By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief
State and local voters turned out in record-breaking numbers Tuesday afternoon in the conclusion to one of the most bitterly contested Presidential elections in recent memory. Sand Springs precincts saw especially high turnout as this election was close to home for many Sandite voters. Several candidates for State and local government have Sand Springs ties.
Longtime Sand Springs resident Jadine Nollan was reelected to House District 66 for a third term by a large margin. In 2012 she won with 66.8% of the vote and ran unopposed in 2014 to retain her position. Democratic challenger Dianna Phillips, also of Sand Springs, brought in only 32.10% of the vote.
Incumbent Republican Dan Newberry staved off his Democratic challenger in a battle for the Senate District 37 seat. Former Sand Springs Superintendent Lloyd Snow waged a heated campaign to unseat Newberry, but drew only 40% of the vote. Independent candidate Shawn Ketcher bought in 4%. Newberry was first elected in 2008 with 63% of the vote and was reelected in 2012 by winning the Republican primary with 67% and running unopposed in the general election.
"We thought it'd be much closer, but it isn't," said Snow, in his concession speech. "If you can't run a competitive race with 200 grand working eight hours a day knocking doors, I don't know what will do it..You get what you get. We need more advocates. I've never taken losses to be personal. I'll always be a noisy citizen, but I'll never do this again."
Incumbent Republican Vic Regalado won reelection to the office of Tulsa County Sheriff, handily defeating Democratic challenger Rex Berry with 66% of the vote. Regalado won a special election earlier this year for Stanley Glanz's unexpired term. Regalado holds a Tulsa address, but lives in the Sand Springs Public School district and his kids attend Sand Springs schools.
Democratic incumbent Karen Keith easily fended off Republican challenger Joshua Turley to retain the position of County Commissioner. Keith, a former KJRH television reporter, first won election in 2008. Turley is a lifelong Sand Springs resident and a 24-year veteran of the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office. Keith drew 57% of the vote.
All seven justices up for retention during this election were retained by an average margin of 36%. Not surprising, as no justice has ever been ousted on the ballot in the history of Oklahoma.
State Question No. 776 passed with moderate support amounting to 60% of the vote. The question amends the State Constitution to affirm the State's right to carry out the death penalty. Its passage will allow the Legislature to designate any method of execution not prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.
State Question No. 777, the "Right to Farm" amendment was overwhelming defeated with only 28% support.
State Question No. 779, a constitutional amendment that would have created a 1% sales tax increase to fund raises for teachers, was defeated by a 17% margin.
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister issued a statement in response to 779's defeat. "Until we are prepared to take bold action on behalf of public education, we will continue to suffer the consequences, as a greater and greater number of teachers leave the state or exit the profession altogether. I believe Oklahomans support teachers, but they did not want to relieve the Legislature of its responsibility. I will be back before state lawmakers this next legislative session, fighting for kids and a regionally competitive wage for teachers - one that reflects their work as highly trained professionals who change the lives of nearly 70,000 students every day."
State Question No. 780, a criminal justice reform initiative, passed with overwhelming support, as did State Question No. 781, who's passage was conditional on the passage of 780. 780 will reclassify several drug possession and property crimes from felony status to misdemeanor, while 781 will create funding for criminal rehabilitation. 780 passed by 65% and 781 passed by 62%.
State Question No. 790 was solidly defeated with only 40% support. The bill would have abolished an existing clause in the State Constitution prohibiting the use of public funds for religious purposes.
State Question No. 792, a law to modernize Oklahoma's liquor laws passed with overwhelming support at 72%.
Unsurprisingly, Republican nominee Donald Trump easily secured the State's seven electoral votes, though it was by the lowest margin of victory since Bob Dole defeated Bill Clinton in 1996. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson took 6% of the popular vote as the first third-party candidate on the Oklahoma ballot since 2000. Trump's 23% victory margin was a tad bit behind the 30% cushion enjoyed by the past three Republican nominees, but was still more than enough to defeat Hillary Clinton.
Johnson's 6% was the highest third-party showing since Independent candidate Ross Perot took 10.84% in 1996, and the highest showing for a Libertarian in State history. The Libertarian Party was on the Oklahoma ballot from 1984 through 2000 and never broke the 1% mark.
Hillary Clinton's 35% was the highest mark for a Democrat in Oklahoma since Al Gore took 38% in 2000. She slightly edged out President Obama's percentage, but was significantly behind her husband's 40% in 1996. A Democrat has not won Oklahoma's electors since Lyndon B. Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater in 1964.