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August 28, 2012

Wallace, Mullin advance in Okla. US House runoffs

OKLAHOMA CITY — Voters in Oklahoma set the final lineup for the November general election Tuesday, choosing major-party nominees for a U.S. House seat from the eastern part of the state and settling on who should advance in a handful of legislative races.

Former state and federal prosecutor Rob Wallace won the Democratic nomination in Oklahoma's 2nd District, a 26-county swath that reaches from Kansas to Texas. He will face Republican Markwayne Mullin, a plumbing company owner who defeated a three-term state representative for the GOP nod.

Independent Michael Fulks of Heavener will also be on the November ballot.

The three hope to replace the lone Democrat in Oklahoma's congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, who announced his retirement last year. Boren didn't endorse a would-be successor but top state Democrats, including the incumbent's father, threw their support behind Wallace.

With 90 percent of the district's 530 precincts reporting unofficial returns, Wallace had 57 percent of the vote to 43 percent for Muskogee seed company owner Wayne Herriman. On the Republican side, Mullin led three-term state Rep. George Faught of Muskogee, 54 percent to 56 percent.

Wallace, from Fort Gibson, had led Herriman after the June 26 primary but not by enough to avoid a runoff. Mullin, too, led in the primary, buoyed by a $1 million campaign fund that paid for advertisements to paint himself as a political outsider.

Turnout was very low. The district has about 408,000 registered voters and it appeared that just about 60,000 turned out for the runoff elections.

Michael O'Brien, a retired policeman, voted for Wallace in the Democratic runoff. O'Brien said he was confident in Wallace's economic policies and ability to stimulate job growth.

"I'm a Democrat but I have some Republican views and he's got both qualities," O'Brien said.

Teresa Hughes voted for Mullin. The nurse said she was impressed with how Mullin turned things around for his family's financially troubled plumbing business when he took over the company at age 19.

"I'm a social and fiscal conservative and I feel that he represented all of that," Hughes said.

Bus driver Leroy King cast his ballot Tuesday for Herriman in the Democratic candidate's hometown of Muskogee.

"He's a working man, and we need working men up there to get the job done," King said.

Mullin received 42 percent of the vote in a six-man Republican primary June 26, while Faught finished a distant second at 23 percent. On the Democratic side, Wallace got 46 percent of the vote in June compared to Herriman's 42 percent.

Wallace was endorsed by some of the state's most popular Democrats, including former Gov. Brad Henry, former Attorney General Drew Edmondson and University of Oklahoma President David Boren, the incumbent's father who also served as governor and as a U.S. senator.

The district is heavily Democratic but also conservative. In 2008, GOP presidential candidate John McCain won every county in the state.

Four Oklahoma Senate and four Oklahoma House runoffs also are on Tuesday's ballot. Republicans currently hold a 32-16 advantage in the state Senate and a 67-31 edge in the House, with three seats vacant. The GOP is expected to maintain healthy majorities in both chambers, but Democrats are hoping to chip away at those advantages.

 

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