Claudia Griffith, a local state representative since 2014 and candidate for a state senate seat, has died of a heart attack at 67.
The Cleveland County Democratic Party confirmed her death on Saturday. Krystal Golding-Ross, party chair, described Griffith as a leader, mentor and important figure in the community.
"We're completely stunned and heartbroken," Golding-Ross said. "Representative Griffith has been extremely important in the community and she's done incredible things in our state. She has continually been about building the community."
Mary Boren, Griffith's opponent in the Democratic runoff, issued a statement asking for comfort for the Griffith family and saying she will suspend campaign activities while they mourn.
"Representative Griffith was a champion of women, public education and health care," Boren said. "Having her as a state representative gave us the assurance we would always be treated with kindness and our concerns respected. Claudia's loved ones deserve our fullest support, so I'll be suspending campaign activities to honor them and their tragic loss."
Griffith was a registered nurse and received her Masters degree in public health from the University of Oklahoma. She was the executive director of Health for Friends, a nonprofit that provided specific health services to the underserved. Griffith was married to her husband, Jim, for 46 years, and they have three children.
Griffith was elected to represent House District 45 in 2014 and again in 2016.
In 2017 when State Rep. Jacob Rosecrants was elected to the House District 45 seat, Griffith served as his mentor. Rosecrants said Griffith was both an inspiration and a valued friend.
"One of the reasons why I'm a state representative, you can look to her," Rosecrants said. "You'll hear people say she was the mother of our caucus. She always made time. I'd come into her office, and we'd just talk, sometimes not even about work."
Her biggest passion, Rosecrants said, was to bring more women into politics. Griffith faced two women in the Democratic Primary for Senate District 16 last month, and several women in both parties competed for the House District 45 seat she was leaving.
"She loved the fact that we had so many women stepping up and into office," Rosecrants said. "That's a passion of hers. She thought we could figure out all of the problems in Oklahoma if we just elected more women to the House and Senate. And if you look at what's going on around the state, I'd say that's true."
In June, Griffith captured 32.8 percent of the vote in the Senate District 16 primary and was slated for a runoff with Boren in August.
To be removed from the ballot, a candidate in a runoff primary election must withdraw on the Friday following the date of the primary election, which means Griffith’s name will still appear on the ballot for the August runoff.