Mauree Turner, a Black queer Muslim state House candidate in Oklahoma. (Mauree for House District 88)
Mauree Turner, a Black queer state house candidate in Oklahoma, could become the state’s first-ever Muslim lawmaker.
A longtime community organiser, Turner is running for state house in Oklahoma’s 88th district.
She is currently the regional field director for the Campaign for Smart Justice, “an ACLU campaign focusing on criminal justice reform and its many intersections”.
Turner was the underdog in the June primary, and surprised many when she managed to defeat incumbent Democratic representative Jason Dunnington. In less than three weeks, she will be up aganist Republican Kelly Barlean.
Oklahoma is an overwhelmingly Republican state but the 88th district, which includes Oklahoma City, is strongly Democratic, meaning Turner has a good shot at victory.
Turner told HuffPost: “I’m Black, Muslim, femme, queer, born and raised in Oklahoma — politics was the last thing in my crosshairs.”
But, she explained, her candidacy means that the people in her district might be represented by someone they can actually relate to.
She said: “Oklahomans have representation that doesn’t have our shared lived experience — that hasn’t been in a family that had to live off SNAP benefits, [or] a single-parent household because one parent was incarcerated.
“That was my upbringing, and it’s not a unique one.”
“It has never been a more important time for those closest to our state’s problems to be structuring the solutions,” she added.
Mauree Turner wants to change the criminal justice system for the better.
Turner’s campaign is centred on criminal justice reform, and she is fighting to repair “an industrial prison complex that’s built on revenge and punishment rather than rehabilitation”.
Turner said she had a harder time “coming out” as Muslim, than she did coming out as queer. Were she to become the state’s first Muslim lawmaker, she believes it would be “formative for young Muslim folks to see”.
“We are no longer fighting for a seat at the table,” she said. “We’re creating a whole new table where everybody eats.”
Turner has been endorsed by both US representative Ilhan Omar and senator Elizabeth Warren.
Omar said: “You can’t be what you can’t see. It is more important than ever that the people closest to our country’s problems are the ones addressing solutions.
“We need local leaders like Mauree Turner to address deep systemic problems with our criminal justice system, our education system, and our healthcare system. I am proud to endorse Mauree for that reason.”
Warren said: “Mauree has committed their life’s work to filling the gaps our largest institutions leave for communities. From their work on prosecutorial education and jury sentencing efforts, to their fight to reform reentry program access, Mauree has dedicated their career to reimagining a justice system that has community care at its core.
“Now more than ever we need leaders with the courage to fight for bold solutions to the enormous problems we face.
“That is why I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with Mauree in this fight.”