Ron Sharp said his biggest opponent in Tuesday's Republican primary runoff election for the Senate District 17 seat wasn't the other candidate.
“It's voter apathy,” Sharp said Wednesday. “That was more the problem than my opponent.”
About 3,300 people cast ballots in the election, which is roughly 16 percent of the registered Republicans living in the district which stretches from Shawnee north to parts of Oklahoma County.
Runoff elections traditionally have a lower turnout, state Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said. The turnout in all eight legislative races Tuesday was lower than the percentage of voters who went to the polls in the June 26 primary election.
Turnout in legislative races range from 15.6 percent to 21.8 percent, according to unofficial election results; in June voter turnout ranged from 17.1 percent to 29.7 percent.
“For a runoff, obviously you'd like to see more people turn out,” Ziriax said.
He said Tuesday's turnout was “pretty decent” considering there were no statewide races. Some voters had only one race on their ballot.
Runoff elections are for candidates who failed to get a majority of votes cast among a field of three or more contenders in the primary election.
In the June primary, four candidates split the vote in the District 17 race, and Sharp finished second, a few percentage points behind his opponent, Ed Moore.
But Sharp said his campaign workers focused efforts on the historically most active voters, knowing that half the battle would be getting supporters out to the polls. He won by fewer than 100 votes.
Because no Democrat or independent filed for the post, Sharp's runoff election victory Tuesday means he will take office in mid-November.
Nathan Dahm had a similar experience in Tulsa, coming in second in a four-way primary, but winning the runoff.
He said he supports the runoff system.
“Hypothetically, you could have 10 candidates and one of them win with 11 percent of the vote,” Dahm said. “That's not representative of the people. We are a constitutional republic, but we do have a democratic process.”
The turnout in his runoff was almost 17 percent, which he said was higher than the estimates he had heard before Tuesday.
Dahm also will take office in mid-November because no Democrat or independent filed for the seat.
Sharp said he's not sure whether an open primary would be best in which voters can vote on a ballot of any party. Oklahoma has a closed primary election, in which voters are limited by party affiliation.
He said his race would have been more expensive if the state had an open primary election because he would have had to reach out to Democrats and independents.
“When the Democrats were in control there was no complaining going on (about the closed primary),” said Sharp, who taught government classes in high school for almost 40 years. “We would have to look at the unintended consequences of that. I'm not saying it might not need to be done.”
Dahm said he is going to strive to represent everyone regardless of their political party.
In the House of Representatives races, all the winners in Tuesday's runoff elections were the top vote-getters in the June primary elections.
Mark McBride of Moore, won 58.9 percent of the votes cast in Tuesday's Republican runoff primary election for the House District 53 race. Ken Walker won 53.5 percent of the vote in the Republican runoff primary election for the House District 70 seat.
No Democrat or independent filed in either of those races. Walker will succeed Rep. Ron Peters, R-Tulsa, who couldn't seek re-election because of 12-year legislative term limits, and McBride will succeed Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, who did not seek re-election to run for a Cleveland County county commissioner seat.
In the House District 88 race, Kay Floyd, of Oklahoma City, won 63 percent of the vote Tuesday. She will face Republican Aaron Kaspereit, of Oklahoma City, in the Nov. 6 general election. The winner will succeed Rep. Al McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City, who was elected in February to the state Senate.
Jerry Rains, of Muskogee, won 58.5 percent of the vote in the Democratic runoff primary election race in House District 14. Rains won 58.5 percent of the vote. Rains will face Republican Arthur Hulbert, of Fort Gibson, in November. The winner of that race will succeed Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, who resigned his post to run for Congress.
State election officials will certify Tuesday's voting results next week.