Runoff Expected in Oklahoma’s Crowded GOP US Senate Primary

By Jeff Louderback
Jeff Louderback
Jeff Louderback
Jeff Louderback is a national reporter for The Epoch Times who is based in Ohio and covers U.S. Senate, U.S. House and gubernatorial races in Ohio and surrounding states.
June 27, 2022 Updated: June 28, 2022

If there is one race to illustrate why a runoff exists in some states, it’s the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate special election in Oklahoma.

Ten GOP candidates are vying to replace 87-year-old Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, who took office in 1994 and was elected to a fifth term in 2020 before announcing in February 2022 that he would retire, effective January 3, 2023.

Kendra Horn, who represented Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District from 2019 to 2020, is unopposed in the Democratic primary.

On the Republican side, Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) is the heavily funded frontrunner, comfortably leading in the polls.

Republicans are heavily favored to prevail in the general election, making the GOP primary especially significant since the winners are virtually assured a victory in November.

If no Republican candidate surpasses 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election between the two top vote-getters will take place on August 23, 2022.

While Mullin is expected to lead the crowd when results are announced on June 28, it is less clear who will finish second and advance to a runoff, if Mullin finishes first and does not eclipse the 50 percent mark.

A poll jointly conducted by Oklahoma City’s KWTV News 9 and Tulsa’s KOTV News on 6 released on June 23 indicated that Mullin stands in first with 38.7 percent followed by top contender and former Oklahoma speaker of the house T.W. Shannon at 13 percent.

State Sen. Nathan Dahm is in third with 8.1 percent followed by Luke Holland (5 percent), Scott Pruitt (2.4 percent), Alex Gray (1.8 percent), and Dr. Randy Grellner (1 percent).

According to the poll, 30 percent of the likely Republican primary voters questioned are undecided.

The 44-year-old Mullin is a former professional mixed martial arts fighter, and the owner of Mullin Plumbing and Mullin Farms. He and his wife, Christie, have six children and live at Mullin Ranch in eastern Oklahoma.

First elected to represent Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District in 2013, Mullin is a staunch advocate of former president Donald Trump’s America First platform and is an outspoken supporter of the Second Amendment, the pro-life movement, and completing the wall on the US-Mexico border.

“If you want to change Washington D.C., then you’ve got to change the type of people you send there,” Mullin told KOCA News 5. “If you have people who only have a political background, then that means they will only make political decisions. I believe you need to have skin in the game.”

What separates Mullin from the other candidates, he says, is his business background.

“Our resume sets us apart,” said Mullin, who is a member of the Cherokee tribe. “We are a job creator. We’re the business guy. Ever since I’ve been in office, my wife and I have started multiple businesses and hired more and more employees.”

A Federal Election Commission report filed on June 16 shows that Mullin raised more than $3 million in campaign funds, including a $1 million loan he made to his campaign.

Political strategists familiar with the race have said that Mullin’s name recognition from his role as a congressman and his plumbing business, along with his successful fundraising, give him an edge.

Shannon
T.W. Shannon is a candidate in Oklahoma’s June 28 Republican U.S. Senate primary. (Courtesy of T.W. for Oklahoma)

A former Oklahoma House speaker, Shannon finished second to Sen. James Lankford in the 2014 GOP primary. He was an Oklahoma state representative from 2006 to 2014 before leaving the state legislature and serving as CEO of Chickasaw Community Bank in Oklahoma City.

A member of the Chickasaw tribe, Shannon has received $1.7 million from the Oklahoma Conservative Alliance, a super PAC that is exclusively backing him.

Shannon, who is black, is against abortion, has called Planned Parenthood racist, and in May tweeted, “Black babies have been targeted by the abortion lobby and the Dems since day one. Don’t you dare say ‘Black Lives Matter’ til you admit that black babies matter.”

Like Mullin, Shannon also supports the Second Amendment and has said that America does not need new gun control laws.

Dahm, who was first elected to the Oklahoma State Senate in 2011, says he is the most conservative candidate in the race and has focused his campaign on Congressional term limits, protecting the Second Amendment, and election integrity.

“There are some of you today who probably want a liberal Republican. That’s not me,” Daum said at the June 23 debate. “If you want a liberal Republican, you have a lot of other options to choose from.”

Though the GOP Senate primary features a crowded field of challengers, the race has been mostly void of attacks.

