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Oklahoma Runoff Takeaways: Stephanie Bice Wins, Incumbents Fall

The lineup for November’s general election is set. 

Tuesday’s runoff election finalized Oklahoma’s high-profile congressional fifth district race. Meanwhile, several incumbent Republicans lost key seats in the Legislature and elsewhere, potentially setting up tight races this fall. 

As the dust settles on Oklahoma’s latest election, here is a look at how Tuesday will impact the general election.

Experts Predict Tight Horn vs. Bice Contest

The biggest win of the night, at least in terms of statewide and national interest, went to state Sen. Stephanie Bice in Oklahoma’s closely watched fifth district congressional contest.

Bice won nearly 53% of the vote as she defeated businesswoman Terry Neese and secured the GOP’s nomination. 

Stephanie Bice

Bice, who was largely seen as the more moderate Republican in the race, will go on to face freshman Kendra Horn, D-Oklahoma, in a race that both parties are eyeing for a victory this November. 

Horn surprised many political watchers in 2018 when she upset two-term congressman Steve Russell and ended more than 30 years of Republican control over the district, which covers almost all of Oklahoma County in addition to the more rural Pottawatomie and Seminole counties. 

One of the big questions for this fall is whether Horn will again win largely from metro Oklahoma City areas that have increasingly turned more moderate or Democratic over the years.

Democrats believe the answer to that is yes. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a poll shortly after Bice’s win showing the newly minted Republican nominee is a five percentage-point underdog. The poll, conducted by GQR Research on behalf of that Democratic campaign group earlier this month, has Horn winning over independents by a 65% to 31% margin in a contest against Bice. 

But Republicans put out optimistic messages as well. Neese called for party unity in her post-election speech while Bice began to pivot towards November. 

“Oklahomans wanted a candidate that could defeat Kendra Horn in November, and I’m ready to take her on in November,” she said in a statement following her win.  

The Cook Political Report currently rates the race as a “toss up.”

More Incumbent Lawmakers Go Down

It was another bad night to be a sitting lawmaker in a tough intraparty fight. 

All three GOP legislative incumbents who were on the ballot Tuesday were defeated by their Republican challengers. 

Jessica Garvin, an assisted living administrator, beat Sen. Paul Scott, R-Duncan, in the Senate District 43 race. Two-term incumbent Larry Boggs, R-Wilburton, lost to rancher Warren Hamilton in the Senate District 7 race. And former Oklahoma House member, Shane Jett, defeated Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, in the Senate District 17 race. 

State Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, defeated in Tuesday’s runoff election, has been a vocal critic of Epic Charter Schools, which has grown to become one of the state’s largest school districts (Whitney Bryen/Oklahoma Watch)

Sharp was among the most vocal critics of Epic Charter Schools and recently was awarded thousands of dollars in legal fees following a fight with the charter school.

In a letter sent out to parents days before the election, Epic called Sharp “dishonest and relentless” while denying any attempt to obstruct his campaign. 

Sharp, however, has claimed Epic had done just that. And, according to a report from KFOR, he plans on filing an ethics violation against the charter school. 

The three defeated incumbents now join four other sitting lawmakers in losing election bids this summer. 

Sen. Wayne Shaw, R-Grove; Rep. Lundy Kiger, R-Poteau; Rep. Derrel Fincher, R-Bartlesville; and Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, were all defeated in June’s primary election. 

This year still hasn’t been as tough on incumbents as 2018 following the teacher walkout, when 12 incumbents, all Republicans, were replaced. 

Bynum Wins Re-Election in Tulsa

Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum was among the few high-profile incumbents to escape the Tuesday unscathed. 

Anger over policing issues and Bynum’s decision to allow Tulsa to host President Donald Trump’s rally in June despite COVID-19 concerns prompted many to question Bynum’s political future. 

But not only did he survive Tuesday, he managed to top 50% of the vote in the eight-person field and won his re-election bid without needing to face a runoff in November. 

Community organizer Greg Robinson, who hoped to be Tulsa’s first black mayor, came in second with 28.8% of the vote. No other candidate topped 15%. 

Oklahoma County Sheriff Defeated

Oklahoma County will have a new sheriff next year. 

Norman police officer Tommie Johnson III easily beat incumbent Sheriff P.D. Taylor as Johnson secured more 60% of the vote in the two-person GOP primary. 

Taylor served in the sheriff’s office as undersecretary for 14 years before he was elected sheriff in 2017. He received FOI Oklahoma’s Black Hole recognition in 2018 for refusing to release records related to inmates at the Oklahoma County jail.

Johnson’s victory foreshadows a historic election in November as two black candidates, Johnson, and Democrat Wayland Cubit will compete to see who becomes the county’s first black sheriff. 

Trevor Brown has been an Oklahoma Watch reporter since 2016. He covers politics, elections, health policies and government accountability issues. Call or text him at (630) 301-0589. Email him at tbrown@oklahomawatch.org. Follow him on Twitter at @tbrownokc

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