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Democrats hope historic win shifts power in Oklahoma

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OKLAHOMA CITY - For the first time in at least 50 years, a democrat will represent Oklahoma City's 85th house district.

And, now, the democrats have their sights set higher.

Cyndi Munson defeated Chip Carter Tuesday night with 54 percent of the vote, winning the seat that includes part of The Village, Nichols Hills and Quail Creek.

"It's a very significant victory," said Sarah Baker, communications director for the Oklahoma Democratic Party. "There were a lot of people who said she couldn't do it just because she was a democrat."

It had been at least half a century since the 85th district went blue.  Gov. Mary Fallin once held the seat.

Former Rep. David Dank defeated Munson for the seat just last year, but he passed away in April.

Munson won the special election to replace him and will serve the remainder of the term.  She is up for election again in November 2016.

Her victory gives the democrats 30 seats in the house - to 71 republicans.

"Sure, the republicans have a super-majority, they still have control, but this is a prime example that people are waking up and paying attention to what is going on," Baker said. "It's a great energy boost for us."

Baker and the democrats are eyeing the 2016 election as an opportunity to take back even more seats when, she said, many republicans will reach their term limits.  Munson's effective campaign is just another reason to be optimistic, she said.

"We know this works. It's worked in the past, and it's going to work again because, look, it worked here," she said. "And, if it worked here, it can work anywhere else in the state."

Political analysts said they were surprised to see Munson's victory, but the democrats had the perfect opportunity to seize the seat in a special election.

"The democrats were mobilized. They were probably excited about this election," said John Wood, who teaches in the University of Central Oklahoma's political science department. "The republicans just saw it as another election and maybe assumed we're going to win this one."

It didn't hurt to have a lower turnout - about 5,000 people or 20 percent of registered voters - or a candidate with name recognition after her defeat less than a year ago.

So, Wood is chalking the victory up to Munson's efforts not necessarily changing political attitudes.  Republicans will still hold a 71-30 advantage in the chamber.

"I think that creates some excitement for [the democrats] and creates some hope," he said. "They see a win in their corner, and they haven't seen a lot of wins in their time."

Wood said the republicans haven't been helped by the resignation of chairman Randy Brogdon or a feisty presidential primary, but he doubts this victory will make much of a difference in the long-term political picture.

The Oklahoma Republican Party did not return a call seeking comment.

Munson supporters like Susan Adams said, even with her victory, there is a long road ahead, but they're optimistic about what the state's newest lawmaker can bring to the chamber.

"I feel like she'll give some new blood and some new ideas," Adams said. "She is one who does not seem to cater to special interest groups."

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