
Republicans appeared headed to win two traditional Democratic seats, House District 20 and House District 60, which were moved geographically to the Oklahoma City metro area as a part of last year's redistricting plan to match population shifts based on the 2010 census. The new districts take effect next week after House members are sworn into office for the 54th Oklahoma Legislature that will meet in 2013 and 2014. Both incumbents couldn't seek re-election because of term limits.
House District 20 has been moved from heavily Democratic southern Oklahoma north to an area that covers parts of Cleveland, Garvin, McClain and Pottawatomie counties. Republican Bobby Cleveland, of Slaughterville, was ahead of Democrat Matt Branstetter, of Noble.
House District 60 carves out sections of Canadian and Caddo counties. It now covers the western Oklahoma counties of Beckham, Ellis, Greer, Harmon and Roger Mills. The Rev. Dan Fisher, of El Reno, a Republican, defeated Democrat Kendra Menz-Kimble, of Hinton.
Republicans Reps. John Bennett, of Sallisaw; Tom Newell, of Seminole; Steve Vaughan, of Ponca City; Pat Ownbey, of Ardmore; Dustin Roberts, of Durant; Leslie Osborn, of Mustang; Randy McDaniel, of Oklahoma City; Jason Nelson, of Oklahoma City; Lisa Billy, of Lindsay; and Gary Banz, of Midwest City, won re-election.
Democratic Reps. William Fourkiller, of Stilwell, Wade Rousselot, of Okay, and Anastasia Pittman, of Oklahoma City, won re-election.
Democrats kept the House District 88 seat vacated by Al McAffrey, who was elected to the state Senate in a special election earlier this year. Democrat Kay Floyd beat Republican Aaron Kaspereit for the Oklahoma City seat.
Republican Katie Henke was ahead in the House District 71 race in Tulsa, which remained unfilled after Dan Sullivan resigned in December.