Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, who has proven adept at securing federal money for home state projects, won a third full term Tuesday. He easily defeated Democratic challenger Andrew Rice, a freshman state senator who mounted an earnest long-shot campaign.
With 54 percent of the precincts reporting, Inhofe of Tulsa had 56 percent of the vote; Rice of Oklahoma City had 40 percent and independent Stephen Wallace of Tulsa had 4 percent.
Inhofe will be 73 when he begins his next term, meaning that he would be 79 at the end of it.
One of the hard-core conservatives who moved from the House to the Senate in 1994 during a Republican wave, Inhofe attacked Rice this year as being too liberal for the state and promised voters that he would stick to his principles.
Inhofe, who made himself famous by referring to global warming as a hoax and badgering former Vice President Al Gore at a hearing on the issue, had predicted that environmental groups would make him a top target this year.
But they didn't.
Rice, 35, also got little help from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for his upstart candidacy in a red state. Still, he campaigned throughout Oklahoma, promising a bipartisan approach to such issues as energy independence and health care reform.
Though Republicans will have fewer members of the Senate next year, Inhofe's seniority and the rules of the Senate that afford much power to individual senators mean he will still be relevant. He is already the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee and may eventually become the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee.