Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin won an easy victory for the Republican nomination for the 5th District congressional seat on Tuesday, defeating Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett in a run-off primary. Fallin had 26,744 votes, or 63.1 percent, and Cornett had 15,665 votes, or 36.9 percent. The mayor conceded with a little more than two-thirds of the vote counted. “This is a celebration tonight, but our work is not finished,” Fallin told her cheering supporters at her watch party in Oklahoma City. “We still have one more election to go in November. We’re going to continue to hit the street, talk about the issues and visit with the people of Oklahoma and continue our message forward about faith, family and freedom and the principles I believe are on the hearts and the minds of our fellow Oklahomans.” Cornett called Fallin to concede at about 8:30 p.m. after spending 10 minutes circulating around his watch party shaking hands and thanking supporters. Cornett pledged his full support to Fallin and said he plans to continue to work with her on city issues. “She took on five really good opponents, and she won easily,” Cornett said. “To start trying to figure out what our campaign did wrong really detracts from the fact that she was pretty much unbeatable.” Fallin, 51, who has been lieutenant governor since 1995, will face Democrat David Hunter, an Oklahoma City physician making his first run for office, and Independent Matthew Woodson in the Nov. 7 general election. If she wins, she will be just the second woman to represent Oklahoma in Congress. The first, Alice Robertson, who was also a Republican, served a single term more than 80 years ago. Cornett, 48, became the second Oklahoma City mayor in two years to lose a bid for higher office in a Republican primary. In 2004, Kirk Humphreys was defeated in the GOP primary for an open U.S. Senate seat ultimately won by Muskogee Republican Tom Coburn. The 5th District seat includes most of Oklahoma County and Pottawatomie and Seminole counties. Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Warr Acres, who has held the seat since 1993, is retiring to run for governor this year. Fallin had to beat a crowded field of some well-known Republicans to get the nomination. In the July 25 primary, she led with 35 percent of the vote against Cornett, Corporation Commissioner Denise Bode, state Reps. Fred Morgan and Kevin Calvey and surgeon Johnny Roy. But her failure to get just over 50 percent of the vote pushed her into a run-off with Cornett, who got 24 percent of the primary vote. Cornett, a former television sports reporter, was a relatively late entry into the race. He announced his candidacy in May, just a few weeks after winning a second term as mayor and months after Fallin, Bode, Morgan and Calvey began their campaigns. The month-long run-off campaign was a mostly low-key affair, with few sparks or even memorable moments. Fallin got the endorsements of the four Republicans defeated in the primary and used her large warchest to flood the airwaves with her mantra of “faith, family and freedom.” Debates between Fallin and Cornett revealed little difference in ideology as both adopted stock Republican positions on issues ranging from immigration to gay marriage. Instead of running primarily on issues, the two focused on touting their leadership skills and claiming to be true conservatives. Pre-election polls showed her winning the run-off easily. For Fallin, the victory extended her unbeaten streak in political contests. She won two terms in the state House of Representatives before becoming the state’s first female and first Republican lieutenant governor. A Democrat hasn’t held the congressional seat that includes Oklahoma City for 30 years, and Fallin is considered the odds-on favorite to hold the seat for the Republican Party, even in a district where registered Democrats slightly outnumber Republicans and even in a year in which Democrats are hoping to pick up seats around the nation. National political race trackers, including Congressional Quarterly, have dubbed the seat safe for Republicans, and the national Democratic Party is not expected to devote significant resources to the race. Fallin has been a fund-raising machine, taking in slightly more than $1 million by the beginning of August, and she has the benefit of high name recognition. Hunter, who easily won the Democratic primary, has been trying to convince donors that the seat is winnable in a year when President Bush and the Republican-led Congress are facing low approval ratings. Contributing: Staff writers Ken Raymond and Bryan Dean
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