Deeply red Oklahoma elected a state senator this week who breaks the mold of the typical Sooner State politician. Democrat Allison Ikley-Freeman, a 26-year-old lesbian, bested Republican Brian O’Hara in Tuesday’s special election to win a seat in west Tulsa’s conservative Senate District 37.
Complete but unofficial election results show Ikley-Freeman, who is a therapist at a nonprofit mental health agency, won by 31 votes. Her win is the fourth pickup for state Democrats in special elections this year in Republican-dominated Oklahoma, which has seen years of state budget shortfalls and the scandal-fueled resignations of several Republican incumbents.
Ikley-Freeman, a wife and mother of three, said she was “shocked” upon hearing she had won.
“The odds were not in our favor, and we knew it, but we knew if we could fight hard, we had a chance,” she told NBC News. “It was worth fighting for.”
Ikley-Freeman attributed her victory to “a lot of hard work” and “getting out and knocking on doors.”
“That voter-to-voter contact really made a difference,” she said, adding that she and her campaign team even mailed out handwritten postcards to people in the district.
Once she assumes office, Ikley-Freeman said she plans to focus on the “most vulnerable Oklahomans” who are “struggling every day.” Her campaign website lists public education, mental health, police accountability and chronic homelessness among her priority issues.
Toby Jenkins, executive director of Oklahoman’s for Equality, an LGBTQ advocacy organization based in Tulsa, told NBC News Ikley-Freeman is “the first openly LGBTQ individual elected to an office in Tulsa County.”
“It’s a huge historic step for us,” Jenkins said. “It’s going to be really inspiring to our young people.”
Jenkins called Ikley-Freeman a “no-nonsense person,” a “worker bee” who’s not afraid to “roll up her sleeves” to get the job done.
While Ikley-Freeman is set to be the first out lawmaker in Tulsa County, Jenkins noted other parts of the state have elected openly LGBTQ politicians. Kay Floyd, who represents parts of Oklahoma City, was the first out lesbian elected to the Oklahoma Legislature. Floyd’s predecessor, Al McAffrey, a gay man, was the first openly LGBTQ person elected to serve in the state Legislature.
Ikley-Freeman will likely have to wait until Feb. 1 to take office, according to Tulsa World, because the resignation of the incumbent, Dan Newberry, a Republican, does not become effective until Jan. 31.