OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — State Sen. Connie Johnson won the Democratic primary runoff election for an open U.S. Senate seat Tuesday, and will face Republican U.S. Rep. James Lankford in the Nov. 4 general election.
Johnson, of Oklahoma City, beat perennial candidate Jim Rogers of Midwest City in a race in which she campaigned on several social and civil liberties issues, including the legalization of marijuana and reform of Oklahoma’s criminal justice system.
Johnson has said the state’s economy is struggling and never fully regained its footing after the recession. She suggested putting people back to work rebuilding Oklahoma’s — and the nation’s — deteriorating infrastructure and crumbling roads and bridges.
Phil Defree, 64, a retired civil servant, voted for Johnson and said he would vote for Democrats in the fall. Still, he wasn’t optimistic that a Democrat could pick up a seat in a state where President Barack Obama failed to win any of 77 counties in 2008 or 2012.
“Oh no! Not in Oklahoma. I’m a realist,” he said.
The U.S. Senate seat came open when GOP incumbent Tom Coburn said he would not complete a term set to expire in 2016.
Lankford, who has represented central Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District for four years, gave up the seat and won the Republican nomination in a special U.S. Senate primary election on June 24. Independent candidate Mark Beard is also seeking the seat in the general election.
With 52 percent of the votes counted, John Cox was leading Freda Deskin in the runoff election for the Democratic nomination for state schools superintendent. The winner faces Republican Joy Hofmeister in the fall. She defeated incumbent Janet Barresi in June.
Associated Press writer Kristi Eaton contributed to this report from Guthrie.