GOP, Dems to make picks for open US House seat in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Democrats and Republicans will pick nominees in Tuesday's primary runoff for Oklahoma's only open U.S. House seat, a three-decade Republican stronghold in Tulsa vacated when President Donald Trump appointed its former occupant to head NASA.

On the GOP side, longtime Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris and fast-food restaurateur Kevin Hern are seeking to replace former U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine. Tulsa attorney Tim Gilpin and Broken Arrow oil and gas consultant Amanda Douglas face off in the Democratic primary.

Democrats haven't held a congressional seat from Oklahoma since 2013.

Even though the 1st District is open, Oklahoma Democratic Party Chair Anna Langthorn believes the party's best chance at breaking the GOP's federal delegation stranglehold in November could come in the 5th District in Oklahoma City. In that race, nonprofit agency director Kendra Horn couldn't break the 50 percent barrier with six candidates in the Democratic primary and faces retired college professor and perennial candidate Tom Guild in the runoff. They are vying to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Russell, who is seeking a third term.

"Generally, Oklahomans are not happy with the status quo," Langthorn said, "and our Republicans in Congress are still part of the status quo."

Other Democratic primary runoffs for U.S. House seats feature Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols and retired Army officer Clay Padgett in eastern Oklahoma's sprawling 2nd District held by Republican U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin. In the 4th District seat held by veteran Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, Norman attorney Fred Gibson and educator Mary Brannon of Washington are seeking the Democratic nomination.

Oklahoma Republican Party Chair Pam Pollard said she feels confident in the GOP's ability to maintain its monopoly on the state's congressional seats and believes 5th District voters will support Russell over a "Democrat in Congress who will vote for Nancy Pelosi to return as speaker."

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