On Tuesday, August 23, Oklahomans headed back to the polls for a runoff election! There were several primary races in which no candidate reached 50% of the vote, which in Oklahoma means the race heads to a runoff. These are still primary elections, meaning that registered Republicans vote for Republican candidates, and Democrats vote for Democratic candidates. (Oklahoma also allows independents and unaffiliated voters to participate in the Democratic party’s primary elections.) Here are the results from some of the key races we’ve watched:
- For the U.S. Senate Seat, Democrats Madison Horn (no relation to Kendra Horn) and Jason Bollinger faced off to determine who advances against incumbent Senator James Lankford. Horn is from Stillwell, OK, and is a Cherokee Nation citizen. Her campaign has focused on education, healthcare, and economic development and accountability. Bollinger, a native of Western Oklahoma, served previously at the U.S. Department of State and is now an attorney; his campaign issues include healthcare, tribal sovereignty, and environmental protections. Horn carried the votes at 65% to Bollinger’s 35%, and she will face Lankford in the general election.
- The retirement of U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe opened another Senate seat for election. Democrat Kendra Horn (formerly serving Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District) will face Markwayne Mullin, who is currently the Congressman from Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District. Mullin defeated Republican opponent T.W. Shannon after both emerged from a crowded Republican primary field in June. Mullins promises to take on “far left Socialists” as a “conservative fighter.”
- In the seat vacated by Mullins’ run for U.S. Senate, Republicans Josh Brecheen and Avery Frix faced off with Brecheen winning a narrow victory in the runoff in Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District. Brecheen, a former state senator, focused his campaign on cutting government spending, “reducing Washington’s influence in our daily lives,” and undercutting what he claims is lawlessness stemming from the McGirt decision. Brecheen will face Democrat Naomi Andrews and Independent Ben Robinson in the general election.
- For State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Republican runoffs have been a heated race. Ryan Walters, a favorite of Governor Kevin Stitt, narrowly defeated April Grace 53-47 with a margin of fewer than 20,000 votes deciding the race. Walters has gained notoriety for his YouTube videos, filmed in his car, that decry “left-wing indoctrination” and “woke-ism” in the form of critical race theory and literature in school libraries. Grace was more widely favored by the general population of Oklahoma educators and school staff, but it seems that Walters’ more splashy approach of promising to remove liberal influences from schools, targeting LGBTQ+ youth, and pushing school vouchers won him more votes. He will face Democrat Jena Nelson in November.
- In Oklahoma County, Kevin Calvey secured the Republican nomination for District Attorney, defeating his opponent Gayland Geiger. Calvey is a longtime state legislator and currently serves as county commissioner for District 3, as well as holding a position on the Oklahoma County jail trust. He is also currently under investigation for campaign-related activities, which has stemmed from ongoing tensions between himself and current District Attorney David Prater. Geiger has worked under Prater at the DA’s office for almost 20 years, adding another strange element to this race. Calvey will face Vicki Behenna, a former prosecutor and director of The Innocence Project, in the upcoming months.
- Also in Oklahoma County, Carrie Blumert emerged victorious in her race for District 1 County Commissioner, winning by a narrow margin of only 120 votes. She’ll face Republican Willard Linzy in November.
- For more runoff results, check out NonDoc’s election coverage here: https://nondoc.com/oklahoma-elections/
Oklahoma’s voter turnout in non-presidential election years is often dismal. In addition to the fact that closed primaries mean that most voters don’t get a say in the outcome in a one-party dominated state, a very small minority of voters end up deciding the fate of Oklahoma’s whole population. Of over 1 million registered Republican voters, only about 280,000 actually cast votes in the runoff election for state superintendent of public instruction. Similarly, in the unexpired Senate seat, Mullin won by receiving just 16% of registered Republican voters. Some elections are won by extremely narrow margins, such as the Oklahoma County Commissioner race (120 votes), state senator for District 26 (367), and state representative for district 21 (67). Clearly, voter registration and voter engagement are crucial in some of these races – and with November coming fast, it’s more important than ever that we be engaged, informed, and excited voters.