Pictured: Sen. James Lankford Sworn into Office
GOP Holds onto Oklahoma Seats in Congress
Senator Jim Inhofe’s decision to leave Congress four years early created the unusual situation of Oklahoma voters choosing two U.S. Senators, as the seat held by Senator James Lankford was already up for election in 2022. Senator Inhofe, who was reelected in 2020 to a six-year term, announced last February that he would retire effective January 3, 2023. Because Inhofe’s term was not up until 2026, the Special Election for his seat was for a “short term” of just four years, while Lankford’s seat was for the full six-year term.
The Oklahoma State Election Board differentiated the two U.S. Senate offices on the ballot as the FULL TERM for the Lankford seat, and the UNEXPIRED TERM for the Inhofe seat. The Primary Election on June 28 began the process of narrowing down the list of candidates for the two seats, but the final contenders for the November election were not determined until the Runoff Primary Election which was held on August 23. A candidate must receive over 50 percent of the vote to capture the nomination for their party. If no candidate reaches that mark in the Primary Election, the top two finishers move on to the Runoff Primary.
Senator James Lankford, 54, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014 to fill the remainder of the unexpired term of Tom Coburn who left the seat early due to health reasons. Lankford was easily reelected in 2016 to a full term which would come to an end following the 2022 election. Before his election to the Senate, he was elected to the Fifth District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 and was reelected in 2012. Lankford faced two challengers for the Republican nomination in the June 28 Primary Election, but easily secured renomination with 67.83% of the vote.
Oklahoma voters have not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1990 when David Boren was elected to a third term. But, six Democrats were competing for the Democratic nomination in the June Primary. Since none of the candidates received more than 50 percent of the vote, the Democratic nomination was not settled until the August 23 Runoff Primary. Madison Horn, 32, of Oklahoma City finished in first place in the June Primary and went on to secure the nomination over Jason Bollinger in the Runoff Primary. Horn was raised in Stilwell and has worked for various firms involving Cyber and Digital Security, and currently works for Siemens Energy.
In addition to Senator Lankford, and Madison Horn, there were two other candidates on the General Election ballot.
Since only one Libertarian Party candidate filed for the seat, he moved directly to the November ballot. Kenneth Blevins, 37, of Sand Springs is a pipe fitter and welder. He earned associate degrees from Tulsa Community College and a degree in athletic training from Oklahoma State University. He made an unsuccessful run for the Libertarian nomination for President in 2020.
There was also an Independent candidate on the ballot, Michael Delaney, 57, of Norman. No other biographical information was provided by the candidate, but he did state positions on issues. He identified himself as a “progressive,” and indeed took a liberal stance on most issues.
Senator Lankford won reelection in November with 64.30% of the vote. Horn finished in second place with 32.10%, while Delaney got 1.82%, finishing ahead of Blevins who received 1.78 percent.
The open seat created by Inhofe’s early exit attracted a host of candidates. Thirteen candidates ran for the Republican nomination which has become tantamount to election in Oklahoma. The large number of GOP candidates, including four who had proven their ability to get elected to public office, made a runoff likely.
Second District Congressman Markwayne Mullin chose to run for the Senate seat rather than file for reelection. He finished in first place in the June Primary with an impressive 43.62 percent of the vote, but less than the 50% needed to capture the Republican nomination without a runoff. He went on to defeat former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon in the Runoff Primary on August 23.
Mullin, 44, owns Mullin Plumbing which spans much of the state. He also has ranching operations in Adair and Wagoner counties. He was completing his fifth term in the U.S. House. When he first ran for the seat in 2012, he pledged to serve no more than six years, but ran and won reelection in 2018 and also in 2020. He has compiled a mostly conservative record. He is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation.
Former Fifth District Congresswoman Kendra Horn, 45, was the only Democrat to file for the seat. Horn defeated the incumbent Republican Congressman Steve Russell in 2018. Oklahoma had not had a Democrat in Congress since 2012. And, for the first time in state history, Oklahoma had sent a Democrat woman to Congress. But, Horn lost her bid for reelection in 2020, losing to Stephanie Bice.
Prior to her election to Congress, Horn was a professional mediator and executive director of Women Lead Oklahoma which is a nonprofit organization working to empower women to be leaders and be engaged in civil activities. She had also served as press secretary for former Second District Congressman Brad Carson and managed political campaigns. She also served as executive director of Sally’s List which supports women running for elected office. She lives in Oklahoma City and is a native of Chickasha.
