Oklahoma Rep. James Lankford is eight points ahead of former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon for the Republican nomination to replace retiring Sen. Tom Coburn, according to a Tulsa television station's new poll.
The KOTV poll,
taken June 19-21, shows Lankford, an Oklahoma City resident who has been in Washington for
3½ years, ahead of Shannon with 43.4 percent of the vote.
Shannon, who has served the Lawton district for four terms, netted 34.9 percent of the voters in the poll, taken after a live debate on the network June 19.
However, with the primary election looming on Tuesday, the vote could come even closer, as the poll showed 13.3 percent of likely Republican voters are still undecided.
Bill Shapard, whose company, SoonerPoll conducted the survey, said he is surprised by the results, since Lankford hails from Oklahoma City.
"There has not been an Oklahoma City resident who has won the U.S. Senate since 1960 when Mike Muroney did it," he said. In addition, he said, the poll showed movement in the state's 2nd, 3rd, and 4th districts, which are dominant in Oklahoma politics.
"Typically, I think Tulsans and rest of rural Oklahomans look at Oklahoma City as a seat of power, so there's a bit of prejudice," he said.
Meanwhile, support for the candidates is divided, as "neither [candidate] had much time to differentiate from one another," said Shapard, but voters want a seamless transition from Coburn.
"Maybe you could see some confusion in who to support, but depending on who you are, evangelical or not, you're picking the candidate that you like the most and the litmus test is who is going to vote like Tom Coburn," he said.
Both candidates are working hard to show their similarities to Coburn's "Dr. No" reputation in the Senate, reports The National Journal.
Shannon spokesman Kenneth Bricker referred to Coburn as "a deficit hawk," and said his candidate also "helped balance the state budget here."
Bricker said Shannon's greatest achievements are "turning away bond-indebted issues, welfare reform, workers compensation reform, and several tax-cutting measures."
Lankford's campaign, meanwhile, pointed to a statement Coburn put out that condemned outside groups.
Coburn hasn't outwardly endorsed Lankford, but he did comment that he has come to know him as "a man of absolute integrity" who has "fought an often lonely battle against the status quo," the National Journal reports.
Coburn also said he was angered by attack ads
against Lankford by groups such as the Senate Conservative Fund and Oklahomans for a Conservative Future, which he said "have crossed an important line – they simply aren't truthful, and they mischaracterize James Lankford's service in Congress."
Shannon, a tea party favorite, has been publicly backed by Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, among others, reports The Washington Post.
However, Shannon has also has tried to distance himself from the ads, saying he'd "already spoken out against negative ads from outside groups."
"I agree that all ads should be truthful and focused on issues and the records of the candidates," Shannon said. "I cannot control the messaging of outside groups, but I can control what my campaign says and does."
Meanwhile, the KOTV poll showed only minimal support for the remaining Republican candidates, with Randy Brogdon at 4.2 percent, Jason Weger with 1.5 percent, Kevin Crow with 1.4 percent, Eric McCray at 0.9 percent, and Andy Craig at 0.4 percent.
Three Democrats are vying for the party's nomination, but most Democratic voters are undecided, the poll showed. Connie Johnson came out ahead with 13.2 percent, Patrick Michael Hayes netted 6.4 percent, and Jim Rodgers garnered 5.4 percent. However, 75 percent of the state's Democratic voters remain undecided, the poll showed.
The telephone poll questioned 840 likely Republican voters, with a margin error of plus or minus 3.38 percentage points, and 781 likely Democratic voters, with a margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
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