Incumbents to the Oklahoma Legislature up for election this year will have to fight harder for a clean sweep in many districts. A total of 380 candidates have filed to run, more than twice the number in 2014. Both House and Senate members will face more challenges than previously in the June primary ballot with 32 members compared to 13 in 2014 facing at least one challenger. Many primaries have three candidates which will mean runoffs in August are a possibility. But most seeking reelection will go unchallenged.
A general dislike of the direction the government is taking here as well as this year’s budget woes are the most likely reasons for the challenges. The feeling is that the only way to change things is to run for office. Many are first-time candidates and a large proportion are educators dissatisfied with the way public education is being treated in the state as well as the budget cuts to education this year. The education platform has the potential to swing voters to cross party lines.
The difficulty for newcomers is competing against incumbents who are more well known and may have more money to spend on their campaigns. Historically, it has not been easy to win against an incumbent in Oklahoma. Only one in 30 challenges in the last two elections has lost.
There are also a number of open seats this year with 42 of the contested primaries to fill open seats in both the House and Senate. The decision by some legislators not to rerun for office as well as having their terms expire are the principle reasons.
Let’s hope the discontentment many people are feeling about our current leaders is enough for voters to consider what our new candidates have to offer.