One Libertarian candidate filed. Robert Murphy, 74, of Norman unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate as a Libertarian in 1980, 1984, 2016, and in 2020. He was the only Libertarian to file for the seat this time. Between runs for the U.S. Senate, he has run for various other offices, including several races for a seat in the U.S. House. He has run as a Libertarian when the party had ballot status, and in other campaigns as an independent.
There was also an Independent candidate on the November ballot. Ray Woods, 86, of Cleo Springs was one of three independents who ran in 2014 for the U.S. Senate seat held by Senator Inhofe. He did not have a campaign website nor a social media presence, and failed to issue information about his campaign.
Congressman Mullin won in November with 61.77% of the vote. Horn finished second with 35.24%, followed by Murphy with 1.51%, and Woods with 1.48 percent.
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
All five of Oklahoma’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives were on the November ballot. Following the 2020 U.S. Census, the Oklahoma Legislature made some modifications to the boundaries of the congressional districts. The new boundaries became effective starting with the 2022 elections and will remain in effect through the 2030 elections.
The boundary changes following the 2020 U.S. Census modified the First District by shifting Washington County and eastern Wagoner County from the First Congressional District to the Second. And the portion in eastern Creek County was expanded to include Sapulpa. All of Tulsa County and a small part of western Rogers County remain in the district. The adjustments were necessary to accommodate the increase of population in the Tulsa metropolitan area.
Incumbent Republican Kevin Hern, 60, was first elected to the seat in 2018, and was reelected in 2020. He is the owner of KTAK Corporation which owns and operates 24 McDonald’s restaurants. Hern was not challenged for the Republican nomination, but faced a Democrat and an independent on the November ballot.
The only Democrat to file was Adam Martin of Tulsa. Martin, 26, grew up in Wagoner and graduated from Oklahoma State University in 2020 with a degree in history.
Independent candidate Evelyn Rogers, 70, of Tulsa is a college librarian at Tulsa Community College and has been a perennial candidate. She holds numerous college degrees, including an MA in Practical Theology from Oral Roberts University in 1993 and an MLIS (Library and Information Studies) from the University of Oklahoma in 2006. She ran for the U.S. Senate in 2008 and 2014, and seven times for a seat in the U.S. House, including the First District in 2020 where she received 3.62% of the vote in the General Election. She has also run for a seat in the Oklahoma Legislature. She has never been elected to office.
Congressman Hern was reelected in November with 61.16% of the vote. Martin finished in second place with 34.68%, and Rogers received 4.16 percent.
The Second District covers most of eastern Oklahoma, stretching south from the Kansas state line to the Red River border with Texas. As a result of the 2020 U.S. Census, the boundaries around the First District were modified as previously described.
The incumbent, Markwayne Mullin, did not run for another term, choosing instead to run for the open U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Senator Inhofe. With the Second District seat open for the first time in a decade, a flurry of candidates filed for the seat. Sixteen candidates including 14 Republicans, one Democrat and one independent, filed for the open seat. The list included six former or current members of the Oklahoma Legislature.
The GOP Primary Election on June 28 narrowed the list of Republicans down to the top two candidates. No candidate received close to the 50% of the vote needed to secure the Republican nomination. State Rep. Avery Frix of Muskogee narrowly finished in first place with 14.74 percent of the vote. Former State Sen. Josh Brecheen, 42, of Coalgate finished slightly behind Frix with 13.75 percent. Brecheen won the Republican nomination in the August Runoff.
Brecheen served in the Oklahoma Senate from 2010 to 2018. During his eight years in the Legislature he earned an impressive cumulative average score of 82% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index published by the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper. He made the Top Conservative Legislators list most of those years. Before his election to the Legislature, he was on the staff of former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn. He has also owned a quarter-horse breeding operation.
Naomi Andrews, 39, of Tulsa was the only Democrat to file. She has worked in communications and is currently the director of marketing and development for the Kingsley-Kleimann Group and executive director for the Center for Plain Language. She has also served as the First District vice-chairwoman for the Oklahoma Democratic Party.
Bulldog Ben Robinson, 88, of Muskogee filed as an independent. He is a former Democrat legislator who served in the Oklahoma Senate from 1989-2004. He was forced to retire after Term Limits kicked in. During his time in the Oklahoma Senate he had a cumulative average score of just 14% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index.
