OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma GOP officials said Friday they hope the impending Republican National Convention energizes voters and leads to an increased turnout in the state’s primary runoff on Tuesday.
The four-day convention begins Monday in Tampa, Fla. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is scheduled to speak on Tuesday, the same day as the 2nd District runoff in eastern Oklahoma.
Republicans want to capture the only Democrat-held seat in Oklahoma’s congressional delegation, being vacated by U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, who surprised Democrats last summer when he said he wouldn’t seek a fifth term.
“I hope it helps, the fact that people are paying attention and politics is all over the news,” Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Matt Pinnell said in a telephone interview. “Hopefully, it reminds people that there also is an election.”
Turnout is typically low for primary runoff elections, but the sprawling 2nd District could buck that trend since voters will select a nominee to run for the state’s only open congressional seat. Oklahoma is a closed primary state, so only registered Republicans and Democrats can vote on Tuesday.
GOP voters will choose between Westville plumbing company owner Markwayne Mullin and three-term state Rep. George Faught of Muskogee. Mullin, who has raised more than double the money as Faught, received 42 percent of the vote to Faught’s 23 percent in a six-way primary in June.
Mullin said he’s confident his supporters who are traveling to Tampa for the convention voted by absentee ballot, and said he believes the convention will bring more attention to the race.
Tom Montgomery, an alternate convention delegate who lives in the 2nd District, agreed that convention participants are politically active and either cast ballots early or planned to vote in-person absentee during the three-day early voting period that began Friday.
“Everybody that came down here, I’m sure they all voted,” said Montgomery, who cast an absentee ballot. “They all have opinions, and I’m almost certain that everyone voted.”
Registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by a more than two-to-one margin in the 26-county district, which stretches from the Kansas border in the north to the Red River border with Texas in the south. But voters in the district have shown they will vote for Republicans, especially in federal offices, and the GOP has won an increasing number of state House and Senate races in recent years.
Democrats on Tuesday’s ballot are Muskogee seed company owner Wayne Herriman and longtime state and federal prosecutor Rob Wallace.