- Associated Press - Friday, June 13, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A transgendered former police officer running in a district she used to patrol and a pastor whose legislator wife made incendiary comments about minorities are among the candidates in hotly contested primary races for the Oklahoma House and Senate.

A total of 18 legislative seats, four in the Senate and 14 in the House, could be decided in the June 24 primary election since candidates of only one party filed for those seats. Of those, the GOP will retain three Senate seats and 11 House posts, while Democrats will keep one spot in the Senate and three in the House.

In crowded primary fields, if no candidate secures more than 50 percent of the vote, a primary runoff election will be held Aug. 26.

Republicans currently enjoy veto-proof majorities in the House (72-29) and Senate (36-12), and the balance of power is not expected to shift much this election cycle.

Paula Sophia, a 48-year-old Army combat veteran and ex-police officer, is one of four Democrats seeking to represent the open House District 88 seat in central Oklahoma City that includes trendy areas such as Heritage Hills and the Midtown, Plaza and Paseo districts. It’s an area she patrolled when she first completed the academy in the early 1990s and later as a bicycle officer before she retired earlier this year.

“I really enjoyed it,” Sophia said. “I like the mobility of a bicycle and the personal contact with people on a daily basis, doing the business checks and working with people out on the street.”

If elected, she would be Oklahoma’s first transgendered office holder. The district is currently represented by the state’s first openly gay female lawmaker, Kay Floyd, and previously by Al McAffrey, the first openly gay male lawmaker. McAffrey is running for the U.S. House, and Floyd is seeking his state Senate seat.

A familiar name is on the ballot in a Republican primary for the open Senate District 40 seat in northwest Oklahoma City that includes portions of Nichols Hills, Bethany, The Village and Warr Acres. Steve Kern, a 67-year-old evangelical pastor, is the husband of state Rep. Sally Kern, who made national headlines in 2008 when she said homosexuals pose a greater threat to the country than terrorism.

A vocal critic of gay marriage, Steve Kern didn’t distance himself from his wife’s comments, saying that “they were true in the sense that the (gay) agenda was more stealthy than the terrorists’ agenda.”

In a separate incident two years ago, Sally Kern was reprimanded and delivered an apology on the House floor after denigrating blacks and women during debate on an affirmative action bill.

Steve Kern faces five other Republicans in the primary.

The mother of a 9-year-old boy killed in the May 2013 tornado in Moore is seeking to oust a first-term GOP incumbent in that community. Danni Legg, 41, is one of the organizers of a group seeking a statewide vote to fund school storm shelters. She will face Rep. Mark McBride in the winner-take-all GOP primary election.

Other familiar names on the June 24 primary ballot include former Republican state Reps. Kevin Calvey, who ran for the open 5th Congressional District seat in 2010. And in Midwest City, former Republican Oklahoma County Commissioner Brent Rinehart, who pleaded guilty to a campaign-related misdemeanor in 2009, is seeking to oust a Republican House incumbent. Former state Sen. Greg Childers of Del City is also seeking to return to the Legislature and will face a primary opponent in his race for the open Senate District 42 seat.


Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy

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