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Bill sets stage for early Largent resignation


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Voters in the 1st Congressional District will elect a new representative as early as January under a bill passed Tuesday at a special session of the Oklahoma Legislature.

U.S. Rep. Steve Largent, R-Okla., had served notice that he planned to resign on Nov. 29 to actively campaign for governor, whether or not lawmakers complied with his request to speed up the election process to pick his successor.

Under the bill approved Tuesday, his resignation letter must be submitted to the secretary of state by Oct. 29 with an effective date of the general election to select a replacement.

The measure calls on the governor to issue a proclamation and sets a Nov. 5-7 filing period for candidates. The primary would be held on Dec. 11 and a runoff election, if necessary, on Jan. 8.

If a runoff is not needed, the general election would be Jan. 8. If there is a runoff, the general election would be Feb. 12.

First lady Cathy Keating, state Rep. John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, and state Sen. Scott Pruitt, R-Broken Arrow, have been campaigning for the GOP nomination. Doug Dodd, Tulsa School Board member, is seeking the Democratic nomination.

The House voted 75-14 for the measure, despite objections to Senate amendments specifying the Oct. 29 resignation deadline and the election dates.

The House version, passed earlier in the day, set up a general process covering all congressional posts.

Rep. M.C. Leist, D-Morris, suggested the legislation was designed to ``keep Steve Largent from looking bad'' by leaving Congress before his term is up to seek another office.

Mark Nichols, campaign manager, said Largent ``is prepared to meet the timeline that has been specified by the Legislature.

``It is an acceptable solution because it addresses the matter in the way that we had hoped, which was to ensure a seamless and continuous coverage of the First District of Oklahoma.''

Jay Parmley, state Democratic Party chairman, has predicted Largent's early departure from Congress will be a campaign issue in the governor's race because Largent would be leaving during a time of crisis created by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
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