Ex-Congressman, Dr Tom Coburn, Wins Republican US Senate Nomination

Tuesday, July 27th 2004, 2:39 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Former three-term Rep. Tom Coburn won the Republican nomination Tuesday for the seat of GOP Sen. Don Nickles, trouncing a popular former mayor after a bruising and expensive campaign marked by allegations of backstabbing and shady land deals.

Coburn will meet Democratic Rep. Brad Carson in November in a race that could play a big role in who controls the Senate. Oklahoma is one of only a few states with open Senate seats this year, and Democrats are optimistic Carson can win in November despite the state's GOP leanings.

Nickles is retiring after four terms and 24 years in the Senate.

With 91 percent of precincts reporting, Coburn had 60 percent, or 123,407 votes, while former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys had 26 percent, or 53,636 votes. State Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony was third with 13 percent.

Carson easily won the Democratic primary with about 80 percent of the vote. His closest competitor was beleaguered Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher, who is fighting criminal charges and an impeachment inquiry over his handling of state funds and a charity.

The candidates needed 50 percent of the vote to win the nomination and avoid a runoff Aug. 24.

Coburn, a doctor, was known as a maverick and a conservative in Congress, and in 1997 helped lead a revolt against then-GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Carson, the only Democratic member of the state's congressional delegation, is a moderate who supports gun rights, the death penalty and the war in Iraq.

Carson said he was pleased with his showing and immediately looked toward a race with Coburn, who he argued hurt his constituents with his zeal for restraining federal spending.

Carson said it will be a campaign of ``stark contrast between different visions for Oklahoma. I've used my seat in Congress to benefit the people I've represented. That's something Tom Coburn has chosen not to do.''

The huge loss marked a stunning turn of events for Humphreys, who was annointed the early GOP favorite after winning endorsements from prominent Republicans including Sen. Jim Inhofe and former Rep. J.C. Watts.

But Humphreys saw his poll numbers dip after a barrage of commercials in which Anthony questioned real estate sales he made several years ago.

Coburn and Humphreys had taken a pledge early in the campaign not to go negative, but Humphreys went on the offensive after the attacks from Anthony. Coburn accused Humphreys of going back on his word.

The attacks grew so intense that Nickles himself had to ask participants to cool it on the negative advertising.

Humphreys said he was done in by Anthony, whom he called ``a cut and slash guy.''

``Tom Coburn is a wonderful man, but Bob did his dirty work for him,'' Humphreys said. ``Coburn would be hard to beat on a level playing field, but it was not a level playing field.''