The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 5, 2012

Okla. GOP seeks to keep 'reddest state' moniker

By Sean Murphy
Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — On the eve of Tuesday’s election, Oklahoma Republicans hoped to keep the “reddest state in the nation” moniker earned in 2008 when President Barack Obama failed to win a single one of the state’s 77 counties.

With two Republican U.S. senators already in place and not up for re-election in 2012, the state’s GOP also hopes to capture all five of the congressional seats for the first time in Oklahoma history. The sprawling 2nd Congressional District in eastern Oklahoma currently held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Boren is the only blue section that remains on the state’s congressional map. Boren announced last year he wouldn’t seek a fifth term in office.

In the race to replace Boren, Republican Markwayne Mullin faces longtime state and federal prosecutor Rob Wallace, a Democrat, and independent Michael Fulks of Heavener.

Mullin, 35, a plumbing company owner from Westville, has touted his experience as a small businessman who grew his family’s plumbing business into a statewide operation and was endorsed by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin and two Republican U.S. Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe. Meanwhile, Wallace, 49, of Fort Gibson, has emphasized his law enforcement experience and painted himself as a pro-gun, anti-abortion Democrat who fits the conservative nature of the district.

Although Democrats enjoy a more than 2-to-1 registration advantage in the district, voters have consistently trended toward Republicans in national elections and a Republican has held the 2nd District seat before.

There’s also an open congressional seat in northeast Oklahoma’s 1st District, which includes Tulsa, after Republican Navy pilot Jim Bridenstine, 37, knocked off incumbent U.S. Rep. John Sullivan in the GOP primary. Bridenstine now faces Democrat John Olson, a 35-year-old Army reservist and small businessman, and independent Craig Allen, 54, of Tulsa. A Democrat hasn’t been elected to that seat since 1972.

Democrats have fielded a candidate in each of the state’s other three congressional districts, but those races feature strong incumbents in U.S. Reps. Frank Lucas in the 3rd District, Tom Cole in the 4th District and James Lankford in the 5th District.

Lucas, of Cheyenne, faces Democrat Timothy Ray Murray of Guthrie and independent William Sanders of Stillwater. Cole faces Democrat Donna Bebo of Fletcher and independent R.J. Harris of Norman. Lankford, running for re-election for the first time, faces Democrat Tom Guild of Edmond and two independents — Pat Martin of Jones and Robert Murphy of Norman.

Terry Lee, a 58-year-old retired aerospace engineer from Moore who voted early at the Cleveland County Election Board, said she cast her ballot Monday for Cole because of his strong support for the military.

“Military is very important to me, and I just think Republicans have a little better handle on that,” Lee said.

Cindy Hullihan, 59, a kitchen designer from Moore, said she voted for Bebo because: “I thought it was time for a change.”

At the state level, Republicans are expected to maintain or build upon their majorities in the House and Senate. The GOP currently enjoys a 32-16 advantage in the state Senate and already has added two seats by virtue of Democrats failing to field candidates in two districts where Democratic incumbents are stepping down. Republicans also are competing for three open seats previously held by Democrats, while defending just two Republican-held open seats.

In the House, where Republicans enjoy a 67-31 advantage with three seats vacant, there are 34 seats up for grabs in Tuesday’s election. Sixteen Republican incumbents are facing challenges, along with seven Democrats. Eleven seats are open.

Besides the presidential race and a congressional race in every district, each Oklahoma voter will have a chance to decide six state questions and whether to retain judges on the state’s appellate courts.