Statewide Races and Congressional Seats on Ballot
By: Constitution Staff
Oklahoma voters in presidential election years see what is known as the “short ballot.” In the off year elections, state voters have the “long ballot” which includes races for governor, lieutenant governor, and a host of secondary offices, in addition to judges, and congressional races.
One office that was scheduled to be on the ballot this year was one of the three seats on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. But, Dana Murphy secured another six-year term on the commission after her only opponent withdrew from the race. The Oklahoma State Election Board issued Murphy a certificate of election on July 13 after receiving a formal notice from Democratic state Rep. Richard Morrissette that he was no longer a candidate. Morrissette cited the death of his father in April as a contributing factor in the decision. Another factor that perhaps influenced his decision is that he would have faced a Republican incumbent with over $630,000 in her campaign war chest. In Morrissettee’s most recent filing with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission he reported having only about $77,000 in his campaign account.
Oklahoma received the dubious distinction of being the only state in the last thee presidential elections to include only the Democrat and Republican presidential nominees on the ballot. This year, for the first time since the 2000 election, Oklahoma voters will also be able to vote for the Libertarian Party candidates. The Republican candidate for President is businessman Donald J. Trump and the GOP candidate for Vice President is Michael R. Pence, the current governor of Indiana. The Democrat candidate for President is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Her running mate is Jim Kaine, U.S. Senator from Virginia. The Libertarian candidate for President is Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico and the candidate for Vice President is Bill Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts. Johnson was also the Libertarian Party nominee in 2012.
Oklahomans voted in 1967 to amend the state Constitution to change the manner in which Oklahoma Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals judges are chosen. Before 1967, these judges were elected in partisan statewide elections. In 1987, a statute was added to include the Court of Civil Appeals. As a result, judges for these offices are appointed and then periodically appear on a retention ballot on which voters indicate “yes” or “no” on whether a justice should be retained in office for an additional term. In the nearly 50 years that this system has been in place, not a single judge has lost a retention election.
Seven seats on Oklahoma’s state-level courts are up for retention elections on November 8. If retained, a judge on any of Oklahoma’s three appellate courts serves for either a full six-year term or the unexpired remainder of his or her predecessor’s term.
There are nine justices on the Oklahoma Supreme Court and three of those seats were scheduled to be on the retention ballot this year. However, Justice Steven W. Taylor in District 2 announced he will be retiring and did not file for retention. James R. Winchester, who was originally appointed by Gov. Frank Keating, is running for retention in District 5. The other high court justice on the ballot is Douglas L. Combs in District 8 who was appointed by Gov. Brad Henry. In one notable case last year, the justices ordered the removal of the Ten Commandments Monument from the State Capitol, even though the U.S. Supreme Court approved the display of an identical monument at the Texas Capitol in Austin. This has resulted in the State Question to remove the provision in the state Constitution that the justices used to justify their decision. Justice Winchester voted to remove the monument, Justice Combs voted against the removal.
On the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s court of last resort for criminal cases, Judges Rob Hudson (appointed by Fallin) and Carlene Clancy Smith (appointed by Chief Justice James Edmondson to fill a vancancy) face retention in the 2016 election. On the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals, the state’s intermediate appellate court, Judges John Fischer (appointed by Henry), Larry Joplin (appointed by Walters), and P. Thomas Thornbrugh (appointed by Fallin) are on the retention ballot.
The U.S. Congress is composed of two chambers. Senators serve six-year terms with only a third of the seats up each election year. Each state has two seats in that upper chamber. All five Oklahoma seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are up each election year since they serve two-year terms. All five members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Oklahoma were challenged for renomination in the June 28 Primary Election. All won the Republican nomination for their seats.
U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe was re-elected two years ago and has four more years before his term expires. The U.S. Senate seat currently held by Senator James Lankford is up for election this year. Lankford won a special election in 2014 to fill the unexpired term of Senator Tom Coburn who decided to leave the Congress two years early. Because Coburn’s seat was not up until 2016, the Special Election for the post was for a “short term” of just two years. The election this year is for a full six-year term.
U.S. Senator Jame Lankford, 48, of Edmond is running for reelection to the seat. After many years in church youth camp work, political novice Lankford surprised many observers with his election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010. He again surprised pundits with his win in the senate race. Since he was the only Republican candidate to file for the post this year, he has secured the GOP nomination, but will face a Democrat, a Libertarian, and an Independent in the General Election.
Two Democrats filed for the senate seat, but Steve Perry, 63, of Oklahoma City withdrew, giving the nomination to Mike Workman, 65, of Tulsa. Workman ran for the state Labor Commissioner post in 2014, losing to Mark Costello. Following a short career as a public school teacher from 1974 to 1976, in 1978 Workman founded Workman & Company, a political consulting firm working to elect Democrats to office. He is known as a local community activist and helped organize Occupy Tulsa in the fall of 2011 as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Workman has had several skirmishes with the law including being forcibly removed from a Tulsa City Council meeting and driving with a invalid license. In 2011, the Tulsa County District Attorney filed Domestic Assault & Battery charges against Workman, but the charges were later dropped.
