MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

June 20, 2014

Three in Congress battle newcomers

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Three Oklahoma Republicans in Congress facing challenges from within their party in Tuesday’s primary are working to avoid an upset like the June 10 surprise in the Virginia primary that saw a House Republican leader lose to a virtually unknown challenger.

Reps. Tom Cole in the Fourth District; Frank Lucas in the Third District; and Markwayne Mullin in the Second District each face opponents in a Republican primary just two weeks after Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor lost in a primary to economics professor Dave Brat.

That startled Washington insiders and gave hope to upstarts across the country.

Darrel Robertson, who is challenging Mullin, is using the same political consultant as Brat, Concentric Direct. The firm boasts on its website of being able to go into any community and “encourage citizen action from the ground up.”

“They were the only consulting group I talked to who said you could run this race for about $150,000,” said Robertson, a former professional fisherman making his first run for political office.

Although an upset is possible in Oklahoma, it is not likely, according to University of Oklahoma political scientist Keith Gaddie.

“Our environment here makes it tougher, and if a move was being made (by a challenger) we’d be picking up on it already, and we haven’t,” he said.

Oklahoma has a closed primary system allowing only registered Republicans and Democrats to vote in the respective primaries. Virginia had an open primary, allowing Democrats and independents to vote in the Republican party, which some analysts believe contributed to Cantor’s defeat.

But the Oklahoma incumbents aren’t taking anything for granted. They are emphasizing their local roots and constituent service.

In addition to Robertson facing Mullin, Cole faces Anna Flatt, and Lucas faces Robert Hubbard and Timothy Ray Murray. Rep. Jim Bridenstine in the First District is unopposed, and the Fifth District seat is open.

“I think the real issue in Virginia is that Mr. Cantor became very consumed by being the No. 2 man in the United States House and became more interested in national politics,” instead of his  constituents, said Lucas, who is seeking an 11th term.

“I’m very focused on serving my district,” Lucas said.

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