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Oklahoma political hopefuls wrap up candidate filing on last day at state Capitol


OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma's two U.S. Senate seats on the ballot in 2014 continued to draw a stream of political hopefuls on the final day of candidate filing Friday, including two-term Republican U.S. Rep. James Lankford of Edmond.

Accompanied by his wife, the 45-year-old filed candidacy papers for the two years remaining on the term of U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, who is stepping down at the end of the year following a recurrence of prostate cancer.

"People know who I am and what I'm all about," said Lankford, a political unknown before his election to Congress in 2010. "We really feel a calling to do this."

A total of 578 candidates — including 88 on Friday alone — filed for the more than 300 seats up for grabs in November's election. Among the offices on the ballot this year are both U.S. Senate seats for the first time in state history, as well as all five U.S. House seats, and statewide offices, including governor and lieutenant governor.

Coburn's decision to forego the final two years of his term set off a chain reaction in Oklahoma politics that was compounded when Lankford jumped into the race, throwing open his congressional seat.

Lankford will be vying for the unexpired term with seven other Republicans, including former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon and former state Sen. Randy Brogdon. The race picked up three more contenders Friday: Republican Andy Craig, 41, of Broken Arrow, Democrat Patrick Hayes, 39, of Anadarko, and independent Mark Beard, 54, of Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma's senior U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, 79, is seeking another six-year term in his seat, and that race continued to draw candidates on the final day of filing, including two Democrats — Bixby investment planner Matt Silverstein, 33, and perennial candidate Jim Rogers, 79, of Midwest City. Also filing Friday was 58-year-old independent Joan Farr of Broken Arrow. The race will include five Republicans, including Inhofe, three independents and two Democrats.

"I'm getting excitement from a broad base of Democrats, independents and Republicans," said Silverstein, who announced his plans to run against Inhofe before Coburn's seat opened up.

The field for Oklahoma governor also grew more crowded Friday, with another Republican and an independent joining the race to prevent Republican Gov. Mary Fallin from winning another term. Fallin will face two Republican challengers in the primary and then square off against term-limited Democratic state Rep. Joe Dorman and three independents in November.

Of Oklahoma's five U.S. House seats, first-term Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Tulsa was the only member who did not draw a challenger, ensuring his election to a second term in office.

Republican U.S. Reps. Markwayne Mullin in the 2nd District, Frank Lucas in the 3rd District and Tom Cole in the 4th District each will face challengers in the primary and general elections.

The open 5th Congressional seat that Lankford is vacating drew the largest and most diverse field of candidates, including three Democrats, six Republicans, and three independents. One of the independents — 51-year-old Tom Boggs — currently lives in Thailand, according to his candidacy papers. State election board officials say the U.S. Constitution only requires candidates for U.S. House and Senate be inhabitants of the state "when elected."

Another out-of-state resident — 30-year-old Aaron DeLozier, of Wichita Falls, Texas — filed as an independent against Inhofe.

Other candidates who filed for the 5th District seat Friday were Democrat Leona Leonard, 43, of Seminole; Republican Shane Jett, 39, of Tecumseh; and independent Robert Murphy, 66, of Norman.

Several statewide Republican officials also drew no challengers this election cycle and will be automatically re-elected to their posts, including State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, and State Treasurer Ken Miller.

Republican Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb will face 52-year-old Oklahoma City Democrat Cathy Cummings in November's general election, while Republican Labor Commissioner Mark Costello will meet Democrat Mike Workman, 63, of Tulsa in November.

Republican Insurance Commissioner John Doak will face 61-year-old Bill Viner, of Moore, in a GOP primary, while two other well-known Oklahoma Republicans will meet in the race for Corporation Commissioner: state Sen. Cliff Branan of Oklahoma City and former House Speaker Todd Hiett of Kellyville.

By far the most crowded race for statewide office is against Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi of Oklahoma City. Barresi will face two Republican challengers in the primary, while four Democrats will face off for the chance to meet her in the general election.

Oklahoma's primary election is June 24. If a candidate fails to win more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between the top two candidates will be held Aug. 26. The general election is Nov. 4.

Associated Press writer Bailey Elise McBride contributed to this report from Oklahoma City.

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