At a June 23 debate held at the Oklahoma State Chamber’s annual meeting, Dahm, Holland, Pruitt, and Shannon were present. Mullin did not attend, citing that he had to stay in Washington D.C. to vote.

“It’s easy to say you’re for term limits and then like Congressman Mullin to break your word when it becomes expedient for you, and I wish he was here today to answer for that, but he chooses not to be here,” Dahm said.

Endorsed by Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.), Dahm told reporters that, “I am tired of the spineless politicians who turned their backs on President Donald J. Trump. We need proven Republican fighters, and I’ve proven I’ll never back down.”

Holland, who started working with Inhofe as a staff assistant in 2009 and was promoted to chief of staff, is backed by the senator.

Alex Gray worked for the National Security Council in the Trump administration. Before the June 23 debate, he announced he ended his campaign and gave Holland his stamp of approval.

Gray’s name will still appear on the ballot.

At the debate, Holland said that his experience working with Inhofe will allow him to work across the aisle. Inhofe endorsed Holland because “he knows I can strike that right balance of having a spine to block the bad things that the left wants to do but also figure out how we can move the ball forward for Oklahoma and advance real conservative victories that we need,” Holland said.

Pruitt headed the Environmental Protection Agency during the Trump administration and was Oklahoma Attorney General from 2011 to 2017. He was expected to be among the leaders in the race, but his polling numbers have remained in the single digits.

In a deep red state, all candidates are proponents of Trump, though the former president has not endorsed anyone. Trump won Oklahoma with 65 percent of the vote in 2020.

If the primary leads to a runoff, Mullin is not guaranteed victory, according to Oklahoma City political consultant Mark Yates.

“The landscape completely resets” if a runoff on Aug. 23 is held, Yates added.

Oklahoma’s other Senate seat, occupied by Lankford, is not expected to be a competitive race. He is opposed by Tulsa area pastor and businessman Jackson Lahmeyer in the Republican primary.

Lankford was first elected to his Senate seat in 2014. Lahmeyer is backed by Trump adviser Roger Stone and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Joan Farr is also on the Republican ballot. She is simultaneously running in the Kansas U.S. Senate GOP primary, which federal law allows.

The Democratic primary includes six candidates.

Libertarian Kenneth Blevins and independent Michael Delaney will also appear on the general election ballot.

Epoch Times Photo
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt speaks after signing into law a prolife bill in Oklahoma City, Okla., on April 12, 2022. (Sue Ogrocki/AP Photo)

Gubernatorial Primary

In the governor’s race, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt is expected to easily win the June 28 primary and the general election in November. AdImpact, an ad tracking firm, reported that Stitt has spent more than $2 million in advertising.

Naturopathic doctor and former Tulsa SWAT team officer Mark Sherwood; Executive Director of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs executive director and National Guard veteran Joel Kintsel; and stay-at-home mother and pro-life activist Moira McCabe are attempting to unseat Stitt in the Republican primary.

In early May, before the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade reversal, Stitt signed Oklahoma’s Heartbeat Bill into law, which bans all abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy.

Stitt has said he wants to make Oklahoma “the most pro-life state in the country.”

In a tweet, he said, “I represent all four million Oklahomans who overwhelmingly want to protect the unborn.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, who switched her affiliation from Republican to Democrat last October when she said she was running for governor; and former Oklahoma State Senator Connie Johnson are the candidates in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Mullin’s Seat

Fourteen candidates are on the ballot in Oklahoma’s Republican 2nd Congressional District GOP primary. That seat opened when Mullin decided to run for Senate.

Quapaw Nation secretary-treasurer Guy Barker gave his campaign a $770,000 loan, the most money spent in the race.

John Bennett, a former Oklahoma state representative and former chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, is running along with former state representative Avery Frix, Cherokee Nation tribal councilor Wes Nofire, state representative Dustin Roberts, and Muskogee chief of police Johnny Teehee.

Economy Pharmacy CEO Chris Schiller, former state senator Josh Brecheen, former state representative David Derby, and state Sen. Marty Quinn are also on the ballot.

In Oklahoma’s 1st Congressional District, incumbent Republican Rep. Kevin Hern is unopposed and will face Democrat Adam Martin and independent candidate Evelyn Rogers in November’s general election.

Hern is endorsed by Trump.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the endorsements that Lahmeyer has received. The Epoch Times regrets the error.

Jeff Louderback is a national reporter for The Epoch Times who is based in Ohio and covers U.S. Senate, U.S. House and gubernatorial races in Ohio and surrounding states.