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Oklahoma City Rep. Mauree Turner won't seek reelection

House District 88 Rep. Mauree Turner speaks in support of defending trans and non-binary youth during the public comment period of the March 28 State Board of Education meeting at the Oliver Hodge building in Oklahoma City.
Lionel Ramos
House District 88 Rep. Mauree Turner speaks in support of defending trans and non-binary youth during the public comment period of the March 28 State Board of Education meeting at the Oliver Hodge building in Oklahoma City.

Representative Mauree Turner says they are not seeking reelection this year.

Turner made the initial announcement via a campaign email. The decision to step down from office, they say, follows a recent medical diagnosis and the need to care for their physical and mental health.

“I've got some health issues that I'd like to focus on right now,” Turner said. “I got a diagnosis at the beginning of the year. I think it just kind of made the decision a lot easier to take a step back.”

When Turner won Oklahoma’s House District 88 in 2020, they became the first openly non-binary person elected into a state legislature in the United States and the first Muslim person to win a state-level seat in Oklahoma.

They’ve since been subject to open discrimination by many Oklahomans in the form of hate mail with obscene insults and death threats because of their identity.

They also paved the way for three other non-binary state representatives in Michigan, Montana, and Pennsylvania, as shown in a tracker by the LGBTQ+ rights group the Victory Institute.

Looking ahead, Turner is endorsing their legislative aide Nicole Maldonado as the next representative for House District 88.

Maldonado, 24, is a self-described queer woman who says that like Turner, she will continue representing the intersectionality of identities in the heart of the state's capital city.

“When I came to Oklahoma City, the MAGA movement, their political agenda was just targeting our communities,” she said. “Specifically us in the 2SLGBTQ+ community, women and immigrants.”

Maldonado was born in Texas but moved to Colombia with her mother, where she lived until eventually getting a tennis scholarship at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant.

Also running for House District 88 as a Democrat is Ellen Pogemiller, who initially was in the run for Senate District 46 to replace Sen. Kay Floyd, but changed her mind when she learned Turner wasn’t in the running.

“After serving with passion and inclusion, Rep. Mauree Turner has chosen to not run for office,” Pogemiller wrote in an April 4 post on the social platform X. “With HD 88 vacant, I have made the decision to file. I know I can be a strong voice for my neighbors in the State House.”

Pogemiller, also originally from Texas, moved to Oklahoma in 2007 when her husband was stationed at Tinker Air Force Base. Both candidates champion LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights. Maldonado’s platform highlights amplifying the voices of Oklahoma's immigrant community, and Pogemiller’s focuses on increasing funding to public schools and maximizing voter access.

Another Democrat, Paula Sophia, entered the race before candidate filing closed. Sophia, a transgender woman, previously ran for HD88 in 2014 and advanced to runoff against Jason Dunnington, who eventually won the seat.

An independent candidate, Bobby McCollum, also filed for the seat. No Republican filed in the race.

Regardless of who wins, Turner described the kind of person they think should represent the district next.

“House District 88 deserves remarkable leadership,” Turner said. “Leadership that is dedicated to community members well beyond looking for political office, highlighting problems, telling the truth, creating solutions, amplifying solutions that are already existing.”

As for them, the focus is on finishing this legislative session and the rest of their term, while also prioritizing their health.

The next project is pending.

“I don't have a job lined up just yet,” Turner said. “But I know the type of work that I want to do is centered in working directly with communities, shifting policy when we can, but making sure that we are taking care of ourselves in a space that also provides joy.”

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Updated: April 9, 2024 at 10:28 AM CDT
The article was updated to reflect the full list of candidates running for House District 88. Two of the candidates were not publicly known when the original article was published.
Lionel Ramos covers state government at KOSU. He joined the station in January 2024.
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