Denise Brewer celebrates while giving a victory speech for House District 71 during the Tulsa Democratic watch party at the Jazz Hall of Fame. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World

11.7.18 – Tulsa World –  

The transformations of the Oklahoma Republican and Democratic parties continued on Tuesday as 14 legislative seats changed hands.

Eight seats — seven in the House — switched from Democrat to Republican, with all but one of those outside the state’s two largest metro areas.

The lone metro switch was House District 75 in Tulsa and Broken Arrow. There, incumbent Karen Gaddis lost to T.J. Marti in a race the Republicans spared no expense to win.

Meanwhile, six seats — two in the Senate, four in the House, and all in Oklahoma City and Tulsa — went from Republican to Democrat.

Among the Democratic pick-ups were House Districts 71 and 79 in Tulsa.

It was, all said, a good result for House Republicans, who increased their majority by three, to 76 in the 101-member chamber.

And it was a bad night for House Democrats, who saw Minority Leader Steve Kouplen of Beggs narrowly defeated and their rural contingent all but obliterated.

Senate Democrats increased their numbers by one, despite losing their last seat outside the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metros — Senate District 32 in Lawton. That means 41 out of 48 state senators are Republicans.

Still, because of special election victories since 2016, Democrats can claim a net gain in the Legislature for the first time since 1990.

More than anything, the legislative results were a stark illustration of the migration of the state’s two major parties. The GOP, once largely invisible outside the metro areas, is becoming more rural, while the Democratic Party is moving from rural Oklahoma to the urban areas, and particularly Oklahoma City.

The night’s biggest upset may have been in House District 83, where Democrat Chelsey Branham, a young YMCA employee, won a seat that includes Nichols Hills, The Village and parts of Edmond.

Republicans, meanwhile, gained seats in McAlester, Pittsburg, Haskell, Adair and Craig counties, and held onto several other seats they thought they might lose. This includes House District 1 in Sequoyah County, where Republican John Bennett was replaced by his pastor, Jim Olsen.

So intent was the GOP on regaining the seat that legislative leaders helped Marti air television ads against Gaddis, a tactic rarely deployed in Oklahoma legislative campaigns because of the expense involved to reach a relatively small audience.

“I’m sorry for the constituents of House District 75 because the Republican Party bought themselves a candidate,” Gaddis said at a Democratic watch party. “I wanted to provide them (transparency) about what’s going on.“

Marti received 53 percent of the vote to 43 percent for Gaddis. Libertarian Kelli Krebs received the remainder.

Democrats succeeded in flipping House District 71, which is Tulsa’s Brookside area, with former television newswoman Denise Brewer getting 56 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Republican Cheryl Baber.

Democrats also flipped a more difficult seat, HD 79 in southeast Tulsa. There educator Melissa Provenzano edged Republican Dan Hicks, 52 percent to 48 percent, in a district in which Republicans outnumber Democrats by about 17 percentage points.

Provenzano said she hoped her victory signaled “the common sense middle is really listening here in Oklahoma.”