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Wayne’s World: Tulsa County Republicans, you’re going to choose Oklahoma’s next U.S. Senator

Via Tulsa World

The smart money says Tulsa County is going to be crucial in determining the state’s new U.S. senator.

The race to succeed Sen. Tom Coburn will essentially be decided by Republican voters, and Tulsa has the biggest concentration of those that might be up for grabs in the race.

The intriguing point is that most Tulsans only know the two leading contenders from afar.

U.S. Rep. James Lankford is the fifth-ranking member of the House Republican caucus. He represents the Oklahoma City-based Fifth Congressional District.

State Rep. T.W. Shannon is the former speaker of the Oklahoma House. He’s from Lawton.

They’re both attractive conservative candidates with good stories to tell and lots of funding in their campaigns and more trying to help from the outside.

Lankford ran the Southern Baptist Convention’s Fall’s Creek youth program, where he touched the lives of thousands of kids before he went into politics. When he speaks of issues of family and faith, he does so with legitimate conviction and a basso profundo voice that seems to come from the heavens.

Shannon is a conservative double minority — black and Chickasaw — who spent his time in the speaker’s chair sharpening his rhetoric, smoothing his style and amassing a record of fighting taxes and “Obamacare.”

Initial polls had Lankford ahead with a nice cushion, but more recent numbers are much closer. Some numbers show Shannon pulling ahead.

The wild card in the race is former Oklahoma Sen. Randy Brogdon.

Brogdon is more conservative then either Lankford or Shannon, who are both very conservative. He has spoken at John Birch Society events and has never been afraid to play on fringe issues.

He is not new to Tulsa County. He represented Owasso in the Oklahoma Senate for eight years.

The polling, the money and the smart guys all say Brogdon comes in third in June’s GOP primary.

But how big a third place he takes, especially in Tulsa County, could determine whether Lankford or Shannon gets a clear majority statewide.

How relevant is Randy Brogdon now? Good question.

He got nearly 40 percent of the vote in the 2010 Republican governor’s primary against Mary Fallin and won Tulsa County by more than 4,000 votes.

But Brogdon’s star may have peaked at that point. After losing to Fallin, he disappeared into a good-paying state Insurance Department job.

Then again, the most conservative voters, Tulsa County Republicans who know Brogdon and people who just want to frustrate Lankford and Shannon could bolster the numbers for the third man.

If Lankford or Shannon wins the primary outright, it’s essentially a clear ride to inauguration day. The Democratic candidate, Sen. Constance Johnson of Oklahoma City, should put up a spirited campaign, but there’s no reason to think she could win.

If no Republican gets a clear primary majority, the top two candidates — presumably Lankford and Shannon — go to an August primary.

The game changes if it goes into extra innings.

The run-off likely draws a smaller, older, more conservative and more zealous voting population.

In the extra weeks, the campaign would likely get more cut-throat and the candidates would move even more to the right in an attempt to attract the Brogdon voters.

That move might end up costing them some of their base, voters who change sides or just get disgusted and stay home.

It wouldn’t be hard to imagine one candidate coming in first in the primary and losing the run-off.

At any rate, the results of the primary and the run-off, if there is one, will largely be determined in Tulsa County, and both candidates know that.

So, if you’re a member of a civic club, are a registered Republican with a known telephone number, or watch television, get ready. You may not know James Lankford or T.W. Shannon yet, but they’re going to be trying pretty hard to introduce themselves.

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