Brecheen won in November with 72.45% of the vote. Andrews finished in second place with 23.39%, and Robinson received 4.16 percent.
The third district covers most of the north central and western parts of the state, including the panhandle. Geographically, it covers about half the land area of the state due to the sparse population in much of the district. The boundary changes following the 2020 U.S. Census extended the district into southwestern Oklahoma County, which includes a portion of south Oklahoma City and a part near downtown. This area was previously part of the Fifth District. Meanwhile, Lincoln County, and the southern part of Logan County, including Guthrie, were removed from the Third District and shifted to the Fifth District. These areas are to the east and north of Oklahoma County. A portion of eastern Canadian County (west of Oklahoma County), including Yukon and Piedmont, was also removed and shifted to the Fifth District.
Congressman Frank Lucas, 62, of Cheyenne was first elected to the seat in a Special Election in 1994. He is the longest serving member among the current Oklahoma Delegation in the U.S. House. He is a former State Representative and runs a ranching operation. He had two challengers for the Republican nomination, but secured the nomination with 61.13 percent of the vote.
Jeremiah Ross, 38, of Bristow was the only Democrat to file. He is a criminal defense attorney and was previously an Assistant Attorney General for the Osage Nation. He previously ran for a seat in the Oklahoma House, but lost in the Democratic primary.
Congressman Lucas won reelection in November with 74.54% of the vote. Ross received 25.46 percent.
The Fourth District covers much of the south central and southwestern parts of the state. There were no significant changes made to the boundaries following U.S. 2020 Census. Congressman Tom Cole, 72, of Moore was first elected to Congress in 2002. He previously served in the Oklahoma Senate 1989-90. He had two challengers for the GOP nomination, but secured the nomination with 69.77 percent of the vote.
Congressman Cole again faced Democrat Mary Brannon, 70, of Washington, OK. She won the Democrat nomination in both 2018 and 2020. She received 33% of the vote against Cole in 2018, and 28.78% in 2020. She is a former teacher and school counselor.
Congressman Cole was reelected in November with 66.75% of the vote. Brannon received 33.25 percent.
For the last decade the Fifth District has included most of Oklahoma County, and all of Pottawatomie and Seminole counties. But, following the U.S. 2020 Census and redistricting, several adjustments were made to the district. All of Lincoln County and the southern part of Logan County, including Guthrie, were added to the district. Previously they were part of the Third District. And a portion of eastern Canadian County, including Yukon and Piedmont, were also added. Meanwhile a portion of south Oklahoma City and a part near downtown were shifted from the Fifth district to the Third.
The big news coming out of the 2018 Oklahoma congressional elections was the flipping of the Fifth District seat from Republican to Democrat when Kendra Horn defeated the incumbent, Steve Russell. Oklahoma had not had a Democrat in Congress since 2012. And, for the first time in state history, Oklahoma had a Democrat woman to Congress.
Nine Republicans were competing in 2020 to return the seat to the GOP and State Sen. Stephanie Bice of Edmond secured the Republican nomination and went on to defeat Congresswoman Horn. Bice was elected to the Oklahoma Senate in 2014 and reelected in 2018. Although Bice was a moderate Republican, earning a 56% cumulative average on the Oklahoma Conservative Index for the six years that she was in the Legislature, she has been far more conservative than the liberal Congresswoman Horn. Bice, 48, won the seat in 2020 with just 52.06% of the vote. She was challenged for the Republican nomination in the June 28 election, but won with 68.36 percent of the vote.
Democrats had their sights on recapturing the seat. But, the recent boundary changes made it more difficult to flip the district as they did in 2018. The areas added to the district tend to vote Republican, while the areas removed tend to vote Democrat. One Democrat filed for the seat.
Joshua Harris-Till, 32, of Oklahoma City listed himself as a brand management consultant, but he has spent most of his adult life in Democratic politics. He got his start working as an intern in former Second District Congressman Dan Boren’s district office. He was elected president of the Young Democrats of America in 2019. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in the Second District in 2014 and 2016, losing to Congressman Markwayne Mullin.
There was also an independent candidate on the November ballot, David Frosch, 36, of Oklahoma City. He attended the University of Oklahoma. No other biographical information about him was available. He called himself a labor advocate and said it is time for government to put the needs of the people over corporate profits.
Congresswoman Bice won reelection in November with 59.00% of the vote. Harris-Till finished second with 37.40%, and Frosch received 3.60 percent.