Democratic candidate Steve Barnes held his Republican opponent Zack Taylor to a razor-thin margin on Tuesday in the special election for the Oklahoma House of Representatives’ 28th District.
Taylor, the owner of an oil and gas company, defeated Barnes, an attorney, 50 to 48 percent ― a difference of just 56 votes in the low-turnout race.
The near-win was especially remarkable since Donald Trump won the district 73 percent to 23 percent in last year’s presidential election.
The legislative seat opened up when former state Rep. Tom Newell, a Republican, resigned in November to join a conservative think tank.
Barnes distinguished himself in the special election partly through his response to a scandal surrounding the resignation of another Republican state representative.
Former Republican state Rep. Dan Kirby of Oklahoma’s 75th District resigned in February after a former legislative assistant accused him of sexual harassment.
In his campaign for the 28th District, Barnes spoke up against the Republican leadership in the state House for approving the use of taxpayer funds to pay out a legal settlement to Kirby’s accuser.
Democrat Karen Gaddis and Republican Tressa Nunley are due to square off for Kirby’s old seat in a July 11 special election.
Special elections are widely viewed as an early test of the political backlash to Trump’s presidency. HuffPost has created a visual tool to track how Democrats are faring in these races by comparing how Democrats perform in a given contest with Hillary Clinton’s margin against Trump.
CORRECTION: This article previously stated two former legislative assistants accused former Rep. Dan Kirby of sexual harassment. It has been updated to reflect the complaint was filed by one former legislative assistant.
This article previously stated that Barnes was competing to fill Dan Kirby’s seat, when in fact the special election was for a legislative post previously occupied by Tom Newell.