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Candidates prepare to face off in November

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Oklahoma state Sen. Andrew Rice smiles Tuesday as he waits for a interview in Oklahoma City. Rice won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe. (AP Photo) Oklahoma state Sen. Andrew Rice smiles Tuesday as he waits for a interview in Oklahoma City. Rice won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe. (AP Photo)

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY - Democrats and Republicans are preparing for November's general election after voters selected nominees Tuesday in primary elections.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, one of the Senate's most conservative members, swept to an easy Republican primary victory Tuesday, setting up a general election battle with Democrat Andrew Rice, a state senator and former missionary.

Inhofe, 73, will be heavily favored in his bid against Rice, a 35-year-old freshman state lawmaker who said he was inspired to enter public life after his brother, David, was killed in the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Bidding for a third term, Inhofe grabbed more than 80 percent of the vote against three little-known opponents. Rice was getting about 60 percent of the vote against Jim Rogers, a perennial candidate.

Republican Rep. John Sullivan of the 1st Congressional District and Democratic Rep. Dan Boren of the 2nd Congressional District also won their primaries with ease.

Inhofe, a supporter of the war in Iraq, has drawn the ire of environmentalists for calling man-made global warming a hoax.

"Of the opponents I've had, I've never had one where there's so much disparity in philosophy," Inhofe said as he looked toward the race with Rice.

Although he said he is a proud conservative, Inhofe described himself as "a big spender" on issues important to Oklahoma -- defense and infrastructure.

Rice said his goal will be to "get my name out more and more and to have the spotlight shine on our records."

He said he has a record in his first year in the Senate of working with Republicans on important issues, while Inhofe has been "an ultra partisan" in his 22 years in the House and Senate.

"I think the energy crisis, veterans issues and health care are the top things we are going to focus on," Rice said.

He said Oklahoma voters "are disgruntled with what is going on in Washington. He (Inhofe) is going to have to own up to his 22 years in office and I am going to have to persuade people that I am a viable alternative."

Inhofe said it will be "a pretty hard sell" to convince voters that he is a Washington politician with little "real world experience." He said he had 30 years experience in business and was spurred to run for federal office because of excessive government regulation.

He said Rice is on record with views different than most Oklahomans and if he tries to change them, "you'll hear from me."

Inhofe will be heavily favored in November. He has raised more than $5 million, according to his latest campaign report, while Rice has collected about $1.4 million.

Sullivan will face businesswoman Georgianna Oliver of Tulsa in the general election. Oliver defeated Iraq protest leader Mark Manley.

Sullivan said getting over 90 percent of the primary vote was evidence that "we have strength and our job approval is good." He said he will continue to push for issues important to constituents, such deterring illegal immigration and allow offshore drilling for oil.

Oliver said voters are disgruntled with Washington and she has a chance to upset Sullivan. "We have the team, the resources and the strategy to give him a tough race," she said.

Boren got over 80 percent of the vote in his primary. He is considered a virtual shoe-in for re-election in the heavily Democratic 2nd District against Republican Raymond J. Wickson of Okmulgee, who has lost two previous congressional bids.

Republican Reps. Frank Lucas of the 3rd District, Tom Cole of the 4th District and Mary Fallin of the 5th District did not draw primary foes and are expected to be returned to Washington.

Math teacher Bert Smith and Steven L. Perry, an attorney, were in a tight race for the Democratic nomination in the 5th District. Smith has run twice unsuccessfully for the post, while Perry is a political newcomer.

Lucas is running for an eighth term. He faces Democrat Frankie Robbins of Medford and independent Forrest Michael of Cherokee in the general election.

Cole is seeking a fourth term. He will be opposed in November by Democrat Blake Cummings of Pauls Valley and independent David E. Joyce of Pauls Valley.

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