In a election year that favored Democrats and was widely seen as a rebuke to President Trump, lesbian candidate Allison Ikley-Freeman has flipped a seat for Democrats in the deeply “red” state of Oklahoma.
Ikley-Freeman defeated Republican candidate Brian O’Hara for the seat representing District 37 in Oklahoma’s State Senate in a narrow election. The margin was 31 votes in a race where 4,437 votes were cast, which is less than one percentage point. The results were so close the winner wasn’t determined until one week after the election.
According to the Associated Press, Ikley-Freeman flipped the seat for Democrats amid growing frustration in Oklahoma over years of state budget shortfalls and scandals leading to the resignation of Republican incumbents. District 37 opened up in the special election as the result of the resignation of State Sen. Dan Newberry, a Republican.
Ikley-Freeman’s win is the fourth pickup for Democrats this year in Oklahoma, which is among the most Republican states in the country. However, Republicans will continue to hold supermajorities in both the Oklahoma House and Senate despite these wins.
A therapist at a nonprofit mental health agency, Ikley-Freeman is the third openly gay person ever elected to the Oklahoma legislature. Ikley-Freeman follows Sen. Al McAffrey, who was elected to the House in 2006; then state senator in 2012; and Rep. Kay Floyd, who was elected in 2012.
(Former Oklahoma Corporation Commission member Jim Roth, who’s gay, was appointed to the statewide position on a interim basis in 2009 by Democratic Gov. Brad Henry, but failed to keep the position in the 2008 election.)
Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez commended Ikley-Freeman in a statement for her win — noting the victory marks a shift because Trump carried the district in the 2016 presidential election.
“As we saw earlier this year, Oklahomans are voting for Democrats in these deep-red districts because they know our candidates will work to resolve the budget crisis facing Oklahomans and help build an economy that works for every working family, not just a wealthy few,” Perez said. “Tonight’s results have once again added to our growing streak of victories from last week and over the summer. But this is just the beginning. The DNC is proud to have invested in this race and we will continue working with the Oklahoma Democratic Party to elect Democrats up and down the ballot.”