Democrat Allison Ikley-Freeman won Tuesday’s special election to represent Oklahoma’s Senate District 37, beating out anti-choice Republican Brian O’Hara to flip yet another state legislative seat from red to blue during President Trump’s first year in office.
The win marks the fourth time a seat in Oklahoma’s legislature has changed hands in favor of a Democrat since Trump won the White House. It’s the 33rd state-level seat to flip to a Democrat in that time, according to a press release from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC). Democrats lost nearly 1,000 state legislative seats during President Obama’s eight years in the White House.
Republicans, meanwhile, maintained control of two other seats in the Oklahoma state legislature on Tuesday.
Ikley-Freeman’s campaign site describes her as a “therapist at a Tulsa-based, nonprofit, community mental-health agency.” Her platform calls for addressing the need for better health care and mental health care and providing Oklahomans with access to quality public education. Ikley-Freeman’s campaign confirmed that the Democrat was pro-choice in an email to Rewire.
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O’Hara, who was endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee, made no secret of his opposition to abortion rights. “Protecting the unborn,” was listed as a priority of his campaign platform. “Life begins at conception and should be protected by law,” O’Hara said on his website, echoing so-called personhood rhetoric that would lead to the criminalization of abortion care and some forms of contraception. “As District 37’s senator, I will always stand for life and will work to advance pro-life legislation.”
In a September 2017 candidate survey for the anti-choice Oklahomans for Life, O’Hara affirmed that he would vote for a law to ban abortion with narrow exceptions, including cases of “forcible rape” that were reported within seven days to law enforcement and incest if it was reported to law enforcement. He vowed to oppose funding for health centers on school campuses unless they were “explicitly prevented from providing abortions, abortion counseling, or making abortion referrals,” as the questionnaire reads.
The DLCC cited Ikley-Freeman’s positions on education and health care as key to her victory. “Senator-elect Ikley-Freeman carried her election tonight because her community supported her message of fully funded public schools, ending Republicans’ self-inflicted budget crisis, and ensuring the health and safety of all Oklahomans,” DLCC Executive Director Jessica Post said in a statement.
The SD-37 seat was left open after Republican state Sen. Dan Newberry stepped down in June to take a senior management position at a credit union. Both chambers of the Oklahoma legislature are dominated by the GOP, clearing the way for a wave of anti-choice legislation to be introduced.