Legislative runoffs before voters across the state
House District 82 in northwest Oklahoma City is split in half between postwar homes and condos in the south, home to a largely older demographic of empty nesters and retirees, while to the north are newly built cul-de-sacs that are attracting young families seeking a suburban school system.
Nicole Miller and Brad Martin, the two candidates for Tuesday's Republican runoff in HD82, have spent the last several months knocking doors across the region, crisscrossing the John Kilpatrick Turnpike that splits the district in half.
"One thing about knocking doors this long is you get to know people," Miller said. "My favorite thing is finding voters who are committed and aware of what's going on and those are the ones who show up in a runoff."
Miller and Martin emerged from a June primary with 12 total candidates.
The House District 82 race is one of 33 state House and Senate runoff elections across the state on Aug. 28, including 10 races with incumbents fighting for their jobs.
In District 82, Martin said voter turnout will be key Tuesday, especially since each end of the district features differing perspectives.
“My district was anti-tax increase," said Martin, referring to this year's approved tax hikes on cigarettes, gasoline, diesel and oil and gas production, which went toward a $6,100 average teacher pay raise.
Martin said he was against the specific tax package that was approved in March by the Legislature, which is possibly why some of his strongest support came south of the Turnpike, where the average age is more than 10 years older than in the ZIP codes to the north, according to Census statistics.
ZIP codes in the south part of the district also have an annual income of $25,000 less than in the north.
”This part of the district has a heavy amount of retirees who are not anti-teacher pay, but are worried about rising costs," Martin said.
"There are some people who say they will never raise taxes, but that's not me. I just didn't think this was the right package."
Miller told a forum hosted by the Deer Creek Parent Legislative Action Committee (PLAC) this summer that she would have voted for the tax increase, a position some believe won her support in many of the precincts in the fast-growing Deer Creek school district.
"For a lot of voters in the (Deer Creek) school district it's all about education and supporting the teacher pay raises was a big deal," said Erin Brewer, a parent leader with the Deer Creek PLAC. "I'm hoping we see the same type of high turnout that we saw in the primary."
Miller said education has been a constant topic of conversation with voters, especially as a two-week teacher walkout dominated headlines earlier this year.
“Overall, I would hear voters say we care about the teachers, we care about the kids, get the money to the classroom,” Miller said.
Runoff candidates are commonly asked by voters to talk about education, taxes, public safety and a host of other local issues.
But national politics also can creep into the conversations.
"I know on a doorstep I might be asked about the national landscape or about something happening in the community," said Josh Hass, a candidate in the House District 17 Republican runoff.
"The people who watch cable news want to ask about (Donald) Trump, that's where their concern is. The people who get their news from the local newspaper are more concerned with teacher and state employee pay, and the veterans center."
In Talihina, on the east side of District 17, a state veterans center is slated to be relocated. Hass and his opponent, Jim Grego, are both opposed to the plan.
“We've got 150 good jobs right there and we've got to do whatever it takes to save that facility,” Grego said.
Nearly 100 teachers and educators are running for House and Senate this year and some are on Tuesday's runoff ballot, including in House District 20, where Rep. Bobby Cleveland is fighting to keep his job.
Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, voted against the tax raises to fund a teacher pay increase and expressed opposition to the teacher walkout in April. He now finds himself in a Republican runoff with Sherrie Conley, an Oklahoma City public schools administrator.
“He says, 'Get back to the classroom' and tries to take away their voice,” Conley told The Oklahoman. “They've been working on that voice for about two years now.”
Cleveland said the state had the money to fund the pay raises without increasing taxes.
Cleveland is one of 10 Republican House incumbents in a runoff on Tuesday. Seven of the incumbents opposed the tax package.
Oklahoma state House and Senate runoff races
Senate District 10 — Republican
Senate District 16 — Republican
Senate District 30 — Republican
Senate District 36 — Republican
House District 10 — Republican
House District 14 — Republican
House District 17 — Republican
House 20 — Republican
House District 27 — Republican
House District 30 — Republican
House District 36 — Republican
House District 38 — Republican
House District 41 — Republican
Denise Crosswhite Hader
House District 43 — Republican
House District 47 — Republican
House District 61 — Republican
House District 63 — Republican
House District 66 — Republican
House District 68 — Republican
House District 71 — Republican
House District 79 — Republican
House District 80 — Republican
House District 82 — Republican
House District 98 — Republican
House District 100 — Republican
House District 101 — Republican
House District 26 — Democrat
E. Bruce Bushhong
House District 41 — Democrat
House District 53 — Democrat
House District 68 — Democrat
House District 91 — Democrat
House District 99 — Democrat
House District 101 — Democrat