Once thought to be a juggernaut, support for teacher causes appears to have waned

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Protestors gather at the Oklahoma Capitol as part of the ongoing teacher walkout earlier this year. BRIANNA BAILEY/The Frontier
Earlier this year, as teachers across Oklahoma walked out of their classrooms and demanded a raise and better funding at the State Capitol, it appeared they would be an unstoppable force — a tidal wave ready to wash over every obstacle in their path.

They got their raise, but months later it seems they may have lost at the bigger prize.

As results from Tuesday’s elections finalize, it appears enthusiasm for teachers waned in the wake of the walkout. Of 38 current educators who ran for either the State Senate or House of Representatives, only 10 were elected Tuesday. And support among teachers for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson made little difference in that race, as he lost to Republican Kevin Stitt by more than 143,000 votes.

Edmondson rallied at the State Capitol earlier this year alongside teachers while Stitt said that while he supported a teacher raise, had he been governor at the time he would have vetoed the House Bill that ultimately paid for it.

But it seemed to make little difference Tuesday.

In all, only eight of 27 current educators seeking election to the state House of Representatives won — including Republican Sherrie Conley, a principal at Graystone Elementary School in Oklahoma City, who knocked off Steve Jarman by a wide margin. Jarman is a retired teacher from Pauls Valley who taught for more than 30 years.

Of the 11 current educators seeking election to the state Senate, only two won election.

Cyndi Ralston, a Democrat who went viral on social media last spring when she announced she was seeking to remove Republican Kevin McDugle from his House District 12 seat, received only 40 percent of the vote on Tuesday. McDugle, who criticized teachers during the walkout, saying in a Facebook Live video that he “would never vote” for a teacher measure ever again, nevertheless defeated Ralston easily.

Jack Reavis, a social studies teacher in Muskogee, lost by more than 600 votes to Chris Sneed, a Republican who was met with controversy earlier this month when he sent out a mailer using a picture of Reavis allegedly dressed to look like Hitler. Reavis said it was an image taken out of context from a satirical video.

One of the lone teachers who won Tuesday night, Tulsa Booker T. Washington High School history teacher John Waldron, defeated Republican Todd Blackburn by more than 1,000 votes.

But results like that were few and far between for teachers across the state.

And lawmakers who opposed the bill that would fund teacher pay raises succeeded on Tuesday.
Four Republican lawmakers who voted against the $425 million tax bill that would help fund a teacher pay raise were thought to be possibly vulnerable to being voted out. Those lawmakers — Rep. Kevin West, Rep. Tom Gann and Rep. Tommy Hardin — all easily outpaced their opponents to win their races.

Sen. Mark Allen, who voted against HB1010xx in the Senate, also won on Tuesday.

The victories for West, Gann, and Hardin were somewhat surprising given that many of their compatriots in voting against House Bill 1010xx were not as lucky earlier this year. There were 19 state representatives who voted against the bill — eight were ousted in the primaries, while the others were either term-limited or chose not to seek re-election.

Incumbents win big
Almost all state lawmakers seeking re-election won. There were 36 Republicans incumbents — 28 in the House and eight in the Senate — and seven Democrats, all in the House.

All House and Senate incumbent Republicans won their races Tuesday night, and three Democrats — Donnie Condit, Steve Kouplen and Karen Gaddis — lost.

Kendra Horn, Democrat candidate for Congressional District 5. Courtesy.

Four Republicans ran for re-election in the U.S. House and only one lost in what was perhaps the closest race of the night. Democratic challenger Kendra Horn defeated U.S. Rep. Steve Russell in his run for a third term representing the 5th District. The race stayed close all night and wasn’t called until about 9:45 p.m., with Horn winning just over 50 percent of the vote. She will become the only Democrat of Oklahoma’s five congressional seats.

Though some speculated a “Blue Wave” might make its way into the deep red state, it didn’t show up Tuesday night. Of the 73 races up for grabs in the Oklahoma House, 60 went to Republicans and 13 went to Democrats.

Of the 19 Senate races on the ballot, 15 seats went to Republicans and four went to Democrats.

State Questions

Out of the five state questions on the ballot, voters approved only one.

Marsy’s Law will amend the state Constitution to guarantee crime victims a broad range of rights. It passed by about 78 percent.

SQ 793 would have expanded where optometrists and opticians are allowed to practice and sell eye care products, allowing them to operate in big box retail stores such as WalMart and Target. A little more than 50 percent of Oklahomans said no to the proposed measure.

SQ 798 would have allowed the governor and lieutenant governor to be elected together on one ticket. The proposal was rejected with 54 percent of voters against it.

SQ 800 would have amended the Constitution to create the Oklahoma Vision Fund. The fund, run by the state treasurer, would have received an increasing portion of state gross production taxes beginning in 2020. The goal was to stabilize state revenue. It failed with only 43 percent of voters in favor of the proposal.

SQ 801 also failed to pass by voters. The measure, which was controversial among teachers, would have allowed school districts to spend money that is currently restricted to their building funds to operational expenditures, such as teacher salaries. A little more than 50 percent of voters were against it.

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Dylan Goforth

Editor in Chief/Staff Writer

Dylan is a news junkie and QuikTrip addict. He spends too much time on Twitter, but has launched what will be a failed attempt to cut back in 2018. Contact: dylan@readfrontier.com or 918-931-9405.
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