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'Oklahomans Are Waking Up,' Says Democratic Leader After Special Elections

Oklahoma teacher Jacob Rosecrants become the third special election Democrat to flip a seat previously held by a Republican.

By Joy Hampton

Oklahoma teacher Jacob Rosecrants has become the third special election Democrat to flip a seat previously held by a Republican.

It was a bittersweet victory for the Norman resident who will have to give up teaching, a job he loves, to try to protect education in Oklahoma.

"Hard work pays off. Coalition building is what I can bring to the state house," Rosecrants said. "The same kind of coalition building that helped me win in District 46, that hadn't had a Democrat representative since the '80s. The most important thing is that my constituents in my district now have a representative that will be just as accessible as my predecessor, Scott Martin."

Rosecrants won 60 percent of the vote, claiming 3,176 ballots to Republican Darin Chambers' 2,081.

Absentee mail ballots gave Rosecrants a 241 to 203 lead over Chambers and early voting numbers saw him leading 104 to 65 votes. Election day ballots increased that early lead as Rosecrants garnered 2,831 votes on Tuesday to Chambers 1,813 votes.

"It's very exciting. I think it's indicative of the fact that Oklahomans are waking up and realizing that Republican leadership has failed us," Democratic State Chair Anna Langthorn said. "All three of the districts we have won were districts where Democrats typically receive about 40 percent of the vote. It's a very good sign for us in the remaining special elections and in 2018."

Langthorn said it takes good candidates who work really to get to know their districts.

"Every legislative seat we've flipped in the last several election cycles, including special elections, we've won because the candidate knocked hundreds, if not thousands, of doors," Langthorn said.

Democrats have held the House District 46 seat in the past.

"This has not always been a Republican district," former mayor Cindy Rosenthal said. "Vickie White Rankin, a former teacher, was my representative when I lived in the district. Republican or Democrat, the district cares about education and what is important to Norman."

Republican Scott Martin held the seat for a decade. Elected in 2006, he would have term-limited out in 2018 but stepped down early after accepting a position as the new executive director of the Norman Chamber of Commerce.

"People in Oklahoma are tired of business as usual, as evidenced by the third special election in a row going to a Democratic candidate who focuses on the issues facing the state and not partisan politics," campaign consultant Sarah Baker said when the numbers came in Tuesday evening.

While registered Republicans are in the majority in HD 46 at 11,779, that number is less than half of the total 24,449 registered voters who appeared to be eligible to cast ballots in the election, as of Aug. 14. That total includes 8,750 registered Democrats, 3,850 Independents and 70 Libertarians.

Baker said Democrats will be out knocking doors for Steven Vincent in the upcoming Senate District 45 race. Vincent will face off Nov. 14 with Republican Paul Rosino.

(c)2017 The Norman Transcript (Norman, Okla.)

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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