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House District 88 has been home to the most progressive and left-leaning voter block in Oklahoma. 

That reality was revealed, once again, when Mauree Turner won House District 88’s Democratic Party primary as she toppled moderate three-term incumbent Jason Dunnington.  

Dunnington has held the house district seat since 2014 and ran unopposed in the house district’s primary and general elections in 2016 and 2018. 

Some Democrats in the district – a number large enough to vote him out – considered his moderate stances too accommodating toward the Republican majority in the House.

Turner is in a long line of popular candidates in the district who even rural Democrats would object to.

In 2012, Democrat Kay Floyd won the house district seat and became the state’s first openly lesbian legislator.

And in 2014, Paula Sophia ran for the seat as an openly transgender person to run for office in Oklahoma but lost in the Democratic Party primaries to current House District 88 representative, Jason Dunnington (D). 

Sophia was the second openly transgender person to run for a legislative seat in Oklahoma. Brittany Novotny was the first in 2010 with an unsuccessful challenge to conservative Sally Kern, the incumbent in HD-84 on the west side of the metro.*

Kelly Barlean ran unopposed in the Republican Party primary and will go up against Turner in the general election November 3.

With less than a month left until the November elections, Free Press will be providing coverage of races in the Oklahoma City metro area in depth. By doing so, we hope that you, the reader, gain a better understanding of the choices you will have on November 3.

Mauree Turner (D)

“I live in the most diverse district in Oklahoma, but we keep getting middle of the road solutions to our biggest problems,” Mauree Turner wrote in response to a Free Press survey. 

“We should be driving the conversation about what inclusive and equitable policy looks like…”

One of her campaign’s top issues is criminal justice reform, as she has been personally impacted having a formerly-incarcerated parent. 

On an episode of The Gayly Podcast she explained that her experience taught her that “Oklahoma’s justice system does a really phenomenal job of tearing families apart long after they leave the criminal system.”

For reference, Oklahoma holds most incarcerated women in the U.S. and ranks fourth for most prisons in a state. State Question 805, which will be on the November ballot, is part of the initiative to decrease the prison population in Oklahoma. 

Along with criminal justice reform, Turner also told us that two other important issues to her are increasing the minimum wage and reevaluating how the state runs its public school system. 

She wrote that it’s important to her to be “creating a living wage that allows for people to shift the narrative from 1 in 6 folks having to decide if they should put food on the table or pay the electricity bill.” Currently, the minimum wage in Oklahoma City is $7.50 an hour.  

When it comes to public education, she explained that she wants to see less emphasis on having student resource officers in schools and instead have counselors and social workers fill in the gaps. She also wants to change school funding from relying on property tax revenue. 

Experience in Organizing

While she has no direct experience holding public office, Turner has a history in community organizing. 

She is currently the regional field director of the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice and has also worked with other community-based groups like the Council on American-Islamic relations and Freedom Oklahoma. 

If elected, Turner would be the first non-binary person to hold office in U.S. history and be the first gay and Black Muslim to hold office in Oklahoma.

Kelly Barlean (R) 

Kelly Barlean is the Republican nominee for House District 88 and he believes the best way to tackle current issues related to the pandemic is through economic development. 

“You can’t waste time worrying about the living room curtains when the house is on fire,” Barlean told Free Press. “Without a dramatic increase in revenue, enlightened policy bills are [dead on arrival] when they get to Appropriations.  Again, common sense applies in how we attain job creation to get Oklahomans off unemployment.”

The candidate believes that forming a budget needs to focus on helping the state recover from the economic damages from the pandemic.

When asked what he considered to be the most important issue that has risen due to the pandemic, Barlean said that there had been an increase in property crimes.

“There will be an unprecedented social storm when the eviction wave hits as it will cause a marked increase in residential burglaries, thefts from cars, porches and yards,” Barlean wrote us.

Experience

The retired attorney on his campaign website described how he has worked with many left-leaning and progressive voters while holding office in the past. 

In Washington, he served as a legislator and represented the state’s off-shore island counties, and he also served as a city attorney in Colorado. 

In his election in Washington, he won by a margin on his first term and won by over 10,000 votes during his second run, which he considers to stand as a testament to his ability to work across the aisle. 

If you live in an area with a 73102, 73103, 73106, 73107, 73112, or 73118 zip code, then you have the opportunity in November to vote for either Barlean or Turner.


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*Update 0630, 10-07-20: This report originally said that Paula Sophia was the first open transgender person to run for office in Oklahoma. It has been corrected to show that Brittany Novotny was the first.