Two young challengers for seats on the Oklahoma City Council forced veteran council members into runoffs in Tuesday's primary election.
John A. Pettis Jr., 30, trailed Ronald “Skip” Kelly but ran a solid second among six challengers in northeast Oklahoma City's Ward 7.
James Greiner, 31, led Gary Marrs by 21 votes in a three-way race in Ward 1 on the northwest side.
Voters will make their final choice April 2.
Kelly and Marrs raised tens of thousands of dollars for their races.
Their poorly funded challengers found support among voters, though — in Greiner's case by knocking on thousands of doors, in Pettis' case because of voters' concerns about Kelly's arrest last year on an accusation of drunken driving.
With 51 of 51 precincts reporting in Ward 7, Kelly had 962 votes, or 30.9 percent, to 806 votes, or 25.9 percent for Pettis.
With 37 of 37 precincts reporting in Ward 1, Greiner had 985 votes, or 39.2 percent, to 964 votes, or 38.3 percent for Marrs.
“We feel good where we are,” said Kelly, 63, who was first elected in 2007 and re-elected in 2009.
“Everybody said that's what it was going to be … a runoff between somebody and me,” he said. “We're still on top of the game and still have to go through the second stage of this.”
Rosalind Butler, 61, voted Tuesday afternoon at Oakdale Baptist Church at E Hefner and N Sooner roads in Ward 7.
Butler said Kelly had gotten her vote before, but this time she voted for John E. Bilbury III, a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel.
Kelly “hasn't really done very much,” she said.
Butler said Kelly never came around when her nearby neighborhood had meetings to organize its response to a wildfire that burned dozens of homes in 2011.
Kelly's second arrest since 2009 on drunken driving accusations figured into her vote, she said.
“One is bad enough, but twice is too much, and three times you're out,” she said.
Kelly, was arrested Jan. 20, 2012, after police found him in his crashed car near NW 63 and Western Avenue. He previously had completed a deferred sentence from a 2009 misdemeanor DUI case.
Kelly's case is on hold pending an appellate ruling on what cases become automatic felonies.
Vincent Harmon, 51, who voted at Wildewood Baptist Church on NE 63 Street, went with Kelly, calling him a “stand-up person.”
“He's a veteran and knows how to work with other people,” Harmon said.
Kelly reported raising nearly $29,000 for the race; Pettis said he had $5,250.
Pettis tied tax incentives for developers to jobs, saying economic development subsidies for northeast Oklahoma City should include requirements that businesses hire from within the ward.
Job training, street and sidewalk repairs, and transit system improvements ranked high on the list of concerns voiced by residents, he said.
Marrs, 66, was first elected to the council in 2004 and re-elected in 2005 and 2009.
He is a former Oklahoma City fire chief and a Vietnam-era Air Force veteran.
He said the most effective thing a council member can do is strike a balance between promoting economic development and meeting neighborhood needs for such things as street maintenance and public safety.
Marrs reported having nearly $63,500 on hand a little more than a week before the election.
Greiner reported raising about $4,700 but said he knocked on 2,900 doors.
“They saw that I was willing to get out and meet them face to face and hear their concerns,” he said.
Active in his church and neighborhood association, he is a graphic design team leader at Hobby Lobby. Roads and public safety topped the list of voters' concerns, he said.
Marrs and Pettis couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday night.
Council members Larry McAtee in Ward 3 and Pete White in Ward 4 were unopposed in Tuesday's primary and will serve new four-year terms.