Steve Russell, a former state senator who led the U.S. Army team that captured Saddam Hussein, Tuesday won the GOP nomination for Congress from Oklahoma's safely Republican 5th District.
The retired lieutenant colonel undoubtedly benefited from the press attention given "Operation Red Dawn" that snared the deposed Iraqi strongman in December 2003.
But Russell's win over State Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas was also due in large part to his rallying area tea party groups with his anti-establishment image and vow to strictly adhere to the Constitution as a congressman.
In a year when the national press has covered victories in Republican Senate and Houses primaries by "establishment" candidates over tea partiers, Russell’s win was undoubtedly significant.
"I think we need to get back to the fundamentals," a triumphant Russell told reporters after it became clear he defeated Douglas.
Douglas, a former mayor of Edmond with a background in banking and small business, had been appointed to the Corporation Commission, which regulates oil, gas, and utilities, by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin. She also had backing from the Chamber of Commerce and most area business leaders.
"Both Steve and Patrice were solid conservative candidates and their issue separation was not profound," former Rep. Ernest Istook, a Republican who held the district from 1993-2007, told Newsmax, "But Steve may have been unpopular with some chamber leader because he did not follow their notions of tort reform."
Running a strong grassroots campaign, Russell denounced the size and reach of the federal government and vowed to roll it back if elected. In the initial primary June 24, he topped a six-candidate field and handily defeated Douglas in the runoff. Their contest was the only major political race on the Sooner State ballot yesterday.
This November, Russell will face Democratic state Sen. Al McAffrey, who is well-known as the first openly gay member of the Oklahoma legislature. But, in a district that has been firmly in Republican hands since 1976, Russell is considered a solid bet to succeed outgoing Rep. James Lankford, the GOP Senate nominee.
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