State voters, including Cleveland County residents, set turnout records

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

A record number of Oklahoma voters cast ballots Tuesday, by mail and during early voting.

NORMAN, Okla. —  — Voter energy, fueled by educator promises to "Remember in November," resulted in record voter turnout across Oklahoma Tuesday night, although Democrats were unable to capitalize on the momentum as much as they had hoped.

More than 1.185 million Oklahomans cast votes for governor, the highest total for a midterm election since at least 1986, according to the state election board, for a 56.09 percent voter turnout. That's more than 16 percentage points higher than the last midterms, when 824,831 votes were cast for governor.

"Good voter participation is a sign of a healthy democracy, and Oklahomans should be proud of their engagement in the election process this year," Oklahoma Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said. "We have set modern records for the number of candidates to file for office, turnout in a gubernatorial year primary election and turnout in a gubernatorial year general election. This is a banner year for elections in Oklahoma."

In Cleveland County, 92,055 people voted for governor: 46,597 (50.62 percent) for Democrat Drew Edmondson, making Cleveland County one of four counties in Oklahoma that went for Edmondson. That's a significant increase over 2014, when only 60,227 people voted for governor, the majority for Mary Fallin.

Locally most seats stayed in the same party's hands, although Rep. Jacob Rosecrants fended off a strong challenge by Republican Bryan Vinyard to secure a full term in HD46 for the Democrats for the first time in over a decade.

The strong Democrat turnout in the county impacted the sheriff's election, as well. While current Sheriff Todd Gibson won by a wide margin, Democrat Kevin Hammond earned 37,375 votes (41.38 percent) in a race that didn't even feature a Democratic challenger in 2016.

Democrats gained ground in Cleveland County and scored a significant victory when Kendra Horn became the first Democrat to win U.S. House District 5 since 1975, but Republicans retained control of every statewide office and increased their supermajorities in the House and Senate.

Attending a watch party of Headington College, OU freshman Emily Tucker was less than happy with Tuesday's gubernatorial results.

"I'm really disappointed. I got my dad to vote in this election because I said Edmondson actually has a chance," she said. "This is the first time he's ever voted.

"With the [teacher] walkout this last spring, I saw the public leaning toward supporting the schools. With Kevin Stitt, he's not the best for schools. I just thought Oklahomans were better than that."

Post election, local Republican candidates were quick to point out that education funding is a bipartisan issue. Moore's Mark McBride, who defended his HD 53 seat, said education will be a top priority for the House. He will chair the House education appropriations committee.

"It'll be a little different," McBride said. "I saw a bigger need, in that we need to focus on education. It was hard to give up being chairman of energy. It was something I waited on for six years.

"But as I stand below Devon Tower here, I think education and the state of our classrooms is something we need to address."

Kevin West, a Republican incumbent who defended his House District 54 seat, agreed, although he said he wants to find a way to fund education by ending tax credits and "freeing up money already in the system," rather than tax increases.

OU student Matthew Welsh contributed to this story.

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