Patrick B. McGuigan
Oklahoma state Rep. Claudia Griffith, a Norman Democrat, died Saturday (July 14) of a heart attack. Her passing triggered an immediate outpouring of sorrow from members of the Legislature on both sides of the aisle.
State Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, said in a statement he was “heartbroken.” Griffith’s Democratic colleague Collin Walke of Oklahoma City mourned her passing as “completely unexpected and shocking,” characterizing her as a “wonderful mentor” to younger legislators.
Rep. Griffith’s current committee assignments had included government modernization, veterans and military affairs, and two important budget panels: finance and health.
At the Capitol, Griffith represented House District 45 (east Norman, from the north side to Lake Thunderbird). She generally aligned with liberals in her caucus, while working on certain issues of health care and veterans benefits with members of the Republican majority.
In 2015, she coordinated an attempted pay raise for teachers with state Rep. Randy McDaniel, an Oklahoma City Republican known his his understanding of finance and budget issues.
She was a leader veterans health care issues, including an important role on an interim study panel.
When first elected to the House of Representatives in 2014, Griffin had the support of Sally’s List . The group is known for support of female candidates with “progressive” views who are willing to work long hours, campaigning both in traditional ways (door-to-door and mailed fliers) and through sophisticated use of Internet resources.
At the time of her death, Griffin was seeking the Democratic nomination in state Senate District 16 in the August 28 primary. In a remarkably competitive three-person contest — in which each candidate received around one-third of the vote – Griffith finished second, edging out one candidate and narrowly trailing the front-runner.
News of her death spread rapidly across the state after a press release from the office of House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka. The speaker said, “Claudia was a very warm, kind person who cared deeply about her constituents and the direction of our state. At the end of the day, we are all brothers and sisters working to improve the lives of Oklahomans. Her family is in my prayers, and I hope they find comfort in this difficult time.”
Rep. Echols, in his statement sent to The City Sentinel and other news organizations, commented, “It is incredibly difficult to again learn of the sudden passing of a dear colleague, and I am heartbroken.
Claudia Griffith was a genuinely wonderful, caring woman. She had a passion for improving our healthcare system and ensuring that more Oklahomans have access to quality medical care, and she had a genuine love for serving others. I will miss her very much, and I will be praying for her family.”
Rep. Chris Kannady, a south Oklahoma City Republican, commented to reporter William W. Savage III,
“I was elected with Claudia. She was a partner on veterans issues and a champion for many other issues. She was not partisan, and she was a true leader. She will be missed greatly.”
“Tres” Savage, as the NonDoc.com editor is known, reported in detail the reflections of many of Griffith’s colleagues, including her Democratic colleagues. Rep. Walke, who served on the A&B Finance Subcommittee with her, said he had “a wealth of knowledge” on public policy issues.
Rep. Jason Dunnington of Oklahoma City commented that, “behind all of the talking points and political parties,” legislators are “real people with families. … [W]e lost not only a colleague but a dear friend. Rep. Griffith was thoughtful, kind, and passionate about her district and our state. She will be missed.”
Another Oklahoma City solon, Mickey Dollens observed she “ dedicated her professional life to serving others as a nurse and later as a representative.”
The former director of the Norman group Health for Friends, Griffin had served as president of a local parents-teachers group. Her academic training included a Master’s degree in Public Health. She is survived by her husband, Jim, and three children.