Patrick B. McGuigan
Al McAffrey is likely to be formally sworn in as a member of the state Senate next Tuesday or Wednesday. CapitolBeatOK has learned Supreme Court Justice Yvonne Kauger has agreed to administer the oath in the well of the Senate chamber.
Now representing House District 88 in Oklahoma City, McAffrey won a comfortable victory in the Senate District 46 race held Tuesday (February 14).
Rep. McAffrey’s departure from the House of Representatives is expected to trigger a multi-candidate Democratic primary scramble for the eventual special election to fill out his House term.
McAffrey, a Democrat, defeated Republican Jason Reese in a low turnout race for the Senate job. McAffrey had 1,258 votes (66.63%) to Reese’s 630 votes (33.37%).
Reese had made the race interesting, in a district fashioned to be comfortable for the former incumbent (Andrew Rice), although McAffrey was always considered the favorite.
Reese told CapitolBeatOK Tuesday evening, "There's no glossing over it, tonight was a tough loss. I respect the campaign Al McAffrey ran, and wish him the best in his new position."
Reese enjoyed support from the state Chamber of Commerce, while McAffrey had his share of small business owners advocating his election. Reese was supportive of parental choice in education, whereas McAffrey opposed such programs, deeming them “vouchers.”
Reese also sent one “mailer” critical of the Obama administration’s economic record, while McAffrey promised to “fight for the middle class.”
While voter turnout was low, participation was comparatively higher in the north end of the district, where voters also decided a more-competitive-than-normal school board race. Voter lines were non-existent throughout election day in the near Southside areas where Reese had hoped to make inroads.
Not long after polls closed, Reese “tweeted” his congratulations to McAffrey, then called him later in the evening to concede and congratulate him on the victory.
McAffrey was joyful in a telephone interview with CapitolBeatOK about two hours after polls closed Tuesday night. He thanked supporters and said he looked forward to his new duties.
House Democrats issued a statement soon after the polls closed, congratulating their colleague on his victory. State Rep. Scott Inman of Del City, minority leader, said, “Rep. McAffrey has been a strong advocate for working Oklahomans and a committed proponent of public education. He has also been a valued member of our caucus and will be greatly missed. However, the House Democrats look forward to working with him as he continues to serve Oklahoma in the Senate.”
Also celebrating the win for Democrats was former state Rep. Wallace Collins, the state party chairman.
In comments sent to CapitolBeatOK, Collins said, "I believe that the people of the district have confidence in Senator McAffrey to carry on the tradition of excellent representation, following in the footsteps of former Senators, Bernest Cain and Andrew Rice.”
Collins was also energized by the results in House District 1 in far southeast Oklahoma, where his party recaptured a seat that had been held, for the first time in state history, by a Republican.
McAffrey declared his candidacy for the job the day Rice announced he was resigning to move out of state. In the House since the 2006 election, Rep. McAffrey has been a reliable ally of municipal employee unions or associations, and an advocate of teacher pay hikes.
McAffrey owns OK Cremation and Mortuary Services in MidTown Oklahoma City. A military veteran, he led a chorus of legislative critics of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing protests at military funerals.
McAffrey was the first openly gay man elected to the state House. He has spoken frequently at Cimarron Alliance Foundation events and is active in the city’s Diversity Business Association.