Polls Close On Historic Oklahoma Election

Tuesday, November 2nd 2010, 8:24 am
By: News 9

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Polls have closed across Oklahoma as voting for a historic election comes to an end.

Oklahoma voters were poised to make history Tuesday as they decide whether Democratic Lt. Gov. Jari Askins or Republican Congresswoman Mary Fallin becomes the state's first female governor.

Both women gave up relatively safe seats to seek the state's highest post, which is being vacated by term-limited Democratic Gov. Brad Henry.

Askins spent the morning in Duncan, her hometown, and cast her ballot Tuesday morning at the First United Methodist Church. She said it's a special feeling to be able to vote for herself and to think that "someone from Duncan, Oklahoma, has an opportunity to be the CEO of the state."

Fallin voted Tuesday morning at Deer Creek Middle School in Edmond and then gave a 20-minute talk to a class at Deer Creek High School that includes her 17-year-old stepson, Alex Christensen. Fallin said she's "pleased" with the campaign she's run and "thankful" that election day has arrived.

Both women planned campaign stops in Tulsa before returning to Oklahoma City later in the day.

Democrats have focused extensively on the race as the GOP looks to complete a sweep that began when Republicans wrestled control of the state House in 2004, and the Senate in 2008. If Fallin wins and the Legislature remains in GOP hands, it would be the first time in Oklahoma history that Republicans controlled the governor's office and both legislative chambers at the same time.

Some political observers believe that regardless of the outcome, the women-only gubernatorial race shows Oklahoma is moving forward.

"The fact that we're going to have a female governor says something nationally about Oklahoma in terms of being modern, progressive," said Laura Boyd, a Democrat who in 1998 was Oklahoma's first female gubernatorial nominee. "I think it is another milestone of being away from the Grapes of Wrath mentality."

Voters also decided whether to return incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn to Washington for a second and, he says, final six-year term. He is a heavy favorite over unfunded Democrat Jim Rogers and two independents.

Two political newcomers -- Democrat Billy Coyle and Republican James Lankford -- are vying to replace Fallin in the 5th District in Oklahoma's only congressional race without an incumbent. Republican Reps. John Sullivan and Frank Lucas are expected to win handily, as is Rep. Dan Boren, the lone Democrat in the congressional delegation.

Tuesday's ballot also features 11 state questions, along with statewide, House and Senate, judicial and district attorney matchups.

Don Ruffin, a 53-year-old federal worker from Moore, said he voted for Fallin because he believes she's not afraid to take a stand on sensitive issues.

"She's direct and honest," Ruffin said after casting his ballot at Providence Church in Moore. "She doesn't sugarcoat things."

Mark Schulz, a 48-year-old independent voter from Bixby, said he voted for Askins because he "prefers her character. I'll just put it that way."

The other reason he voted for Askins is because he expects a Republican-controlled House and wants a candidate to "offset" the sweep.

Fallin, who is finishing her second term in Congress, has railed against what she described as an overreaching federal government and costly congressional mandates imposed on states. She touted her plan to shrink state government and create a more "business friendly" environment.

Askins, a former judge, agency head and state lawmaker, said her experience writing state budgets and working for all three branches of government best qualified her for the post. She described herself as a conservative "Oklahoma Democrat" after ads by the Republican Governor's Association linked her to President Barack Obama.