Democrats may have lost close special elections for House seats in red districts in Georgia, Montana, North Carolina and Kansas, but two Oklahoma Democrats were able to pull off wins in special elections for their state’s legislature in deeply red districts. Michael Brooks, one of those Democrats, has a message for the rest of his party — voters reward focus on local issues.
“I think a big part of the reason I won this race is because I have roots in this community,” Brooks told Yahoo News. “I was born and raised in Senate District 44. My office is in the district, my house is in the district, my kids go to the same school where I went 40 years ago and I’ve been involved civically for the past 22 years, serving on different boards of directors. So I think I’ve been a member of this community for a long time.”
Community ties became an issue for Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff during his bid for Georgia’s Republican-leaning Sixth Congressional District last month. Though he was raised in the district he was running to represent, Ossoff was temporarily living just outside it with his fiancee as she finished medical school. Brooks advises future Democrat hopefuls to avoid the same mistake.
“The No. 1 thing is to put down some roots and gain some credibility in the community,” Brooks said. “I don’t think that we need more career politicians. We need people that have practical experience that can apply that at the legislature.”
Ossoff and the other Democrats who lost special elections were all running in historically red districts that were open because the Trump administration had selected the sitting congressmen to fill positions in the administration. Democrats won a special election for an open House seat in California.
Brooks, an immigration attorney who carried the district by 331 votes, will become one of only seven Democrats in Oklahoma’s right-leaning state senate. Democrats also recently picked up state assembly seats in New York and New Hampshire.
Brooks previously ran for the same state senate seat in 2014, but lost to incumbent Republican Ralph Shortey, who won by 10 points but later resigned due to child prostitution allegations. Trump won over 60 percent of the vote in Oklahoma last year.
To him, the long string of Democratic losses that preceded his narrow win do not signify a “toxic” brand, as Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, said after the Ossoff’s loss, just a misplaced focus.
“At this point, the national issues are in Washington, D.C.,” Brooks said, “and I understand that voters are anxious about those, but I’m most interested in what’s going on here in the state capitol in Oklahoma and trying to resolve some of the issues that we have here.”
“I’m not at all concerned with Nancy Pelosi at this moment,” Brooks said. “I’m interested in what’s going on in Oklahoma.”
Democrat Karen Gaddis, a public school teacher, also narrowly won a seat in the Oklahoma House of Representatives Tuesday after losing it last year.
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