Mary Fallin Favored In 5th District Congressional Race

Sunday, August 20th 2006, 3:11 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin is favored over Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett in Tuesday's Republican primary runoff in the Oklahoma's 5th Congressional District.

Fallin and Cornett are running to succeed Republican Ernest Istook, who is leaving Congress to challenge Democratic incumbent Brad Henry. Since reapportionment, the 5th District now includes Oklahoma, Seminole and Pottawatomie Counties.

Voters in many counties would have no reason to go to the polls on Tuesday, except for two runoff races for lieutenant governor.

In those races, the key to victory will depend on who turns out and where.

A low turnout was considered a certainty. State Election Board Secretary Michael Clingman declined to make a prediction.

``I could, but I'm not going to,'' Clingman said, remembering the dismal turnout for the regular primary, when only 24 percent of eligible voters went to the polls with a lot more candidates on the ballot.

The winner of the GOP 5th District race will face Dr. David Hunter, the Democratic nominee, in the November general election.

The candidates for lieutenant governor say personal contact with voters could be critical on election day. Pete Regan of Afton, ex-aide to U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, faced House minority leader Jari Askins of Duncan, in the Democratic contest. House Speaker Todd Hiett of Kellyville was trying to fend off state Sen. Scott Pruitt of Broken Arrow on the GOP side.

Hot weather, high gasoline prices and voter apathy were blamed for the tiny turnout on July 25.

Fallin, a three-term state official and former legislator, emerged from what Republicans were calling the strongest primary field ever in an Oklahoma congressional election to get 35 percent of the vote in a six-way race. Cornett got 24 percent to finish second, but he was being outspent 2-1 by Fallin, a proven statewide vote-getter.

The incumbent lieutenant governor was endorsed by the other four candidates in the GOP primary, including Corporation Commissioner Denise Bode, who got 19 percent.

The candidates for lieutenant governor saw victory in sight, but some seemed anxious about the turnout.

``We're expecting a light turnout so we're going to be working to turn out as many of our voters as possible,'' said Hiett, who got 43 percent of the vote in the primary to Pruitt's 34 percent.

Pruitt also said he is at attempting as much direct voter contact as possible. ``We're encouraged about what we are hearing on the campaign trail.''

Askins said the race will be hands-on through election day. She has stressed her experience, integrity and ability to get things done in her television ads.

Regan and his wife, Amy, campaigned separately and together over the weekend with former Gov. George Nigh and Nigh's wife, Donna.

Regan said undecided voters broke his way in the primary and he feels like his campaign had the momentum. Askins got 40 percent in a four-candidate primary while Regan came from single-digits in the polls to post 29 percent.

The race for lieutenant governor is drawing more attention this year because the winner could affect the legislative process more than ever before.

That's because Senate Democrats hold only a 26-22 advantage in the 48-member body and the GOP is shooting to take control for the first time. The lieutenant governor can break tie votes and presides over the chamber at times.

Primary voters also will determine winners in a dozen legislative runoffs and two district attorney runoffs.