ANADARKO, Okla. – It’s been more than three months since Al McAffrey won his Democratic primary for Oklahoma’s House District 88 with more than 52 percent of the vote in a three-way race. But while other candidates had to spend their time and resources campaigning against an opponent for the November general elections, McAffrey spent his energy as representative-elect working on how he would better represent his downtown Oklahoma City district, such as attending seminars on Medicare, Medicaid and other issues that were foremost with his voters.
“We were very thankful,” McAffrey said about not having a Republican or Independent challenger run against him, citing that it had been a long time since a Republican had won an election for state House in his district despite giving strong challenges in the past. A member of the Choctaw Nation, McAffrey was sworn in as a representative in the Oklahoma state Legislature Nov. 16.
The primary issues of McAffrey’s platform were health care, senior care and education, with health care being the biggest concern to his voters.
“Health care is the biggest problem that I see facing Oklahoma,” McAffrey said. “The middle-class person is being left out. Being American Indian, I’m very thankful, and by being a veteran, I have access to the Indian clinic as well as the [Veterans Administration] clinic. Not everyone is as lucky as my family is. The middle class, which I believe is the backbone of the United States and of Oklahoma, is being overlooked right now. We, as representatives, are going to have to find a way that makes health care affordable to these individuals.”
With his background as a Navy and law enforcement veteran as well as a small-business owner, McAffrey said he doesn’t know what distinguished him from the other Democrats in his July primary because their issues and campaign literature were similar. However, like many other successful candidates, McAffrey used time to his advantage.
“I started a year and a half out,” he said. “I started campaigning that far out to make sure that I reached the voters. I knocked on every Democrat’s door that I could find; and some people that I did not have on my list, I knocked when I saw a Democrat sign out in front of their home.”
In addition to meeting people at their homes and canvassing neighborhoods for voters, McAffrey also credited his election to his election staff and placing a campaign office within his district, which he will continue to run as a way for him to remain in contact with his constituents’ needs.
Along with working with other legislators, McAffrey said that he wants to form a strong relationship with Oklahoma City officials to make improvements in downtown Oklahoma City and its surrounding inner city by adding more law enforcement and finding methods to reduce crime.
With Native issues, one of McAffrey’s concerns includes the protection and preservation of tribal water rights.
“When our air is contaminated and our water is no longer there, we no longer exist,” McAffrey said. “That’s been something, being a Native American, we’ve been taught all our life: taking care of our environment. I see that, and I will continue trying to stop any bill trying to get rid of water rights within any Indian allotted land. ... I want to work with American Indians and make sure they understand they have a voice in the state House of Representatives.”
Although McAffrey will share many values and platform issues with other officials, he will have a unique position not shared with other Oklahoma legislators. Once McAffrey is sworn in, he will also be the first openly gay legislator to be elected to Oklahoma state office, according to Daily Oklahoman reports published the day after McAffrey’s July 25 primary.
McAffrey’s sexuality was not hidden from potential voters, nor was it used as a special interest to gain only a particular block of voters – it was simply a matter of fact, no different than him being a father and a grandfather.
“I’m Al McAffrey. I’m a gay man, and I never hid it,” he said. “It was not an issue. I don’t campaign on gay issues. Someone asked me what a gay agenda was, and I said, ‘I have no idea. I would like someone to tell me, and then we’ll figure out what our agenda is.’ The agenda is, with everyone living in our district, is the same thing. ... As I speak to gay organizations, I speak the same thing to them as I speak to any other organization. These are issues that really pertain to the American people. You can’t take one sector and say, ‘I am going to campaign for this sector.’ You can’t do that.”
In addition to his platform, McAffrey is also deeply concerned about human rights issues, regardless of the person’s background, as a way of protecting individual rights. McAffrey stated that he would like to see a human rights commission established Oklahoma to protect an individual’s rights against discrimination, especially in employment situations.
“Human rights is one thing I have a true passion for,” McAffrey said. “It takes care of everyone in the district and in Oklahoma.”