Oklahoma governor's race tops primary runoff election ballot
By SEAN MURPHY
Aug. 26, 2018
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The race for the GOP nomination to replace Oklahoma's term-limited Gov. Mary Fallin tops this week's unusually high number of primary runoff elections.
Former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and Tulsa mortgage company owner Kevin Stitt are pitching their case to Republican voters heading into Tuesday's vote, as are candidates for several other statewide and congressional offices.
A record number of candidates sought political office this year, with eight-year term limits forcing open nearly every statewide elected office following the Republican Party's sweep of power in Oklahoma in 2010. This year's candidate filing period also coincided with a teacher walkout that prompted dozens of public school teachers to seek office.
Polls are open across the state from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.
With no U.S. Senate seats on the ballot in Oklahoma this year, the governor's mansion is the top prize. The race between Cornett, 60, and Stitt, 45, for the GOP nomination has grown particularly testy — and expensive — in recent weeks.
Stitt, the founder and CEO of Gateway Mortgage Group who has been able to bolster his campaign funds with more than $3.2 million in personal loans to his campaign, has attacked Cornett in ads for not being supportive enough of President Donald Trump and his immigration policies.
Cornett's campaign has been aided by two outside groups that have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads that focus on allegations of fraudulent business practices by Stitt's mortgage company in several states during the subprime mortgage crisis in the late 2000s.
Both Democrats and Republicans will head to the polls to decide the nominees in the race for the state's only open U.S. House seat, Tulsa's 1st Congressional District, left open when former GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine was tapped to head NASA. Republicans will pick between former Tulsa District Attorney Tim Harris and Tulsa restaurateur Kevin Hern, while Democrats in the runoff are Tulsa attorney Tim Gilpin and Broken Arrow oil and gas consultant Amanda Douglas.
There also are Democratic runoffs in the sprawling 2nd District in eastern Oklahoma, 4th District in Norman and southwest Oklahoma, and 5th District that includes Oklahoma City.
The Republican battle between Attorney General Mike Hunter and Tulsa attorney Gentner Drummond has been particularly negative and expensive, with each candidate topping $2.1 million in fundraising that includes hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal loans to their campaigns. There also are GOP runoffs in the race for lieutenant governor, auditor and inspector, superintendent, labor commissioner and corporation commissioner, and a Democratic runoff for corporation commissioner.
Six Republican incumbent legislators already lost their job in June's primary, and nine more GOP House members still are fighting for their political lives in Tuesday's elections, many of them facing educators angry about their vote against a tax hike to fund teacher pay raises.
Of the 19 House Republicans who voted against the tax hike, two already were defeated and seven others were dragged into runoffs. Seven more decided not to run, and three have advanced already to the general election.
The real test for many of the teacher candidates will come in November, since most are Democrats challenging GOP incumbents.
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