WASHINGTON — Some of the candidates seeking the eastern Oklahoma congressional seat have been in the race for almost a year, jumping in just weeks after Rep. Dan Boren announced he wouldn't run for a fifth term.
They have traveled the 26 counties, made hundreds of speeches, shook thousands of hands, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and now look to the voters to narrow down the choices.
There are congressional primaries Tuesday in four of Oklahoma's five districts. In three, Republican incumbents are being challenged.
Six Republicans and three Democrats are vying for nominations in the 2nd District, which, as currently drawn, has never been represented by a Republican.
Boren's seat is expected to be a national target for Republicans hoping to hang on to their majority in the House and looking for a pickup in an area where Democrats bear little philosophical resemblance to their national party's leaders.
Plumbing company owner Markwayne Mullin, a Republican, was the first to file a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission — his came on July 1 — and he has spent the most on the race, nearly $600,000 through June 6.
And though a recent internal poll released by his campaign showed the political newcomer with the lead over the other five GOP hopefuls, the bloc of undecided voters was still the biggest.
With his large cash advantage, Mullin has hired a team of seasoned fundraisers, consultants and pollsters and has been able to keep his television commercials running in a district where candidates must buy time in Tulsa and at stations in Texas, Missouri and Arkansas to reach all of the voters.
State Rep. George Faught, a Muskogee Republican who has been endorsed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and national conservative groups like the Family Research Council, boasted last week of a strong ground organization in a race where turnout will be crucial.
In 2010, with a Republican gubernatorial primary on the ballot, fewer than 25,000 GOP voters showed up to vote for six other Republican candidates vying for the 2nd District congressional seat.
That primary produced a runoff, and state Republican leaders are expecting another one this year.
The other Republican candidates are former state Rep. Wayne Pettigrew, of McAlester; former Tishomingo Mayor Dustin Rowe; Marine Corps veteran and homeland security expert Dakota Wood, of Claremore; and pastor Dwayne Thompson, of Fort Gibson.