Low turnout on Tuesday hurt Rep. John Sullivan, who won his 2010 primary with 62 percent of the vote against two opponents. Turnout was down 16 percent from last cycle.
Some of Sullivan’s ads painted the Congressman as a “tenacious, tough, tireless” fighter for conservative causes, according to copies of several 30-second spots posted on his campaign website.
The Congressman’s spokesman did not return requests for information about his campaign except to offer his Tuesday night statement.
“Tonight, the voters spoke,” Sullivan said in the statement. “Unfortunately, we didn’t come out on top. It is the honor of a lifetime to represent the people of the First District of Oklahoma.”
Sullivan came to Congress after a 2002 special election to replace Rep. Steve Largent (R), who resigned to run for governor. Sullivan, who served seven years in the state House and was a leader there, defeated Cathy Keating, the wife of former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, in the primary despite being largely outspent by her.
In contrast, Bridenstine is a political newcomer.
He flew combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq for the Navy. While on duty, he helped train TOPGUN pilots by simulating enemy air patterns during live air practice.
Given his background, Bridenstine said, he’d like to serve on the Armed Services, Transportation and Infrastructure, or Energy and Commerce committees. He is all but assured a win in November, given the heavy Republican slant of the 1st district.
After his primary victory, Bridenstine said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and freshman Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) called to offer their congratulations and donate to his campaign.
Sullivan’s loss marks the fourth House incumbent to lose re-election this cycle, not including races that pit Members against each other after redistricting.
“I think we did all the right things, and I think he made mistakes,” Bridenstine said. “That put together our ability to win this.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.