Culture & the Family

Conservatives gain in Oklahoma legislative races

Jonathan Small | July 8, 2024

Last month’s primary elections resulted in the Oklahoma Legislature likely being more conservative next year. That’s good news for voters who care about issues such as judicial reform, taxes, and education.

This year’s legislative session ended without reform to Oklahoma’s secretive and liberal process for nominating judges in Oklahoma and without personal income tax reductions.

But many candidates who prevailed or advanced to runoffs in Republican primaries advocated for conservative reforms to change the secretive process for how Oklahoma nominates judges and for cutting or eliminating the personal income tax. Also, voter support for school choice has become undeniable.

In the Republican primary for House District 41, incumbent state Rep. Denise Crosswhite Hader, a conservative who publicly supports conservative judicial reforms, faced Shea Bracken, a trial lawyer. Hader, during the 2024 legislative session, publicly supported and voted for SJR 34, which would have allowed Oklahoma voters to change Oklahoma’s secretive judicial nominating process to resemble the transparent process found in the U.S. Constitution. Bracken is a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association Board of Governors, which unanimously voted against allowing Oklahomans to make changes to Oklahoma’s secretive judicial nominating process. Bracken campaigned for months and raised more than $100,000, a significant portion of that from attorneys, yet lost to Hader.

In the Republican primary for House District 33, incumbent state Rep. John Talley, who voted against SJR 34 and has opposed other conservative reforms, lost to candidate Molly Jenkins, who was a strong supporter of conservative judicial reforms. 

State Rep. Jeff Boatman, who drove dangerous legislation to help opponents of free speech use lawfare against their policy opponents and also voted against SJR 34, lost his bid for Senate District 25.

In the Republican primary for House District 13, incumbent state Rep. Neil Hays, who supports school choice, routed Muskogee Public Schools Superintendent Jarod Mendenhall, a notorious opponent of school choice who previously refused to obey a state law providing school choice to students with special needs.

In Senate District 1, incumbent state Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, who has championed eliminating the personal income tax for everyone and opposed special deals for casino operators, defeated Houston Brittain, who was backed by advocates for casino operators and those pushing for corporate welfare.

State Sen. Shane Jett, a vocal school-choice supporter, easily defeated former state Sen. Ron Sharp, a longtime school-choice opponent. Jett won re-election without a runoff. Sharp drew only 27 percent.

It turns out candidates who embrace conservative positions on judicial nominations, taxes, and education do far better, on average, than those who don’t in Oklahoma.

Jonathan Small President

Jonathan Small


Jonathan Small, C.P.A., serves as President and joined the staff in December of 2010. Previously, Jonathan served as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma Office of State Finance, as a fiscal policy analyst and research analyst for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and as director of government affairs for the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Small’s work includes co-authoring “Economics 101” with Dr. Arthur Laffer and Dr. Wayne Winegarden, and his policy expertise has been referenced by The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, National Review, the L.A. Times, The Hill, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post. His weekly column “Free Market Friday” is published by the Journal Record and syndicated in 27 markets. A recipient of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s prestigious Private Sector Member of the Year award, Small is nationally recognized for his work to promote free markets, limited government and innovative public policy reforms. Jonathan holds a B.A. in Accounting from the University of Central Oklahoma and is a Certified Public Accountant.

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