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Anti-GOP, strong marijuana turnout highlight Oklahoma races

June 27, 2018
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In this Friday, June 8, 2018 photo, elementary school principal Sherrie Conley, who is running for state representative in District 20, talks with a constituent at a bagel shop in Norman, Okla. Conley is part of a wave of about 100 educators, including dozens of Republicans, who are running for office in the aftermath of a teacher walk-out that shut down public schools for two weeks this spring and opened an unusually bitter chasm in the state’s ruling party. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s primary election was marked by an energetic push from pro-education groups that helped oust Republican incumbents and a strong turnout in the vote that legalized medical marijuana.

Tuesday’s primary election also winnowed the 15-candidate field seeking to replace Gov. Mary Fallin as the state’s next chief executive. A series of attack ads between two candidates in the Republican primary for attorney general preceded what turned out to still be a two-way race.

The primary runoff for attorney general and other races is set for Aug. 28.

Here are highlights from Tuesday:

TEACHER CANDIDATES

The primary was the first test for many of the nearly 100 teachers running for office in Oklahoma after a year that saw tens of thousands of educators walk off their job for two weeks to protest dwindling funding for schools.

At least six Republican incumbents were bounced from office during Oklahoma’s primary election, including several who were targeted by pro-education groups.

Several GOP incumbents who voted against tax hikes to fund teacher pay raises were either ousted from office or pulled into a runoff against a fellow GOP opponent.

Of the 10 “no” voters in the House who were running for re-election, two were defeated outright on Tuesday night — Reps. Chuck Strohm of Jenks and Scott McEachin of Tulsa. Seven others ended up in the August primary runoff against fellow Republicans.

Four other Republican incumbents also were defeated on Tuesday, including one who lost to a seventh-grade English teacher from Elgin.

GOVERNOR

Fifteen candidates — two Democrats, 10 Republicans and three Libertarians — ran to replace Fallin, who has served eight years as the state’s chief executive. Most of the attention, and money, has been focused on the Republican primary, which included former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, and Tulsa mortgage company founder Kevin Stitt.

Cornett and Stitt both advanced to the Republican runoff, knocking off Lamb, the early favorite and establishment pick who started the campaign with $1 million in carry-over funds from his lieutenant governor’s campaign.

Stitt took advantage of his status as a political outsider and outraised all of his opponents with $4.2 million, including $2.1 million of his own money, to narrowly edge out Lamb for the second spot in the runoff.

On the Democratic side, former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson clinched the nomination over ex-state Sen. Connie Johnson. The $1.5 million Edmondson raised was more than 20 times as much as Johnson.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

Oklahoma voters on Tuesday easily approved the medicinal use of marijuana, despite opposition from law enforcement and business, faith and political leaders.

State Question 788 was the result of an activist-led signature drive. It allows physicians to approve medical marijuana licenses for people to legally grow, keep and use cannabis. The proposal doesn’t list any qualifying medical conditions, allowing doctors to prescribe it for a wide range of ailments.

Opponents had argued the proposal was too loosely written, and Gov. Mary Fallin said it would essentially allow recreational use. After the vote, Fallin said she would work with state agencies and lawmakers to establish a regulatory framework “to make sure marijuana use is truly for valid medical illnesses.”

It was the first marijuana question on a state ballot in 2018, and Oklahoma voters showed up in droves. The state’s election board says more votes were cast on the issue than in the 2014 general election.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

The top two candidates in the most heated statewide primary race advanced in the Republican primary for attorney general. Sitting Attorney General Mike Hunter led the three-candidate race and faces Tulsa attorney Gentner Drummond in a runoff for the GOP nomination. Hunter was appointed to the post by Fallin after former Attorney General Scott Pruitt was tapped by President Donald Trump to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A series of attack ads launched by Hunter and Drummond provided plenty of fireworks.

Angela Bonilla finished third in the Republican race.

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Associated Press writer Adam Kealoha Causey contributed to this report.

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Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy

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