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Okla. Dem wins Senate seat in special election

Rochelle Hines

Democrats retained an Oklahoma City Senate seat and regained a southeastern Oklahoma House seat in special elections held Tuesday.

Rep. Al McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City, easily beat attorney Jason Reese 66.6 percent to 33.4 percent in ballots cast during the special election to replace Democratic Senate leader Andrew Rice, who moved to Tennessee.

The Senate race was one of four legislative contests being decided.

In southeastern Oklahoma, a high school principal captured the House District 1 special election to succeed Rep. Rusty Farley, who died last year. Unofficial returns showed Curtis McDaniel beating Joe Silk, his nearest competitor, 61.5 percent to 28.5 percent. Farley's daughter, Bethany, and James Skipper both ran as independents, but only garnered 7.4 percent and 2.6 percent of the vote, respectively.

Guthrie resident Ann Griffin won the GOP primary for the Senate District 20 seat left vacant by the death of Sen. David Myers. She beat Wayne Murphey 40 percent to 33 percent and will meet Democrat Magnus W.T. Scott Sr. of Langston in an April 3 general election.

Another primary decided Tuesday was for House District 71 of Tulsa, which was vacated when former Republican Rep. Dan Sullivan left for a position with the Grand River Dam Authority.

Unofficial election returns showed Dan Arthrell beat Robert Walpole 85.6 percent to 14.4 percent to win the Democratic primary. On the Republican side, Katie Henke had 77.3 percent to 12.7 percent for her nearest competitor, Gerald J. Lovoi.

Arthrell and Henke will meet in a general election April 3.

Even with McAffrey's win, Republicans still outnumber Democrats in the Senate 31-16, with one vacancy. Gov. Mary Fallin will have to call a special election to fill McAffrey's seat in the House.

His spokesman, Cullen Sweeney, said McAffrey was a man of few words but wanted to convey his gratitude to voters.

"He simply wants to say that he will continue to represent Senate District 46 with the same commitment that he gave to House District 88."

Reese congratulated McAffrey on a well-run campaign.

Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins cheered McAffrey's victory and was optimistic that McDaniel would win in the southeastern Oklahoma race.

"With McAffrey, we felt like he was a strong candidate and felt like he would capture that Senate seat," Collins said. "We also thought we could regain the House District 1 seat. We certainly feel like McDaniel was going to win."

Collins also said the victories show Democrats have a message that resonates with voters.

"A lot of people have written off the Democratic Party in Oklahoma as dead and obsolete, and I think we're proving we're not all those things."

Matt Pinnell, chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, said he was pleased with the outcomes of the Senate District 20 primary and the House District 71 contests.

"We have two dynamic female candidates that I'm very excited about as they move on to the general election," Pinnell said.

As for the other races, Pinnell said they were in tough districts for Republicans to win and officials "knew that going in."

Results of the races are unofficial until the Oklahoma State Election Board certifies the results, state Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said.

The Associated Press