For the second time in less than a month, a Democrat has pulled off a stunning victory over a Republican candidate, by flipping a State House race in an almost hopelessly red legislative district. On Tuesday night, Democrat Cyndi Munson scored an improbable 54-46 victory in Oklahoma’s House District 85, a suburban district Northwest of Oklahoma City. Since 1965, when the district was first created, it had never been won by a Democrat. That changed on Tuesday night.
The 85th District went 61-39 for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election. Yet, on Tuesday night, in a traditionally low turnout special election, the district turned a surprisingly solid shade of blue. Speaking to supporters after she’d won, Munson acknowledged the magnitude of her achievement, proclaiming:
Each time I heard it was an uphill battle I got more strength. This is amazing!
Munson lost her race for the same seat in 2014 by 13 points, but she battled back and emerged on Tuesday night a winner. She ran on a platform supporting education and women’s health, while opposing income tax cuts for top earners. In a deep red district her message resonated with voters, weary of the GOP’s extremist stranglehold on Oklahoma politics.
As astonishing as Munson’s victory was, it was not the first Democratic upset of its kind this summer. In August, Democrat Taylor Bennett pulled off a similar surprise in Georgia’s 80th House District. Despite being outspent 2 to 1 in a district Mitt Romney carried by a 56-43 margin over Barack Obama in 2012, Bennett coasted to a 55-45 surprise victory over his Republican opponent, Max Davis.
Bennett won not by following the conventional wisdom of downplaying social issues in the South, but by being outspokenly liberal on social issues and standing firmly in support of LGBTQ equality. Like Munson, he won in a special election, when turnout is usually down and as a result, Republicans historically have enjoyed an advantage. Not this time.
While it may be too optimistic for Democrats to take the results of two special elections and call it a trend, it is worth pointing out that in two heavily Republican districts in the South, Democrats have overcome long odds to flip seats from red to blue. Maybe, just maybe, those two victories are a sign of more to come, as conservative voters join the rest of American in becoming fed up with the Republicans’ inability to govern.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.