Rep. James Lankford's high-profile bid for Senate in Oklahoma has left a crowded race to replace him in the Sooner State's 5th District.
Six Republicans will face off Tuesday after struggling to break through airwaves dominated by the primary between Lankford and former Oklahoma Speaker T.W. Shannon. Like the Senate race, Republicans expect the primary to proceed to an August runoff, which occurs when no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote. The GOP nominee is all but certain to come to Congress and represent this strong conservative district based in Oklahoma City.
The diverse GOP field includes a decorated veteran who helped capture Saddam Hussein, an Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner, a wealthy state legislator who would be the youngest member of Congress if elected, a powerful appropriator in the state Senate, a Baptist pastor and a former state legislator who lost a race for this district in 2010. “Any of the six could wind up in the runoff,” Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Dave Weston said. “There’s a couple that are probably more likely for that to happen because they are doing TV and have more signs out, but at this point, no one is breaking 20 percent.” Some GOP operatives said there are two candidates more likely to make the runoff: Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas and former state Sen. Steve Russell.
Douglas has a built-in base as a former mayor from Edmond, the population center of the district just north of Oklahoma City. She also raised more than $550,000 for the race, including help from some House GOP women.
Russell is also a strong contender for the seat, Oklahoma Republican strategists said. The veteran was part of the unit who captured Hussein in Iraq in 2003. “Everyone can get excited about a soldier. But a soldier who was part of the platoon who went in and pulled Saddam out of the hole — that’s picked up some traction,” said Bobby Stem, a Republican lobbyist in Oklahoma.
Also in contention are state Rep. Mike Turner and state Sen. Clark Jolley.
Turner has largely self-funded his campaign, putting in $625,000 of his own personal fortune for the race. With an estimated net worth of at least $3.55 million , Turner, 27, would be both the richest and the youngest member of the Oklahoma delegation if elected.
State Senate Appropriations Chairman Clark Jolley, one of the most powerful members of the Legislature, is in the mix. GOP operatives say Jolley, who is also from Edmond, is vying for the same pool of voters as Douglas, which could be problematic for him.
Two other candidates are also running: Baptist pastor Harvey Sparks and former state Rep. Shane Jett, who lost in a primary for the seat in 2010. Neither has raised much money and are not expected to make the runoff.
The 5th District voted for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney with 59 percent in 2012.
Oklahoma's 5th District is rated a Safe Republican contest by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.