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Oklahoma Primary Election

Written by Dick Pryor on Saturday July 31, 2010

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Scattershooting along the campaign trail...

On this week's program we wrap up the July 27th Oklahoma Primary Election with political analysts Neva Hill, Keith Gaddie and Sheryl Lovelady.  Our focus is the stunning victory scored by Jari Askins over Drew Edmondson in the Democratic gubernatorial primary and Mary Fallin's win over surprisingly popular Randy Brogdon, which sets up an all-female battle for governor in November.  The duel between Fallin and Askins is only the fourth gubernatorial race in U.S. history pitting two women against each other (the others were in Hawaii, Nebraska and this year in New Mexico).  

Lt. Governor Askins was as much as 16 points down in the final poll conducted just a few days before the election, but a superior GOTV (get out the vote) effort and an overall strong close pushed her over the top by 1,493 votes (out of 2,244 precincts) in unofficial results.  Neva Hill told us how Askins did it.  Mary Fallin got just under 55% in a four-way race for the Republican nomination.  No surprise that Congresswoman Fallin won.  What WAS surprising was the strong showing by Owasso State Senator Randy Brogdon.  The Tea Party favorite picked up almost 100,000 votes and finished with 39.42%. 

Now, it will be fascinating to watch how Fallin and Askins approach the fall campaign.  Sheryl Lovelady, Director of the Women's Leadership Initiative for the Carl Albert Center at the University of Oklahoma, is going to be a very popular interview in the weeks ahead, and she told us what to expect when these two savvy politicians square off in an women-only duel. 

We also discussed the nomination of Jim Rogers as the Democratic Party's candidate for U.S. Senate and the general election matchup between Rogers and Oklahoma's junior senator, Tom Coburn.  The reclusive Rogers is 75 years old, lives in Midwest City, and goes public, it seems, every couple of years when he places his name on a ballot.  He got 76,981 votes in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary that was won by Andrew Rice in 2008.  That was 40% of the vote, and Rogers did it with a minimalist campaign:  a sign.  You can occasionally see him at events or along the roadside, sporting his Jim Rogers for whatever sign, and his red cap.  But of all the candidates in the history of the state he gets more votes for the buck than anyone else.  Of course, the Rogers name helps.  Plus, Rogers also ran for Lt. Governor in 2006, U.S. Senate in 2004 and 2002, so people are used to see that familiar name on a ballot.

Coburn was an easy winner over Evelyn Rogers of Tulsa and Lewis Spring of Hugo in the Republican race.  Coburn - who says this will be his final race for the U.S. Senate since he will only serve two terms -  received more than 90% of the vote.  He, of course, is the prohibitive favorite come November for many reasons (including the fact that through July 7 he had $2,396,443 in his campaign war chest).  But, it's interesting to note that 247,865 Republicans voted in the primary, a solid turnout rate of 30% that was higher than usual for a primary because of the large number of interesting Republican races.  A total of 241,635 Democrats voted in their primary, in which 26% of registered Democrats went to the polls.  Democrats are considered to be less enthused about the elections this year than Republicans, but consider if they had turned out at 30% they would have sent about 280,000 to the polls on Tuesday.  Now, nobody is saying that Jim Rogers will beat Tom Coburn (there are more than 2,396,443 reasons he won't) but depending on turnout that race might be more interesting than you would think at first, second and third blush.  Not to mention that it may get national media attention.

The other key contest we discussed was the race for 5th District Congress, the seat being vacated by Mary Fallin.  Billy Coyle won the Democratic nomination with more than 56% of the vote over Tom Guild, and he may be positioned to launch a strong general election campaign.  The big story, though, was the Republican primary, where relative unknown James Lankford edged out former state representative and 2006 5th District congressional candidate Kevin Calvey by 612 votes.  Since neither candidate got 50% in the 7-person field, they will meet in the August 24th runoff.  Often, the candidate that finishes second wins the runoff, but Keith Gaddie warns that might not hold true this year.  Lankford seems heading to the top with a bullet, and despite Calvey's greater name recognition (he received 10% of the vote in the 2006 Republican primary in this race), the former Director of the Falls Creek Youth Camp has parlayed a strong social media presence and an outsider's image (which plays well in an anti-incumbent election) into a campaign force to be reckoned with.  Full disclosure - Neva Hill is one of his advisors, and she told us how he was able to come out of obscurity to get more than 33% of the Republican vote.

Tying up some other election loose ends:  Drew Edmondson says he does not plan to run for another office, but will opt for retirement, instead.  He says he may even get in a little golf after his term as Attorney General expires in January...We didn't have a chance to talk much about the third and fourth place finishers in the Republican gubernatorial primary, Roger Jackson and Robert Hubbard.  We got to know them a little at various candidate forums, and although he got only 2.53% of the vote (finishing 4th out of 4) Jackson had one of the more interesting campaign pledges this year:  to legalize marijuana...Former Secret Service Agent Todd Lamb will face Democrat Kenneth Corn in the Lt. Governor's race (Independent Richard Prawdzienski is also on the November ballot).  This battle of two State Senators (Lamb, of Edmond, is the Republican's Majority Floor Leader in the Senate; Corn, from Poteau, is the chair of the Democratic Senate Caucus) will be a classic Democratic-Republican matchup...State Representative John Wright of Broken Arrow finished second in the Republican Lt. Governor primary, with Paul Nosak of Tulsa third and Bill Crozier of Hinton fourth.  We didn't have much of a chance to talk about Nosak or Crozier on election night, but both are interesting stories.  Nosak is a tree surgeon and reality TV show producer from Tulsa, while Crozier is a former U.S. Senate candidate (he received the Republican nomination in 1984 and lost the general election to David Boren).  Undoubtedly, Crozier is one of Oklahoma's more colorful pols.  He made national news in 2006 when he ran for State Superintendent of Public Instruction against incumbent Democrat Sandy Garrett.  Crozier appeared at parades campaigning in a Superman suit and caused quite a stir with his principal campaign plank:  teaching children how to use textbooks to defend themselves from gunfire.  You Tube video of Crozier demonstrating which textbooks worked better against different caliber ammunition went viral and made him a bit of an Internet celebrity (but not State Superintendent).

Oklahoma politics is always fascinating, and there will be many more stories to tell as we head toward November.  We'll be following all of the statewide races on Oklahoma Forum and bringing you meaningful interviews with the candidates as they talk about the issues that are important to the voters of Oklahoma.  Keep watching throughout the rest of the summer and fall, and be sure to mark your calendar for the evening of November 2, when we pull out all the stops for our Oklahoma Votes 2010 coverage of the general election.  Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Dick Pryor

(Pictured below:  In a not-so-serious moment, Sheryl Lovelady and Neva Hill "press the flesh" with Keith Gaddie on the set of Oklahoma Forum following our taping. Hey folks, this election stuff really can be fun!)

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