Paula Sophia wins run-off slot in House District 88

OK House District 88 candidate Paula Sophia (r) and her wife Pam. Photo by Robin Dorner.

Former Oklahoma City police officer Paula Sophia, one of four transgender candidates for state legislator in the U.S., won a run-off slot for Oklahoma House District 88 in the primary election on June 24. Sophia faces Jason Dunnington in the August 26 Democratic run-off election. Dunnington placed first, with 40.5% of the vote, Sophia, who only started her campaign for office two months ago, rolled up 23.6%. Two other candidates, Mark Faulk and John Gibbons, got 19.4% and 16.4% respectively.

In remarks before a jubilant crowd at her watch party in Oklahoma City’s Plaza District, Sophia recalled her days as a police officer:  “Having a heart while I’m doing my job made me sow some seeds that made this night possible. People saw me patrolling the streets; they saw me having a heart when dealing with people.”

She remarked that she was often called “Officer Friendly,” because even though she had to arrest people who were her neighbors, she always treated people with respect. Her victory is “the result of being a part of the community, living in the community,” and because she has “been out there talking to people, and connecting with people, and that’s what makes sense and is what’s needed in our community and in our legislature.”

Sophia concluded her remarks, saying “When I get [to the legislature], I’m going to defend the progressive voice of Oklahoma, I going to stand up against the stupidity that sometimes comes down the pike, and I’m going to try to really work hard to get real things accomplished for our state and our community in House District 88.

Political activists who supported Sophia said that the run-off race is imminently winnable. Long time LGBT activist Mark Henricksen pointed out that Sophia’s candidacy is history making, saying “There has never been a transgender person elected to a state legislature…and that now, the place where that is most likely to happen is right here in Oklahoma, in the buckle of the Bible Belt.” Sophia decided to run for the office only two months ago, and went from zero in polls to success in winning the run-off slot. Dunnington has been running for the office for over a year.

House District 88 has a long history of progressive voting. They elected Al McAffrey to the state House, as the first openly gay legislator. When McAffrey moved up to the state Senate, voters elected Kay Floyd, the first open lesbian to the seat. And now they have the chance to elect the first openly transgender lawmaker in the nation. The winner of the HD 88 run-off will be the next Representative of the district, since no Republican filed for the office.

Fourth place runner-up Gibbons said, "At the end of the day, we [he and Sophia] split the base so much neither of us could get really close." Gibbons said he was referring to the base of gay voters who so heavily line HD88. He thanked his supporters in attendance for their time, support, donations and their friendship.

Sophia is an Army veteran who served in Desert Storm. She was an Oklahoma City police officer for 22 years, a job from which she retired to run for office. During her law enforcement career, she earned several awards including Police Officer of the Year (from OKC Exchange Club) and an FBI Community Leadership Award. Paula also made history as the first openly transgender police officer in Oklahoma City history.

She is also a noted poet and author, and earned a MFA in Creative Writing and Contemporary Literature from UCO in 2011. In 2011, she published her first novel, Shadowboxer.

Paula and her wife Pam live in the OKC’s Paseo District.

The Gayly – June 24, 2014 @ 10:55pm