Oklahoma House members sworn in, solidifying historic GOP majority
Members of the Oklahoma House were sworn in at the state Capitol on Wednesday, cementing a historic Republican supermajority in the chamber.
In the unusual swearing in ceremony complicated by COVID-19 concerns and building renovations, 101 members of the House — 82 Republicans and 19 Democrats — were sworn in for two-year terms.
Republicans have held a majority in the House since 2005, but picked up five additional seats this election cycle — giving the GOP more House seats than ever before.
House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said his party’s historic majority indicates Oklahomans are generally happy with the direction and leadership of the state.
“The people have trust in our caucus to advance solutions for the state of Oklahoma,” he said. “I think people have really appreciated the civility and decorum of the House of Representatives over the previous two years, that we have been a functional body and that we have reached across the aisle to consider input even outside our caucus.”
Oklahoma City gained several new Democratic and Republican representatives.
Democratic Rep. José Cruz said he is the first Hispanic legislator to represent House District 89, which covers a heavily Hispanic area in south Oklahoma City.
Cruz, who was recently elected to a vacant seat, struggled to describe how meaningful it was being sworn into the Legislature.
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“I was born in Mexico,” he said. “We immigrated here, and to be able to get to be here is, it’s more than special, but I don’t have the words.”
The swearing in ceremony was atypical for several reasons. Due to ongoing renovations in the House chamber, a ceremonial swearing in was held in the rotunda as lobbyists, family members and friends watched the quick ceremony from above.
Legislators, some of whom were not wearing masks, were then split into seven small groups and escorted into the House chamber, which looked like a construction zone, to recite the official oath of office.
Acknowledging Democrats are a minority in the chamber, Cruz said he’s hopeful both parties can find common ground and work together on some issues.
Despite Democrats’ reduced numbers in the chamber, House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, said she doesn’t anticipate her caucus changing its political strategy.
“We’re still going to be the vocal minority and represent those folks that don’t have a lobbyist and may not have a voice in the majority party,” Virgin said. “We’re still going to be fighting for the same things — quality education for everyone, affordable health care and funding Medicaid expansion in a responsible way.”
Newly elected Republican Rep. Eric Roberts flipped an Oklahoma City House seat previously represented by Democrat Chelsey Branham. But prior to her election, the district was traditionally represented by Republicans.
Roberts said his first act of business will be filing legislation he promised constituents when he was knocking on doors throughout House District 83. He attributed his electoral victory to a great team of volunteers and more than a year of hard work.
“We’d been working hard for 16 months to win this seat back, and so I think that what it boiled down to was a lot of good work and a lot of good team effort," he said.
New and reelected state senators will be sworn in Monday at the state Capitol.