OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma voters on Tuesday began to winnow a crowded field of candidates seeking the state's top job, but the race for the Republican nomination and front-runner status in the fall was headed to an August runoff.
Former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett claimed one spot in the Aug. 28 GOP runoff for governor, and Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb told supporters he appears to lack the votes to top Tulsa businessman Kevin Stitt for the second spot. With nearly all votes counted in the 10-candidate Republican field, Stitt narrowly led Lamb.
With no race for the U.S. Senate this cycle, much of the money and attention focused on the 15 candidates trying to succeed term-limited Gov. Mary Fallin.
Political newcomer and national mortgage company founder Stitt shook up the GOP 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.
Cornett, who served four terms as mayor, helped oversee a revitalization of the state's capital city that included landing an NB basketball team.
Lamb, a former state senator and U.S. Secret Service agent, was an establishment favorite and was the early favorite in the race.
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.
On the Democratic side of the governor's race, former four-term state Attorney General Drew Edmondson, 71, secured the nomination over ex-state Sen. Connie Johnson, 66, the party's nominee for the U.S. Senate in 2014.
Johnson, a longtime marijuana legalization advocate, had hoped 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.
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.