From The Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY —
Oklahoma will have its first female governor this January.
Republicans rejected anti-Washington sentiment on Tuesday, selecting a two-term congresswoman instead of a tea party-backed conservative who once called for the creation of a state militia to protect state sovereignty.
Democrats picked Oklahoma’s lieutenant governor over the state’s attorney general in a tight race that was too close to call until a late-night concession.
“This race is about electing a conservative governor,” U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin said after winning the Republican nomination for governor. She defeated state Sen. Randy Brogdon of Owasso and two poorly funded candidates.
Attorney General Drew Edmonson threw his support to Lt. Gov. Jari Askins in a concession speech that resolved a tightly run contest. He said he called Askins to congratulate her on a well-run campaign and “pledged to help her get elected governor of Oklahoma.”
Fallin was the state’s first woman and first Republican to serve as lieutenant governor, a post she held for 12 years before being elected to Congress from the Oklahoma City area in 2006. She previously served two terms in the state House.
Askins replaced her at the lieutenant governor’s office.
With all but three of the state’s 2,244 precincts reporting, Askins led Edmondson by less than six-tenths of 1 percent, with more than 260,000 votes cast. Fallin had 55 percent of the vote in her race while Brogdon had 39 percent.
“It will be tough between now and Nov. 2,” said Askins, who defeated the House Speaker in 2006 for the lieutenant governor’s post. “You all helped me prove to people four years ago that I could be tough. You all helped prove tonight that being smart enough to run a good campaign, a smart campaign, puts us in a position to be able to move forward toward Nov. 2.”
Oklahoma voters Tuesday also decided nominees in races for U.S. Senate and Congress, state House and Senate, and eight statewide posts, including five open seats.
Retired Department of Defense worker James Sieber, 65, said he was most concerned about the economy as he voted for Fallin in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore.
“It is the economy and the direction this economy is going and the need to change that direction,” Sieber said.
Marie Mahoney, a homebuilder who said her business has suffered during the economic downturn, said she voted for Askins.
“I just went for the ladies today,” Mahoney said outside her voting precinct in northwest Oklahoma City. “I’m hoping she’ll do a good job.”
Fallin gave up her congressional seat to seek an office being vacated by Democratic Gov. Brad Henry, who cannot run for re-election because of term limits.
Fallin was unable to vote for herself after being called back to Washington for a vote on a supplemental funding bill for the war in Afghanistan. She returned to Oklahoma City late Tuesday to address supporters.
Brogdon put up a pesky fight and accused Fallin of making a “liberal compromise” by voting in 2008 for President George W. Bush’s plan to bail out the nation’s financial industry.
“She never fought this primary with both fists out,” said University of Oklahoma political science professor Keith Gaddie. “She’s absorbed some blows from a primary opponent, but it has not endangered her nomination.”
Brogdon told The Associated Press in April that he backed the creation of a new state militia to address what he called an “overreaching federal government.” He retreated after a public backlash and said he was speaking only about a National Guard-style militia to aid the state during civil emergencies.
“People are concerned about what is going on in their government,” Brogdon said at his watch party in Tulsa. “I think we will be in this freedom fight for a long time to come.”
Also in the Republican race were Oklahoma City-area businessmen Robert Hubbard and Roger Jackson.
Edmondson raised the most money among all the candidates, amassing nearly $2.6 million in contributions through July 12, according to the most recent campaign finance reports.
In the U.S. Senate primary, incumbent Republican Tom Coburn defeated primary challengers Evelyn Rogers of Tulsa and retired teacher Lewis Kelly Spring of Hugo. Coburn will face Democratic nominee Jim Rogers of Midwest City, who beat political newcomer Mark Myles. Two independents also await Coburn in the Nov. 2 general election.
Three incumbent congressmen on the ballot each won their party’s nominations. One was unopposed Tuesday.