FOR all practical purposes, the makeup of Oklahoma’s 2015-16 congressional delegation will be decided Tuesday, with the definite exception of one U.S. House seat and the possible exception of one of the two U.S. Senate races.
In a state that hasn’t sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in 24 years, the Republican primary and (sometimes) runoff effectively determines who will represent Oklahoma in Congress. For Republicans, then, voting Tuesday is critical.
One of the five U.S. House seats has already been filled: No one filed against Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa. Incumbent Reps. Frank Lucas, of Cheyenne, Tom Cole, of Moore, and Markwayne Mullin, of Westville, have challengers in the Republican primary. Cole, Lucas and Mullin deserve another term.
A six-way Republican race in the 5th Congressional District will almost certainly result in a runoff. The winner of that contest, in August, will almost certainly win in November. The Oklahoman makes no recommendation in this race, ahead of the runoff.
A runoff also is possible in the race for a two-year term in the U.S. Senate. If so, U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, and state Rep. T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, will be the two finishers.
In the other Senate race, veteran Jim Inhofe should be the easy winner in the primary and in November, despite drawing as challengers one Democrat, four Republicans and three independents. The Oklahoman enthusiastically endorses Inhofe.
We also support Lankford, finding in him the rare ability to transcend conservative dogma without abandoning conservative principles. He offers a one-two punch of statesmanship and political skills with a focus on policymaking rather than partisanship.
This is also a year when most statewide offices will be on the ballot and the Republican nominee will be the automatic front-runner heading into November. Attorney General Scott Pruitt, state Treasurer Ken Miller and state Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones, all Republicans, have already won a second term because no one filed against them.
Labor Commissioner Mark Costello has won the Republican nomination but will face a Democrat in November. Insurance Commissioner John Doak has a Republican opponent but no Democratic challenger. So Tuesday’s voting will settle that race.
An open seat on the Corporation Commission is also a winner-take-all proposition because only two candidates are seeking the seat. Both are Republicans. Both are worthy men who would do a good job on the commission. They are state Sen. Cliff Branan, of Oklahoma City, and former state House Speaker Todd Hiett, of Kellyville. The Oklahoman makes no recommendation in this race.
Lest we forget, the offices of governor and lieutenant governor also are up for grabs this year. Republican Gov. Mary Fallin will have no problem winning the nomination against two GOP challengers but faces a more spirited race this fall. Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb drew no Republican challengers.
This brings us to the only other contentious race on the statewide ballot. It’s the one for state superintendent of public instruction. Incumbent Republican Janet Barresi, our choice for the job, is battling to keep her post against a strong challenger in Joy Hofmeister and one other Republican. Barresi’s stance on key education reform issues and her willingness to shake up an unacceptable status quo make her the better choice.
If she wins the nomination (late polling indicates that a runoff is quite possible), Barresi will face another contentious campaign in the fall in what could be the Democrats’ best chance of winning a statewide office.
Why bother to vote Tuesday? Because for most races, this primary’s results are for all the marbles.