TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ The gun officially sounded Thursday in the race to succeed U.S. Rep. Steve Largent in what could be a quick but heated special election, especially for a growing field of Republicans.
Largent, R-Okla., announced Thursday he plans to resign his 1st District seat on Nov. 29 to run for governor.
The announcement was expected for the seat, which represents Tulsa and is considered reliably Republican. The GOP side of the special election ballot is already getting crowded.
First lady Cathy Keating, Tulsa state Rep. John Sullivan and Broken Arrow state Sen. Scott Pruitt have announced plans to run. Others, including former University of Tulsa football coach Dave Rader, are said to be considering it.
Oilman Dewey Bartlett Jr. had been interested, but said Thursday he decided against it and endorsed Sullivan before Mrs. Keating announced.
Largent said he won't make any primary endorsements. But he asked Gov. Frank Keating and legislative leaders to consider setting an early date in next month's special legislative session so the district will not be without representation.
The earlier the date, the better for Mrs. Keating, Sullivan said.
``It gives us less time to have debates,'' he said. ``It mainly makes it a name recognition race, one in which the people don't get a chance to meet the candidates.''
No Democrats have announced they plan to run. Tulsa attorney and current school board member Doug Dodd has formed an exploratory committee. ``I'm serious about looking at it, yes,'' he said.
Former Tulsa County Democratic Chairman Tim Gilpin was interested, but said Thursday he decided not to run.
Tulsa Mayor Susan Savage, a Democrat who plans to leave office after her current term, was rumored to be a possible candidate but said last month she won't be.
Largent handily defeated Democrat Dan Lowe last fall and Republicans look to retain the seat.
Despite her notoriety, Mrs. Keating will not take the race for granted, said Spencer Guinn, her campaign manager.
``We consider both John Sullivan and Scott Pruitt to be serious opponents who are going to run good races and we hope to position ourselves in a good place to come out on the top,'' he said.
Last month, the GOP candidates began enlisting volunteers and drumming up support in the district.
``I think the race is very wide open at this point,'' said Pruitt, the third-ranking Republican in the state Senate. ``We've been very active the last few months getting our organization in place. I think it's a very much seize-the-day mentality.''