Nancy C. Riley represented Oklahoma State Senate District 37 which is located in Tulsa County and includes Bixby, Jenks, Lotsee, Tulsa and Sand Springs from 2000 to 2008. Riley grew up in Tulsa and graduated from Edison High School. She attended Oklahoma Christian College for three years, then married and started a family. Riley's first husband died from a brain tumor. During that time Riley was forced to live on food stamps. She later graduated from Langston University and began teaching elementary school in the Tulsa Public Schools system.
Riley was elected as a Republican in 2000 and re-elected in 2004 still as a Republican. In 2006 Riley ran for the office of Lt. Governor as a Republican where she came in third and received 41,984 votes or 23.46%. Her showing was strong enough to force a runoff between House Speaker Todd Hiett and Senator Scott Pruitt.
Following the July 25 primary Riley surprised everyone when she announced that she was switching parties to become a Democrat. Before she switched parties the Democrats had a slim one seat margin in the Senate, illustrating the importance of her move. She felt that moderates like herself were no longer relevant in the Republican