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Oklahoma elections: Republican James Lankford wins race to succeed Mary Fallin

Former Baptist church camp director completes improbable quest with big victory; three congressional incumbents win
BY CHRIS CASTEEL Modified: November 3, 2010 at 12:46 am •  Published: November 2, 2010

— Republican James Lankford, the former church camp director who felt called to succeed Mary Fallin in Congress, won the 5th District race Tuesday, completing his improbable run with a convincing victory over Democrat Billy Coyle.

Lankford, of Edmond, had 60 percent of the vote, while Coyle had 37 percent. independents Clark Duffe and Dave White, whose name remained on the ballot even though he dropped out of the race, were sharing the rest.

Three of Oklahoma's incumbents in Congress — Reps. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee; Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne; and John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, easily won re-election on Tuesday. The fourth, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, didn't have a general election opponent.

Lankford, 42, ran the Falls Creek camp for 14 years for the Southern Baptist Convention of Oklahoma, but decided to run for Congress after seeing stories about Fallin's intent to leave Congress to run for governor.

With no political experience, Lankford began his campaign last year with the help of some friends and fellow Baptists and built an organization that had little money but a lot of savvy about the Internet; the campaign used social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to get his message out. His first "ads" were simple videos of him talking about issues, and they ran only on his Web site.

By the July 27 Republican primary, Lankford had a strong following, and he finished first in a field of seven that included one former and two current state legislators. In the Aug. 24 runoff, he easily dispatched former state Rep. Kevin Calvey, and money started rolling in from the local establishment and special interest groups. He topped $1 million last month.

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