Newly elected District 71 state Rep. Amanda Swope will tell you her interest in politics began early, when she would talk about current events with her family.
“It was never something that was off the table,” she said.
So maybe it only makes sense that, all these years later, Swope found herself seated next to her mother, City Councilor Connie Dodson, at a conference table Wednesday during councilors’ gathering with state legislators.
“It will definitely be a significant moment, I think, in our lives,” Swope said during an interview earlier this week. “I don’t think our family would have thought we would have gotten there. I don’t think we would have thought we would be in this place. I don’t even really think that that was our intention while I was growing up.”
Unfortunately for the mother-daughter duo, Wednesday’s public meeting was likely the first and last one they will share as elected officials. Dodson, who was first elected to the City Council in 2014, lost her bid for reelection earlier this month.
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“I think a lot of people, myself included, would have liked to have seen my mom win this race this time around,” Swope said. “And I don’t know if that’s how the universe needed things to work out for me to win my race, or what.”
Dodson, 55, is taking the turn of events in stride.
“When it comes to handing off the torch, I am extremely proud to have served my constituents and my district and am very happy that she has achieved this in her life and look forward to the great things that she can do,” Dodson said.
Swope, 34, said her mom definitely had an influence on her decision to get into politics. And that influence took root early, as she witnessed acts of kindness that had nothing to do with being a Democrat or a Republican.
“Growing up, I remember her pulling the car over to go help these people move a car out of the road. And this is not a small car; this is like a 1980s car, like old-school style,” Swope said. “And I just remember thinking, ‘You are such a small woman. How are you going to contribute in this scenario?’
“But I think back on those times, and it just makes me think: Really, no matter how much you are contributing to something, you can always help in some way. So I think I learned a lot from her.”
It didn’t hurt that Dodson, who is barely 5 feet on a particularly tall day, does not back down from a fight. Swope said she remembers walking out to the family car when she was 5 or 6, only to find that a cinder block had been thrown through the windshield. Her mother, it turned out, had been leading an effort to get the drug dealers who were living in the apartment complex out.
“I think our family is always just the kind of people where if something is going on, they are going to try to get involved, and they are going to try to help,” Swope said.
Dodson’s involvement in politics began about 20 years ago when she worked with state lawmakers to pass legislation that improved benefits for disabled veterans. In 2006 and 2008, she ran unsuccessfully for state House District 23.
She said she ran for City Council in 2014 because she wasn’t happy with the representation residents were getting. She stuck around for four terms, establishing a reputation as a plucky and passionate advocate for her district.
Dodson hasn’t offered her daughter any advice as she begins her political career. But she knows what it would be.
“Maintain an open mind until you hear both sides, and then try to get to a point where you are representing your constituents in a way that your conscience allows you to do,” she said.
It’s a lesson Swope says she’s watched her mother live out over the last eight years.
“I think there were a number of times that I saw her feel like she had to take votes that she didn’t necessarily agree with but that were representative of her constituency or her role to represent the city well,” Swope said.
Swope served as the chairwoman of the Tulsa County Democratic Party from 2019 until April, when she stepped aside to run for the state Legislature. She began volunteering on campaigns when her mom first ran for office, and she later worked for Drew Edmondson during his 2018 race for governor.
Swope said she decided to run for the state Legislature after seeing that lawmakers were not tackling the issues she believes need to be addressed.
“As somebody who was aware of the problems, I started to have what I felt was a deeper and deeper responsibility to try to do something myself,” Swope said.
This is not the point in the story where the daughter calls the mother with the exciting news. It’s more complicated than that.
Although both are Democrats, Swope describes her mother as moderate and herself as more progressive. Some people have even assumed Dodson was a Republican. She certainly has had more reasons to interact with Republicans over the last eight years than her daughter has.
“We have our relationship as mother and daughter that I think that we do our best to keep separate from politics as much as we can. That is not always easy, I don’t think — or it wasn’t.
“But to that point, she definitely has closer ties to people on the Republican side than I do, and I didn’t want that to be something that was getting out there prematurely before I was ready for it.”
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