Oklahoma primary: teachers, marijuana and a governor's race

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
06/26/2018 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Nearly 100 educators and administrators were running for seats in the Oklahoma Legislature during a primary election Tuesday that also will narrow the crowded field for governor and decide the nation's first medical marijuana ballot question this year.

After massive demonstrations from teachers at the Capitol, the teachers are running for state House and Senate seats. Some even are Republicans challenging GOP incumbents who voted against tax increases that funded teacher pay hikes.

In other key races, 15 candidates are seeking term-limited Republican Gov. Mary Fallin's seat. Voters also are weighing in on a ballot questions that, as written, places few restrictions on marijuana for medicinal purposes.

TEACHER CANDIDATES

This year's three-day candidate filing period in April coincided with a two-week teacher walkout in which thousands of frustrated educators and their supporters thronged the Capitol demanding more funding for public schools. The result? Nearly 100 public school teachers and administrators are running for seats in the state House and Senate this year, many making their first-ever run for office. Many of these candidates will get their first political test in Tuesday's primary election. Some even are Republicans challenging GOP incumbents who voted against tax increases that funded teacher pay hikes.

GOVERNOR

Fifteen candidates — two Democrats, 10 Republicans and three Libertarians — are running to replace Fallin, who has served eight years as the state's chief executive. Most of the attention, and money, has been focused on the Republican primary, which includes former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, state Auditor Gary Jones, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, trial attorney Gary Richardson and Tulsa mortgage company founder Kevin Stitt. Running as a political outsider, Stitt reported raising $4.2 million, including $2.1 million of his own money. Since it's unlikely any of the candidates will secure more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote getters are expected to advance to an Aug. 28 primary runoff.

The Democratic primary is a two-person contest between former state Sen. Connie Johnson and former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson. The $1.5 million Edmondson has raised is more than 20 times more than Johnson.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

An activist-led signature drive led to State Question 788, which would make it legal to cultivate, possess and use marijuana for medicinal purposes. Polling suggests a majority of Oklahomans support the idea, but a group of business, law enforcement, medical and church leaders has launched a late opposition campaign against it. Because the Legislature this year failed to approve a bill to set up a regulatory framework, Fallin said she will call for a special legislative session if the measure passes.

CONGRESS

While there are no U.S. Senate races this cycle in Oklahoma, there is plenty of primary action in all five of Oklahoma's Republican-held U.S. House districts. Five Republicans and five Democrats are running for the only open U.S. House seat — the First Congressional District in Tulsa, which was left open after former Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine was tapped to lead NASA. U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, the state's longest serving current congressman who is seeking his thirteenth term in the sprawling Third District, is the only incumbent who does not have a primary challenger.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

The most heated statewide primary race is the Republican contest between Attorney General Mike Hunter and Tulsa attorney Gentner Drummond for the GOP nomination. Hunter was appointed to the post by Fallin after former AG Scott Pruitt was tapped by President Donald Trump to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. While there is a third Republican in the race, Angela Bonilla, the fireworks have come from a series of attack ads launched by Hunter and Drummond.

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