AP Decision Notes: What to Expect in Oklahoma’s State Primaries

Associated Press - June 17, 2024 5:55 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — Voters in Oklahoma will decide almost 60 contested primaries for the U.S. House of Representatives and both chambers of the state legislature on Tuesday. The race to watch will be the Republican primary in the state’s 4th Congressional District, where a deep-pocketed challenger is making a long-shot bid to unseat 10-term incumbent Tom Cole.

Businessman Paul Bondar, a political newcomer who sold an insurance group he founded, has spent almost $4.9 million, according to campaign finance filings, essentially all of it from his own pocket. Cole, chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, has spent $3.1 million but has approximately six times as much cash on hand. Though Bondar has criticized his votes supporting foreign aid, Cole has shored up his conservative bona fides with an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.

Bondar has also faced questions about his residency. He most recently lived in Texas, even voting in that state’s Republican primary in March — a focal point of Cole’s attacks against him.

While Bondar’s well-funded campaign could cause problems for Cole, it’s the Oklahoma runoff threshold, plus the three candidates on the ballot besides Bondar and Cole, that presents a more pressing issue. If Cole’s four opponents together keep him under 50% of the vote, he and the next-highest vote-getter will advance to an August runoff.

There are two other U.S. representatives facing challengers.

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In the Tulsa-based 1st District, incumbent Kevin Hern will compete against Paul Royse. Royse has not filed campaign finance disclosures with the Federal Election Commission. On the Democratic side, either Evelyn Rogers, who has sought this seat as an independent in the past two general elections, or former FBI agent Dennis Baker will face Hern in November. Baker has reported almost $91,000 raised to Rogers’ $1,300.

And in the 3rd District, Frank Lucas, the longest-tenured incumbent in the House delegation, has two challengers, neither of whom reported raising more than $20,000 this cycle.

Incumbents Josh Breechen in the 2nd Congressional District and Stephanie Bice in the 5th do not have primary opponents but will face Democratic challengers, both of whom are also uncontested in their primaries, in the general election.

Oklahoma’s state legislature is solidly Republican. The governor’s mansion, state Senate and state House have all been controlled by Republicans since 2011. Republicans have had a three-fourths supermajority in both chambers of the state legislature since 2019.

Forty-four state House incumbents drew no challengers in their primary or from the other political party, so 36 Republicans and eight Democrats have an unencumbered path to another term. Five of the 24 state senators whose terms end this year are in a similar boat. All are Republicans.

Here’s a look at what to expect on Tuesday:

PRIMARY DAY

The Oklahoma state primary will be held Tuesday. Polls close at 8 p.m. ET.

WHAT’S ON THE BALLOT

The Associated Press will provide vote coverage and declare winners in more than 60 contested primaries for U.S. House, state Senate, state House and corporation commissioner. There are five contested U.S. House primaries: Republican primaries in the 1st, 3rd and 4th congressional districts and Democratic primaries in the 1st and 4th districts.

WHO GETS TO VOTE

Registered party members may vote only in their own party’s primary. In other words, registered Democrats can’t vote in the Republican primary or vice versa. Democrats allow independent or unaffiliated voters to participate in their 2024 primary; Republicans do not.

DECISION NOTES

To avoid a runoff, a primary candidate must win at least 50% of the vote. Two of the U.S. House races — the Republican primaries in the 3rd and 4th districts — have more than two candidates on the ballot, so they could potentially go to runoffs.

In the 4th District, the key county to watch is Cleveland, the district’s most vote-rich. Cleveland County is just south of Oklahoma City and includes Norman, the third-most populous city in the state.

The 3rd District is the state’s largest, in terms of geographic area, stretching from the northern and western suburbs of Oklahoma City and Tulsa all the way through the panhandle. It includes all or part of 32 counties. The largest is Payne County, home to Stillwater.

By contrast, the 1st District is the state’s most compact, as it’s largely coterminous with the Tulsa metropolitan area. It includes all of Tulsa County, which will be the key county to watch, as well as parts of Creek, Rogers and Wagoner counties.

The AP does not make projections and will declare a winner only when it’s determined there is no scenario that would allow the trailing candidates to close the gap. If a race has not been called, the AP will continue to cover any newsworthy developments, such as candidate concessions or declarations of victory. In doing so, the AP will make clear that it has not yet declared a winner and explain why.

Oklahoma’s mandatory recount threshold applies only to state questions, not to races with candidates. Recounts can be requested by candidates.

WHAT DO TURNOUT AND ADVANCE VOTE LOOK LIKE?

As of June 3, there were 2,343,736 registered voters in Oklahoma. Of those, 28% were registered Democrats, and 52% were Republicans.

In the 2022 state primary, turnout in the U.S. Senate primary was 15% in the Democratic primary and 31% in the Republican primary. In the presidential primaries in March, 11% of votes in the Democratic primary and 7% of votes in the Republican primary were cast before Election Day.

As of Wednesday, around 10,200 absentee ballots had been returned — 27% from registered Democrats, 69% from registered Republicans.

HOW LONG DOES VOTE-COUNTING USUALLY TAKE?

In the 2022 statewide primary, the AP first reported results at 8:10 p.m. ET, or 10 minutes after polls closed. The election night tabulation ended at 12:33 a.m. ET with 99.9% of the total vote counted.

ARE WE THERE YET?

As of last Tuesday, there will be 140 days until the November general election.

___

Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2024 election at https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024.

Sweedler is an reporter for The Associated Press, with a focus on analyzing election outcomes and procedures and explaining the intricacies of the electoral process.
 

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