OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Democratic state senator from Oklahoma City who became the first openly gay person elected to the Oklahoma Legislature formally launched his campaign Thursday for a congressional seat being vacated by two-term Republican U.S. Rep. James Lankford.
Surrounded by his children and grandchildren, state Sen. Al McAffrey promised to bring to Washington a spirit of bipartisanship and "common sense to a place that desperately needs it."
"As your voice in Congress, I pledge to work with anyone, no matter what side of the aisle, as long as it means doing the right thing for Oklahoma," said McAffrey, 65.
A U.S. Navy veteran and former Oklahoma City police officer, McAffrey was first elected as a state representative in 2006. At the time, he was the first openly gay person ever elected to the Oklahoma Legislature. He was elected to the state Senate in 2012 to a district that includes a mix of trendy areas like the Paseo and Midtown districts along with more conservative portions of south Oklahoma City.
The 5th Congressional District, which Lankford has represented in Congress since 2011, includes nearly all of Oklahoma County, the state's largest, along with Seminole and Pottawatomie counties to the east. Although Republicans have held the seat since the 1970s, McAffrey said the district is trending more Democratic and that voters are becoming less interested in party designation.
"This district doesn't vote for a party. They vote for the person," said McAffrey, who also is a member of the Choctaw Nation. "Some people say it's an uphill battle, but I think I can win it."
McAffrey is the latest on a list of Democratic contenders for the seat that includes retired University of Central Oklahoma professor Tom Guild, who ran unsuccessfully for the post in 2010 and 2012, retired federal contractor Keith Davenport and former state employee Marilyn Rainwater.
On the Republican side, candidates include state Sen. Clark Jolley, Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas, former state Sen. Steve Russell, and former state Rep. Shane Jett.
Sean Murphy can be reached at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy