OKLAHOMA CITY -- Republican Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma's blunt-speaking conservative senator, won a third full term Tuesday as he cruised past Democrat Andrew Rice, a state senator and former missionary.
Inhofe was elected in 1994 to replace Democrat David Boren, who resigned to become a university president.
Rice, 35, campaigned aggressively for the post, but it was an uphill fight from the start against Inhofe, a fixture in Oklahoma politics for five decades.
The 73-year-old Inhofe spent $6 million in his re-election bid, more than twice as much as Rice, a freshman state senator from Oklahoma City.
Inhofe, a former mayor of Tulsa and ex-congressman, has sparred with environmentalists over the years, calling the idea of manmade global warming a hoax. Although he is known as one of the Senate's most conservative members, Inhofe bragged of being effective in obtaining road money and other funds for public projects.
Rice challenged Inhofe after better-known Democrats, such as Brad Henry, the state's popular governor, shunned the race.
He tried to paint Inhofe as an extreme partisan controlled by big oil and financial institutions.
Inhofe accused Rice of being "too liberal for Oklahoma," constantly pairing his opponent alongside Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in television ads. Obama did not bring his campaign to Oklahoma, where he trailed 2-1 in the polls before the election.
Inhofe hammered Rice in other commercials, including one that critics said had gay overtones, showing two grooms toppling from a wedding cake and Rice as a curly haired young man in a leather jacket.
Rice, who is married with two young children, said he was "smeared" by Inhofe in commercials that unfairly portrayed his legislative record.
Inhofe said he was merely trying to define his opponent and he did not consider his ads to be negative.
Rice said he started thinking about a public life after his brother, David, was killed in the 2001 terrorist attack in New York. He vowed to be a pragmatist and work with Republicans in solving the country's economic woes and other pressing problems in such areas as health care and energy.
Inhofe said he represented the thinking of most Oklahomans, asking them to send him back to Washington so he could continue to do battle with big spenders, environmentalists and opponents of the U.S. war effort in Iraq.
Rice said President Bush misfired when he invaded Iraq. He favored redirecting the war on terror to Afghanistan.
The two men had almost no encounters on the campaign trail and had only one debate. Rice had called for six debates and accused Inhofe of dodging him.