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2016 Election: Metro races to watch



(Cover design: Anna Schilling / Oklahoma Gazette)

(Cover design: Anna Schilling / Oklahoma Gazette)

2016 Election Issue

It’s everyone’s democratic and civic duty to vote on Nov. 8, and this year’s ballot is an important one. This issue includes stories on Oklahoma’s multiple state questions, the Libertarian party, races to watch, our roundup of uncommon candidates and more. It also features the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma’s 2016 Voters Guide. The election doesn’t have to be scary. Oklahoma Gazette helps you navigate the many elections and issues.

Find more coverage in this week’s print issue, on stands now, and in Oklahoma Gazette’s Nov. 2 print edition.

Related stories

• 2016 Election: Oklahoma ballot questions explained • 2016 Election: The Libertarian Party returns to Oklahoma’s ballot after a 16-year absence • 2016 Election: Metro races to watch • 2016 Election: Uncommon contenders for state Legislature include millennials, educators, transgender woman • 2016 Election: Joe Exotic’s White House run just the beginning of his political aspirations, even if he's not on the ballot in Oklahoma • 2016 Election: As Election Day approaches, many seek help navigating flack attacks • Letters to the Editor: Oct. 26, 2016

There is a good chance Oklahoma City metro voters will see either an Oklahoma House or Senate contest on their general election ballots on Nov. 8.

Nearly three-quarters of the state house seats and 20 senate seats are in contest, which could alter the state’s political landscape. As Election Day nears, here are the top metro races to watch and a rundown of federal and local elections.

Cyndi Munson (Provided)
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  • Cyndi Munson
Matt Jackson (Provided)
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  • Matt Jackson

1. House District 85

House District 85 was once a Republican stronghold. In the 1990s, Mary Fallin, now a two-term governor, began her political career representing a section of northwest OKC, which includes neighborhoods near Lake Hefner and parts of Nichols Hills, The Village and Crown Heights. Then, Republican Odilia Dank was elected to the position. After serving 12 years, voters elected her husband, David Dank, who held the seat from 2007 until his death in 2015.

Rep. Cyndi Munson, who challenged the longtime incumbent in 2014, won the seat for Democrats for the first time in a 2015 special election. Munson’s victory did little to change the makeup of the 101-seat state House, which last session was comprised of 29 Democrats and 72 Republicans. The victory was viewed as momentum for the Democrats in an area of the city that is growing more diverse as millennials and new families move in.

Before the 2016 session began, Republican challengers began to announce their candidacy for the district seat. Four appeared on the Republican primary ballot, which went to a runoff election. Matt Jackson, former Oklahoma County Republican Party chairman, emerged from the August runoff. He faces Munson Nov. 8.

Jackson’s platform includes pledges to keep taxes low, expand business opportunities and support traditional Oklahoma values.

Much of Munson’s message is about education, jobs and women’s issues, and the lawmaker also references her passed legislation, which includes tackling issues faced by homeless youth and veterans, when speaking with constituents.

Bruce Lee Smith (Provided)
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  • Bruce Lee Smith
Collin Walke (Provided)
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  • Collin Walke
Elle Collins (Provided)
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  • Elle Collins

2. House District 87

When Republican floor leader Jason Nelson said he would not seek re-election to his District 87 House seat, the surprise announcement opened the field and six contenders filed to run.

Among the Republicans, Bruce Lee Smith beat Edward William Granger and Bo Broadwater. And Collin Walke squeaked by Kelly Meredith in the Democratic primary race. Now, attorney Walke, civil engineer Smith and Libertarian Elle Collins, a mother of three, face off in the general election.

Walke is a second-time candidate, earning 46.9 percent of the vote in 2014 when he challenged pro-school choice lawmaker Nelson, who earned 53.1 percent. Walke has concerns about mental health, education and the criminal justice system, and his primary focus is reforming the state budget process.

Smith points out that he is not a politician and isn’t interested in a political career. He wants to serve the community. Collins is the first Libertarian to seek the seat. She believes in “all rights, all people, all the time.” House District 87 includes portions of west OKC and Warr Acres.

Forrest Bennett (Provided)
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  • Forrest Bennett
Joe Griffin (Provided)
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  • Joe Griffin

3. House District 92

The top Democratic candidate to emerge during June’s crowded House District 92 primary was Forrest Bennett, a college government teacher.

He seeks the seat of term-limited Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, who has served in the role for 12 years. House District 92 includes portions of south OKC, downtown and some northwest OKC neighborhoods.

Bennett faces Republican Joe Griffin, who ran unopposed in the June primary.

Griffin most recently served as press secretary and communications director for Oklahoma House Speaker Jeff Hickman. Griffin’s platform pushes a message of safety. He advocates for a “smart-on-crime” approach to nonviolent offenders, which involves expanding drug courts and improving the juvenile justice system.

Griffin lists jobs as a priority and plans to work toward building new industry in OKC’s southside. Griffin supports teacher pay increases and policies to train educators on how to teach English to non native-English-speaking students.

Bennett advocates for revising the state’s process of constructing the state budget, acknowledging that lawmakers and the public need ample time to review the document before a vote is called.

Bennett wants to increase access to quality, affordable healthcare and increase funding and support to public education. He believes investments in children, infrastructure (including public transit) and social services can make Oklahoma brighter, healthier and more productive.

Other important races

Federal: The only Senate race this year in Oklahoma is for U.S Senator James Lankford’s seat. The junior senator faces Libertarian Robert T. Murphy, Democrat Mike Workman, independent Mark T. Beard and independent Sean Braddy.

In Congressional District 5, Liber-tarian Zachary Knight and Democrat Al McAffrey challenge U.S. Rep. Steve Russell.

Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cole runs for re-election against Democrat Christina Owen and Libertarian Sevier White for Congressional District 4.

Local: In Oklahoma County, Republican David B. Hooten faces Libertarian Chris Powell for county clerk. Rep. Mike Christian, a Republican, challenges longtime Sheriff John Whetsel, a Democrat, for the top position in law enforcement.

Sen. Anastasia Pittman, a Democrat, faces Court Clerk Rick Warren in the contest for presiding over the county clerk’s office.

Voters who reside in Oklahoma City Public Schools districts will be asked to decide on three bond issues totaling $180 million that will cover maintenance, technology and transportation.

Print headline: Watching races, There are top metro races to watch ahead of the Nov. 8 election.

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