Poll: Runoff Likely in Okla. GOP Primary to Replace Sen. Coburn

Friday, 16 May 2014 12:58 PM

By John A. Oswald

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The GOP primary battle in Oklahoma to fill the final two years of Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn's six-year term looks headed for a runoff, a new poll indicates.

Seven Republicans are on the ballot in the upcoming June 24 contest. The top two candidates, Rep. James Lankford and Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon are now neck and neck.

The News 9/News On 6 poll of 580 likely GOP voters has Lankford with 33.8 percent and Shannon with 31.9 percent. The results mirror results of other polls taken over the last month.

The other five candidates scored no higher than 4.5 percent, and one-quarter of the Republicans surveyed said they've yet to make up their mind. Primary rules demand the nominee to win more than 50 percent of the vote. If there is a subsequent runoff, it will be Aug. 26, and the winner would face a Democratic challenger in a special Nov. 4 election.

The Democratic primary battle has proven impossible to read. The same poll found 76.2 percent of likely voters undecided.

Coburn said in January he would leave office after this session of Congress. The 65-year-old obstetrician has battled prostate cancer but insisted his decision to step down had nothing to do with his health.

Calling Washington "dysfunctional," he said: "As a citizen, I am now convinced that I can best serve my own children and grandchildren by shifting my focus elsewhere."

Lankford was considered the early front-runner, and held a 36-point lead early on.

But Shannon, who is black and a member of the influential Native American tribe, Chickasaw Nation, has eroded those numbers. He has the support of both former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who calls Shannon "a strong constitutional conservative."

Palin has said Shannon is proof of that the GOP embraces diversity.

"The Democrats accuse us of not embracing diversity? Oh, my goodness, he is — he's it. He is the whole package," she said at a Shannon rally in April.

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