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Strengths and weaknesses

Senate primary races could say a lot about political party power in Oklahoma City.

Ben Felder May 28th, 2014

While power in the state Senate won’t be changing political parties this election year, there are some interesting primary races that could say a lot about each party’s strength in Oklahoma City. Primary elections will be held across the state on June 24. The deadline to register to vote is May 31.

District 46
Senate District 46 includes the uptown neighborhoods of Crown Heights, Mesta Park and Heritage Hills. It also includes a wide area of south Oklahoma City, which has one of the region’s largest Hispanic populations.

Rep. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, is leaving her post in House District 88 to seek election in Senate District 46, which is being vacated by Sen. Al McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City, who is running for U.S. Congress.

Floyd has been an advocate for education and women’s rights during her two years in the House and has quickly risen as an influential voice for the state’s minority party.

While Floyd could draw heavy support from uptown OKC, where she currently serves on the House, her opponent in the Democratic primary hopes to draw on the southside’s growing Hispanic population, which is 34 percent of the electorate, according to the latest U.S. Census data.

Wilfredo Santos-Rivera is a native of Puerto Rico who has called Oklahoma City home for more than 20 years. He served one term on the Oklahoma City Public School Board and is running for Senate on a platform of education reform.

“Too often, the question of how to improve education becomes a political question, not an educational question,” Rivera said.

Rivera said he doesn’t want to be seen as an “ethnic candidate” but realizes he needs to turn out the Hispanic base in south OKC in order to win next month’s primary, which could offer some clues about the future of the Democratic Party in Oklahoma City.

District 40
A Senate primary race that could tell a lot about the state of the Republican Party is in District 40. Stretching west from Western Ave. to Bethany, the district features six Republican candidates who represent different points along the political spectrum.

Steve Kern, a pastor and husband to Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, has fought against marriage equality and championed for pro-life and smallgovernment legislation. He uses the phrase “kern-servative,” which has meaning considering some of the far right issues his wife has made headlines for in the past.

While Kern might represent a farright candidate in this urban district, there are several other candidates who fall closer to the center. Michael Taylor is also a pro-life, small government Republican. But he believes he has appeal to the diverse population of District 40.

“There is a wide range of incomes and unique individuals in [district 40],” Taylor said. “I think I fit kind of in the middle of them.”

Other Republicans competing in next month’s primary include Joe Howell, David Hooten, Ervin Yen and Brian Winslow. Current Senator Cliff Branan reaches term limits in 2014.

Other Senate primaries to watch

District 22

Senate District 22 is made up of OKC’s northwest suburbs, including Piedmont and west Edmond. Three candidates are running in the Republican primary in this deeply conservative district. Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Yukon, decided not to seek reelection, which means either Stephanie Bice (works in public relations), Leif Francel (MIT graduate and science teacher) or Phil Woodward (director of the Oklahoma Pharmaceutical Association) will be the district’s new senator.

District 48

Sen. Constance Johnson making a bid for the U.S. Senate has left a vacancy in Senate District 48, which covers northeast OKC and leans Democratic. Anastasia Pittman, a current member of the House, and Christine Byrd, who has worked as director of the state Democratic party, are squaring off in next month’s primary.

District 42

The Senate district that covers Midwest City features a Republican primary battle between three candidates looking to replace Sen. Cliff Aldridge, who reaches term limits this year. Greg Childers and Jack Fry are the Republican candidates and Charles Thompson is the Independent candidate running in the District 42 primary race.

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