In a race to replace perennial Sandy Garrett as the state's superintendent of education, two candidates roared out of the primaries Tuesday, while an independent quietly works below the fray for November.
Susan Paddack, a two-term Democratic senator from Ada, defeated retired Superintendent Jerry Combrink with a substantial margin, claiming 73 percent with all but one precinct reporting.
"The strong show of support, I think, gives us the momentum going into the general election," Paddack said.
In the Republican primary, Janet Barresi, a charter school founder from Edmond, defeated Brian Kelly, taking 63 percent of the votes with all but one precinct reporting.
"We're going to take just a little bit of time to celebrate, then, we're back to work," Barresi said. "I didn't get in this race to just be the Republican nominee. I got in this race to really change children's lives."
On Nov. 2, Barresi and Paddack will face independent candidate Richard Cooper, who has spent most of his 29-year career as a classroom teacher.
Cooper said being a third-party candidate is a tough road, but he is optimistic his grassroots social networking-based campaign will give him a fighting chance in a race that the two major party candidates estimate will cost $1 million each.
"If you spend $1 million on something, it's going to be yours," Cooper said. "I'm just going to keep hitting the fact that, after next Thursday, if they're looking for someone with education experience, I'm the only one in the race."
Already, Barresi has raised $505,978, and Paddack $274,539. Barresi took out a $275,000 loan for her race. Cooper, who said he won't accept donations, has spent about $2,300.