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Lankford, Johnson move to compete for Senate seat in November

Oklahoma Democrats nominated state Sen. Connie Johnson last week to compete against Rep. James Lankford for Oklahoma’s Senate seat in the November general elections.

Johnson won 58 percent of the vote to move on to the general election in November. Her focus has been on issues that she hopes will bring “Oklahoma common sense values” to Washington, including legalizing recreational marijuana and standing up for women’s reproductive rights.

Connie JohnsonLankford won 56 percent of the Republican vote against former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon in June. Johnson and Lankford will go head to head for Sen. Tom Coburn’s seat on Nov. 4.

“I congratulate Connie and I look forward to the next ten weeks of the campaign which will determine who will carry Oklahoma’s message to the United States Senate,” Lankford said in a statement. “Our state has selected nominees to replace Dr. Tom Coburn and now it is time for each candidate to articulate their solutions for the future of our state and nation.”

Heated primaries have made for an interesting fall election season as political analysts try to detect the political makeup of the Senate, which is looking to be close.

“It seems like nationally the eyes are on, ‘Can the Republicans gain control of the U.S. Senate?’” Sonny Branham, ORU professor of government, said. “If that would be the case, I think about six or seven seats would have to flip.”

Branham estimated a 50/50 chance the Republicans will gain control, but he noted a lack of strong Republican candidates.

Johnson became a State Senator representing District 48 in 2005 during a special election. Growing up in rural Oklahoma and having two school teachers for parents, Johnson has touted public education funding as one of her top issues.

She is perhaps best known for her stance on recreational marijuana.

“We’re putting forth Genesis 1:29 as the basis of this campaign,” Johnson said to a group in front of the Oklahoma State Capitol this summer, KFOR reported. “God created this wonderful, miraculous plant and we know that it has been vilified for the last 100 years, and it’s time to change that in Oklahoma.”

No matter Johnson’s stances on issues, she will have a hard time winning the seat in such a red state, Branham said.

“The primaries were contentious, and people who survive the primaries, generally in the Republican Party in Oklahoma, are going on to win,” he said.   “The Democrats are going to have a hard time.”

Lankford has been a U.S. representative for District 5 since 2011, advocating for cost reduction in the federal budget and repealing both the Affordable Care Act and Common Core. Before being elected to the House, Lankford was director for Falls Creek Youth Camp, the largest youth camp in the nation.

“It’d be tough for anyone to fill in Tom Coburn’s shoes,” Branham said. “But, in my estimation, the policy decisions and the measures that Lankford has voted on, I don’t see him as nearly as conservative as Coburn is.”

“Coburn, on most issues, I think leaned to the right of Lankford,” he said.  “Lankford would be more of a centrist. We’ll see how Oklahomans will adjust to that.”

The November election will also see Democratic candidate John Cox and Republican candidate Joy Hofmeister competing for state superintendent, the office in charge of Oklahoma’s public education.

Last week, Stephen Kunzweiler was elected to replace District Attorney Tim Harris, who did not seek re-election after 15 years. Kunzweiler, who has worked as a prosecutor in Oklahoma for 24 years, said he is “beyond thankful and humbled” to be Tulsa’s next district attorney, according to his Facebook.

Looking forward to November, Branham said all students should make preparations to vote.

“Wherever they vote, whether by absentee ballot in their home state or if they register to vote in Oklahoma, I would encourage them to please vote somewhere,” he said.

For Oklahomans, the last day to register to vote for the statewide general election in November is Oct. 10. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is 5 p.m. on Oct. 29. Early voting will be Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 30-Nov. 1. For more information about polling locations, visit the Oklahoma Election Board’s website. at www.ok.gov/elections.

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