Rep. Al McAffrey enters race to replace Sen. Andrew Rice in District 46

 State Rep. Al McAffrey, an Oklahoma City Democrat, became the first candidate to announce his candidacy for the state Senate District 46 opening that will be created early next year when Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice resigns.

McAffrey, first elected to the House in 2006, represents much of the current Senate district. His House District 88 would retain a large portion of the new configuration after reapportionment takes effect.

In response to questions from CapitolBeatOK, McAffrey said the tight time frame will present some new challenges, as he has never faced a special election. However, he was upbeat in interactions with reporters. He will remain a member of the House while seeking the Senate seat, McAffrey said.

 McAffrey said his advantages include his hiring of Warren S. Palmer, a veteran political technician, as his campaign consultant. McAffrey has a ready-made campaign operation from his successful past elections. Additionally, Sen. Rice endorsed him early today, even before McAffrey’s candidacy became official.

McAffrey, a gay man, has proven effective in past races, prevailing easily in his first election over a crowded Democratic primary field. He comfortably defeated a Republican foe in the 2010 general election.

As to whether he might face a Democratic opponent in the special election primary, McAffrey grinned and said, “I hope not!”

McAffrey said he has previously established strong ties with members of the Hispanic community who will become a larger presence of the constituency in the future District 46. He said he would retain an “open door policy” toward present and future constituents as he seeks to win the Senate contest.

If elected, McAffrey could fill the entirety of the remaining three years in Rice’s terms, then seek re-election to a full four-year term in 2014. He would then face term limits in 2018, at the end of 12 years in the Legislature.

Rep. McAffrey told CapitolBeatOK the top issue for voters in the district remains the economy. McAffrey has supported MAPS3 and other local economic development projects. McAffrey was complimentary of the work of a task force looking at state business incentives and tax credits.

The MidCity Democrat stressed, however, that he supports the historic preservation and renovation credit that faced some critical scrutiny from that panel, chaired by Rep. David Dank, a Republican.

McAffrey said protection of children in the care of the Department of Human Services is another important issue to his constituency.

Concerning his current House seat, McAffrey said he has heard seven or eight candidates might be interested in replacing him if he wins the Senate post.

He has enjoyed cordial relations with Dank and several other Republicans, including Speaker Kris Steele and Speaker-designate T.W. Shannon.