WASHINGTON — 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.
He succeeds Fallin as the representative of a district that includes most of Oklahoma County and Pottawatomie and Seminole Counties. Fallin spent only four years in the seat, all of it in the minority. If he wins, Lankford would spend his first term in the majority, as Republicans were poised on Tuesday to win enough seats to recapture the House.
Coyle, 35, a criminal defense attorney, was battling history in a district that has been represented by Republicans since 1975. He also chose to run his first race in a national political environment that was toxic for Democrats.
Boren, the only Democrat in Congress from Oklahoma, spent more than $1.5 million trying to hang on to his seat in a district that, though overwhelmingly Democrat, voted overwhelmingly against Barack Obama in 2008.
He beat Republican Charles Thompson, of Hulbert.
Lucas beat Democrat Frankie Robbins, of Medford. Lucas will return to Washington in 2011 as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee if Republicans regain control of the House.
Sullivan beat independent Angelia O'Dell, of Tulsa.
Cole won a new term after his July 27 primary since he had no general election opposition.