Robert T. Murphy, 68, of Norman secured the Libertarian nomination with 59% of the vote in the primary election. He retired from the University of Oklahoma in 2010. He has run for various offices in the past, including several races for Congress. He ran as a Libertarian when the party previously had ballot status, and in later campaigns as an Independent.
There will also be two Independent candidates on the ballot. Sean Braddy, 44, of Norman is a progressive activist and works as a youth career coach at ResCare Workforce Services in Oklahoma City. Mark T. Beard, 56, of Oklahoma City is a roofing contractor. He was also a candidate for the seat in 2014.
U.S. House – Fist District
First District (Tulsa area) incumbent Republican Jim Bridenstine, 40, won the GOP nomination over two challengers with more than 80 percent of the vote. He is widely regarded as the state’s most conservative congressman. Bridenstine, a Navy combat pilot who flew missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, served as executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and left in 2010 to concentrate on his career in the Naval Reserve. David Matthew Hullum, 33, of Tulsa had filed as an Independent, but withdrew from the race in June. Therefore, Congressman Bridenstine has been reelected and will not be on the November ballot.
U.S. House – Second District
Markwayne Mullin, 38, is running for a third term in the second district. He won renomination with 63 percent of the primary vote. Mullin owns Mullin Plumbing which spans much of the state, and has ranching operations in Adair and Wagoner counties. Two years ago, Mullin overcame a challenge for the Republican nomination and went on to defeat Democrat Earl Everett, 80, of Fort Gibson who died immediately before the November election due to injuries in a car accident.
Two Democrats competed in the June Primary. Making a second try was Joshua Harris-Till, 28, of Tahlequah who lost the nomination in 2014 to Everett. He won the nomination this time with 60 percent of the vote. He is a power plant technician and served as an intern in former Congressman Dan Boren’s district office. Independent, John McCarthy, 46, of Afton will face Mullin and Harris-Till on the General Election ballot. McCarthy is a mortgage broker and his main issue is speeding up the process to find a cure for cancer.
The district covers 26 counties in eastern Oklahoma, stretching south from the Kansas state line to the Red River border with Texas. After the 2010 census and minor redistricting, the district remains the most Democratic in the state by registration.
U.S. House – Third District
Long-time Third District Congressman Frank Lucas, 56, was first elected in a Special Election in 1994. He is the longest serving member among the current Oklahoma Delegation in the U.S. House. Lucas received accolades from many conservative Republicans when he was the lone member of the House of Representatives from Oklahoma to vote against the big bank bailout in 2008. But Lucas has angered many conservatives with some of his votes over the past several years. He was challenged for the Republican nomination in the primary election, but won renomination with 78 percent of vote.
Lucas will face Democrat Frankie Robbins, 70, of Medford in the General Election. Robbins lost to Lucas in 2008 and 2010. He also ran in 2012, but lost in the Primary Election. Robbins, a Civil Engineer, is retired from the U.S. Forest Service. The third district covers most of the north central and northwestern parts of the state, including the panhandle.
U.S. House – Fourth District
Fourth District Congressman Tom Cole, 66, was first elected to Congress in 2002. While serving in the state Senate back in the 1989-90 time period, Cole compiled an 80% Oklahoma Conservative Index score, placing him in the Top Conservatives list. However, his record in Congress has been markedly less conservative. He was challenged for the Republican nomination by two conservative candidates, but survived with 71 percent of the vote.
There were two Democrats competing for their party’s nomination. Christina Owen, 32, of Norman won the nomination with 62 percent of the vote. She is a community activist and the owner of Splazoingas Sweets & Treats based in Norman. Sevier White, 67, also of Norman, filed as a Libertarian. He is a retired teacher and wrestling coach, and has a land development, Eagle Loft Estates in Purcell. The district covers much of south central and southwestern parts of the state.
U.S. House – Fifth District
The 5th District includes most of Oklahoma County, Pottawatomie and Seminole counties. With the decision by Fifth District Congressman James Lankford to run for the open U.S. Senate post two years ago, the congressional seat was open and attracted many candidates including six Republicans, three Democrats, and three Independents. Former state Senator Steve Russell won the GOP nomination and went on to win the seat in the General Election. Russell, 52, of Oklahoma City was challenged for nomination this time, but won with 80 percent of the primary vote.
Russell will face the same Democrat whom he defeated two years ago. The same three Democrats who ran for the seat in 2014 again competed for the nomination this time. State Senator Al McAffrey, 67, of Oklahoma City won the 2014 Democrat Primary, and this time was in a virtual tie with Tom Guild 61, of Edmond with each receiving 37 percent of the primary vote. McAffrey went on to defeat Guild in the August 23 Runoff Primary to secure the nomination over Guild again this time. McAffrey was first elected to the Oklahoma House in 2006, and reelected in 2008 and 2010. He won a special election to the state Senate in 2012. McAffrey had a cumulative average score of 14% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index. McAffrey was the states first openly “gay” legislator. He supports same-sex marriage and workplace protections for members of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community.
Zachary Knight, 35, of Edmond will be on the Libertarian line of the General Election ballot. Knight is a computer programmer and serves as State Party Secretary for the Libertarian Party. Since 2006, he has been involved with Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform which fought in the Oklahoma legislature to reform the state ballot access laws. That effort resulted in the return of the Libertarian Party to the ballot in Oklahoma.
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