FILE - In this Jan. 10, 2018, file photo, Kevin Stitt, candidate for the Republican nomination for Oklahoma Governor, speaks in Guthrie, Okla. Stitt is among a large group of Republicans running for the nomination for Oklahoma Governor. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

Oklahoma primary voters weigh in on Mary Fallin's successor

June 26, 2018 - 7:58 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma voters on Tuesday were winnowing a crowded field of candidates seeking the state's top job following an eight-year reign of Republican dominance.

With no race for the U.S. Senate this cycle, much of the money and attention has focused on the 15 candidates trying to succeed term-limited Gov. Mary Fallin. With 10 of those running in the GOP contest, that nomination likely won't ultimately be settled until a two-way runoff on Aug. 28.

Among Republicans, political newcomer and national mortgage company founder Kevin Stitt shook up the race by raising $4.2 million ahead of the primary to outpace all candidates. His total included $2.1 million in personal loans to his campaign, which centered on his status as an outsider.

Establishment favorites include two-term Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, a former state senator and U.S. Secret Service agent, and ex-Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, who helped oversee a revitalization of the state's capital city that included landing an NBA basketball team.

Other candidates in the GOP field include Tulsa trial attorney Gary Richardson, state Auditor Gary Jones and ex-state Rep. Dan Fisher, a fiery Baptist preacher whose campaign centers on the abolition of abortion.

The two Democrats running for governor are familiar faces — former four-term state Attorney General Drew Edmondson, 71, and ex-state Sen. Connie Johnson, 66, the party's nominee for U.S. Senate in 2014.

Johnson, a longtime marijuana legalization advocate, hopes to leverage her popularity with pot supporters to pull an upset over Edmondson, whose $1.5 million in contributions was more than 20 times as much as she raised. Johnson would be Oklahoma's first African-American governor.

Three Libertarian candidates for governor also will be on the ballot, including Joe Exotic, a mullet-wearing exotic animal trainer from Wynnewood known for his videos featuring foul-mouthed criticism of Oklahoma elected officials.

Oklahoma's next governor will take over as head of a state government just beginning to rebound after facing several consecutive years of cuts to agency budgets. Revenue collections have been steadily increasing over the last year, and lawmakers this year already approved a series of tax increases to fund pay raises for teachers and help shore up the state budget.

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Associated Press writer Tim Talley contributed to this report from Oklahoma City.

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Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy

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