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June 29, 2014

Election shared few surprises

DUNCAN — There were no significant surprises or huge upsets in last Tuesday’s election,  but there were some twists and turns of interest locally and statewide.

  Of the 1,990,905 registered Oklahoma voters for the June primary, 432,434 or roughly 21.8 percent cared enough to vote. The Republican primary drew 264,710; the Democratic primary attracted 167,724.

  Of the 24,723 registered Stephens County voters, 4,251 or 17.2 percent took part. The Republican primary had 2,652 voters or 26.3 percent; the Democratic primary had 1,619 voters or 13.3 percent.

  The closest thing to a surprise was Congressman James Lankford’s big win over former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon. It wasn’t that Lankford won, but that he won without a runoff against a formidable opponent in a race that attracted seven candidates.

  Several factors likely keyed Lankford’s strong showing. As an experienced member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he ran, essentially, as an incumbent for the seat being vacated by popular Sen. Tom Coburn. A negative campaign, initiated by Shannon’s dark-money supporters and handlers, apparently backfired and especially so when Coburn righted wrongs he thought were being pushed.

  The heavy involvement of former OU football star and ex-Congressman J.C. Watts may have been a weak selection.  Candidate Randy Brogdon, expected to generate enough support to cause a runoff, ran surprisingly poor and was not a factor. Lankford’s squeaky clean background, buffeted by his long-time association with the Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, was a plus. And current congressmen, though not necessarily publicly, probably influenced support for a teammate who works hard and has their respect.

  Lankford claimed 57.2 percent of the 262,041 votes, but Shannon won Stephens County, taking 20 of 28 precincts though eight precincts were decided by less than five votes. Democrats Jim Rogers and Connie Johnson meet in the Aug. 26 runoff, but Lankford will be heavily favored over either in the Nov. 4 general election.

  That Joy Hofmeister won the GOP nomination for Superintendent of Public Instruction over the embattled incumbent Janet Barresi wasn’t surprising, either, but the margin of victory was. And so was Barresi’s third place finish behind relatively unknown Brian Kelly.

  Though well-intentioned, Barresi has been a polarizing and controversial voice almost from the day she was elected. An easy target whose $1.25 million personal campaign investment translated into about $25 apiece for her 55,015 votes may have done more to unify teachers and educators than anything else.

  Hofmeister will meet the winner of the John Cox-Freda Deskin Democratic runoff.  Hofmeister, who won all 28 precincts here, got 151,012 of the 262,041 state votes. That’s more than the combined 132,910 votes of Cox and Deskin and establishes her as the heavy favorite.

  Former Duncan superintendent Jack Herron fared better in the county than statewide, but was never a significant player. He got 475 Stephens County votes, 22,319 overall and remains a lightning rod topic here.

  Only 10,997 of 245.169 votes separated winner Todd Hiett from Cliff Branan in the tight winner-take-all Corporation Commissioner race between two veteran legislators. Branan, who was here for the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, actually won Stephens County, taking 15 precincts with one tie.

  Sixteen of the area precincts were decided by five votes or less.

  Duncan-raised trumpeter David B. Hooten, seeking the state Senate seat from affluent District 40 (Nichols Hills, northwest Oklahoma City, Bethany etc.) in what he hoped would be an impressive first step into politics, had to be disappointed with his fourth place finish. He probably picked the wrong race for starters and, frankly, may have delivered the wrong campaign message.

  A sincere, wants-to-make-a-difference guy, he pushed fixing America, being a leader who could deliver followers and solving national issues more than Oklahoma healthcare, troubled schools, jobs and government spending.

  Not surprisingly, our congressional delegation seems secure for as long as each member desires.

  Sen. Jim Inhofe got an 87.7 percent vote, 90.4 percent in Stephens County; Markwayne Mullin 79.7 percent; Frank Lucas 82.8 percent and Tom Cole 84.4 percent. No threat appears likely to any of them.

  And the same holds true for Gov. Mary Fallon. Joe Dorman, Rush Springs’ energetic, articulate and aggressive Democratic candidate, will no doubt step up the rhetoric and challenges, and may even close a sizable gap, but won’t be able to mount a serious charge.

  The bottom line is that most of the races have been decided.

  But it would still be nice if more of “us’ found time to vote.

  You have until Aug. 1 to register for the Aug. 26 runoff; Oct. 10 to register for the Nov. 4 general election.

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