Politics: Oklahoma Primary Watch

Clayton Flesher

The Oklahoma election season is heating up with the primary just a month away. To help keep track of what everyone is up to, I’ve created a subscribable list of all of the candidates on Twitter what will appear on the various ballots in Oklahoma City. I’ve also published a spreadsheet that lists every Oklahoma City candidate in every race, what party they are affiliated with, and what their Twitter handle is if they have one. Once the primary is over, I’ll update the lists with the winners.

As much as I’d like to see a lot of incredibly close elections in November, I’m not optimistic. In Oklahoma, the Republicans hold power in almost every part of state government. While that isn’t likely to swing dramatically any time soon, there will be some interesting races.

There haven’t been any polls released in the governor’s race yet, but as of January she had a 65% approval rating. That has almost certainly dropped some, though, with her handling of the recent botched executions, her veto of an incredibly popular education bill, and various fumbles associated with the Open Records Act. Her daughter’s bad PR hasn’t been doing her any favors either. With a little more help from Fallin, Joe Dorman might just make the race interesting.

Additionally, James Lankford had to step down from his House seat to run for Senate. District Five is wide open. The safe bet is that the seat will remain Republican, but a lot can happen depending on which candidates make it out of the primary.

Those two races aside, my bet is that the most interesting part of this 2014 election will not happen in November, but on the June 24 primary.

Right now, all of the big races to watch are in the Republican primaries.

TW Shannon vs. James Lankford to replace Tom Coburn in the Senate is basically a toss up with a month left. Two polls have been released in the race. Soonerpoll.com ran a poll in early May that had the two candidates basically tied, but just recently Lankford put out a press release claiming that the Tarrance Group, a Republican polling organization, has him up by 10 points following his recent ad buys.

The Tarrance Group poll was taken only a week after the Soonerpoll.com poll. The reported margins of error for these two polls do allow for a little overlap, but only if Soonerpoll is under performing for Lankford and the Tarrance Group is over performing. Despite what Lankford’s breathless press release claims on his website, this race seems quite competitive.

I’m not sure which poll is more accurate. I’d like to give Soonerpoll.com the benefit of the doubt here, if only because I’d like it to be a closer race and they’re nice enough to actually publish their questionnaire and results online for sifting, but the Tarrance Group is a major Republican polling organization that presumably has better ways of finding and contacting likely Republican voters. If I had to guess, I’d say that the Tarrance Group poll is likely a little more accurate and that Shannon has his work cut out for him over the next month.

The other big primary race is for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Janet Barresi is very controversial, both within and outside of her own party. The fact that she drew two viable Republican opponents including Joy Hofmeister, one of Mary Fallin’s appointees to the Oklahoma State Board of Education, speaks volumes.

If Berresi does manage to get out of her primary, I predict that she’ll be one of the few real black eyes the Oklahoma Republican Party gets in November. This is entirely possible. According to the same Soonerpoll.com survey that had Lankford and Shannon statistically tied, Barresi is barely ttrailing Hofmeister and barely ahead of Brian S Kelly. All are within the margin of error with one another, and the poll had over 50% of likely Republican voters undecided.

Where things really get interesting is if Janet Barresi does make it out of the primary and Mary Fallin has to take a stance on her candidacy. Fallin is already being pounded by Joe Dorman for her decision to veto House Bill 2625, the Third Grader high stakes testing bill that would allow parents and educators to have a say before students got automatically held back. Fallin used the exact same type of language to justify her veto that Barresi used in her opposition in the first place. That the legislature so overwhelmingly voted to override the veto could indicate that this is a potential area of vulnerability for Fallin.

Fallin probably would love it if Hofmeister defeated Barresi in June, calming things down and giving herself until November to embrace a more populist stance on education. As a former Fallin appointee, it is also a safe to assume that Hofmeister wouldn’t rock the boat on any legislative stances the Governor opts to pursue, or not pursue. The same can’t be said for Brian S Kelly, who supports a bill to require the Oklahoma legislature to fund education to at least the per-pupil average of neighboring states.

*Editor’s note: we have a Facebook event for finding your polling buddies. In the meantime, good to know deadlines are as follows.

Good to know deadlines:

June 24 (Statewide Primary)
Last day to register to vote: May 30
Deadline to request absentee ballot: 5 p.m. June 18
Early voting: Thursday, June 19, 8 AM – 6 PM
Friday, June 20, 8 AM – 6 PM
Saturday, June 21, 9 AM – 2 PM

August 26 (Statewide Runoff)
Last day to register to vote: Aug. 1
Deadline to request absentee ballot: 5 p.m. Aug. 20
Early voting: Thursday, August 21, 8 AM – 6 PM
Friday, August 22, 8 AM – 6 PM
Saturday, August 23, 9 AM – 2 PM

November 4 (Statewide General)
Last day to register to vote: Oct. 10
Deadline to request absentee ballot: 5 p.m. Oct. 29
Early voting: Thursday, October 30, 8 AM – 6 PM
Friday, October 31, 8 AM – 6 PM
Saturday, November 1, 9 AM – 2 PM

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