Patrick B. McGuigan
Oklahoma voters are going to the polls in primaries today (Tuesday, June 26) as an overwhelming Republican electoral advantage begins to play itself out, with a handful of exceptions. In the state’s closed primary system, members of the Grand Old Party will wind up deciding many elections, as Democrats did not file in a high percentage of races.
Tonight (Tuesday, June 26), this writer will be among several journalists discussing the primary results for OETA, the Oklahoma Network. Coverage of the election will be anchored by Dick Pryor and will include reporter Bob Sands.
The panel reporting and analyzing tonight’s results will include CapitolBeatOK, Arnold Hamilton of The Oklahoman Observer, Holly Wall of
This Land Press, and county
official Larry Stein. The reporters will interact with viewers, taking questions
by telephone and live tweets.
Coverage will include reports on the state Corporation Commission race, being decided in the Republican primary between Bob Anthony and Brooks Mitchell. While Anthony is favored on the basis of more than two decades of service in the post, Mitchell (a former commission staffer) has run an aggressive campaign in the latter stages.
Additionally, primaries are occurring in four of the Sooner State’s five congressional races. Incumbent First District U.S. Rep. John Sullivan has been under persistent attack from his challenger, Jim Bridenstine. GOP incumbents Frank Lucas (District 3) and Tom Cole (District 4) face primaries, but are heavily favored.
In the Second Congressional District, the departure of the sole Democrat in the delegation -- U.S. Rep. Dan Boren -- has triggered a landrun of candidates – three Democrats and six Republicans, as well as an independent who will be on the November ballot.
In the Republican primary, Markwayne Mullin leads in the polls but is being pursued by state Rep. George Faught, retired Marine Colonel Dakota Woods, former state Rep. Wayne Pettigrew, former Tishomingo Mayor Dustin Rowe and pastor Dwayne Thompson.
Mullin’s massive spending advantages give him the edge this election day, yet late controversy about his residency, voting record and a 2009 police raid involving a former employee of his business may have put the race in play in the closing days.
On the Democratic side, former prosecutor Rob Wallace has the edge, but businessman Wayne Harriman has run his share of advertisements and has support. Trailling the field is Earl Everett, the only one of the three Democrats who has allied himself with President Barack Obama.
In all, 33 of the 101 seats in the state House have primaries unfolding today; there are primaries in 12 of this year’s 24 Senate seats.
In the Senate, Republicans are already assured they will replace two Democrats in seats where no member of the party of Jefferson filed. Democrats could, conceivably, regain ground in November, but Republicans seem on track to strengthen majorities in both chambers.
Fights among conservative Republicans are playing out in several Senate and House races.
The most reported legislative primary may be the Republican joust in Edmond’s District 41 between incumbent Senator Clark Jolley and Pastor Paul Blair. An independent expenditure opposing Blair has sparked controversy for accusing him of not paying franchise taxes. Blair’s advocates contend the ads are misleading, distorting a late payment and elevating issues touching businesses Blair is not running. Blair is suing.
Other contested GOP Senate primaries involving incumbents include challenges to incumbents Dan Newberry, Mike Mazzei, and Brian Crain. Although there is a “Tea Party” component to some of the challenges, Newberry for one counts himself as an advocate of Tea Party conservatism.
As for Democrats, the winner of the District 11 race between state Rep. Jabar Shumate and businessman Joe Williams will be elected, as there is no Republican foe in the north Tulsa district.
In the state House, a highly competitive primary is unfolding in District 88, a liberal/progressive bastion in MidTown Oklahoma City. Among the four Democrats, Steve Cortes – who served as legal counsel to former Governor Brad Henry, and Mike Dover, a health care system advocate, seemed to have certain advantages in spending.
In the closing days of the election, however, Matt Harney, a small business owner, has been very active with door-to-door efforts; similarly, Kay Floyd, a former administrative judge and special municipal judge, has pressed effectively.
In the end, the District 88 race could be one of the closest, and an August 28 runoff seems likely. There will be a contested election in November, as two long-shot Republicans try to break the Democratic hold on the seat.
The “Tea Party” theme is playing out in some House Republican races, where a total of 11 incumbents face primary challenges. In District 84, however, incumbent Sally Kern is the more conservative of the candidates. Other legislators facing challenges – and their district numbers, include Todd Thomsen (25), Sean Roberts (36), Aaron Stiles (45), Tommy C. Hardin (49), Mike Sanders (59), Don Armes (63), Glen Mulready (68), Weldon Watson (79), Guy Liebmann (82) and Elise Hall (100).