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Oklahoma Elections: Bridenstine credits voters' desire for new leadership for his upset victory over Sullivan

Oklahoma Republican newcomer Jim Bridenstine, who has pledged to serve only six years, got tea party endorsements as he rode an anti-incumbency wave to decisive victory over 10-year incumbent.
by Chris Casteel Published: June 27, 2012

— Republican Jim Bridenstine discovered early Wednesday that raising money for a general election will be a lot easier than it was before his upset victory of incumbent Rep. John Sullivan.

Bridenstine said in an interview that he had been swamped with calls from people who had been “sitting on the sidelines” during his race against Sullivan. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, also called, promising the maximum amount of funding he could provide.

Bridenstine said he had been outspent by at least a four-to-one margin by Sullivan, who had the power of incumbency behind his campaign in the 1st District.

But it was that incumbency that might have been his biggest enemy.

A U.S. Navy Reserve pilot and defense consultant, Bridenstine, 37, got help from some groups identified with the tea party movement and rode an anti-Washington wave to victory over Sullivan, of Tulsa, who has been in the U.S. House since 2002.

In complete but unofficial results, Bridenstine got 54 percent of the vote, a decisive victory that few likely saw coming.

“People are looking for new leadership,” Bridenstine said Wednesday. “People are dissatisfied with the out-of-control spending they're seeing from both parties. … People are looking for a new direction as far as spending and I benefited from that.”

Bridenstine, who has three degrees from Rice University and a Master of Business Administration degree from Cornell University, had never run for political office before. He said his campaign was “retail politics at its best” — lots of meet-and-greets at people's homes and going door to door.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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