Less than two weeks away from the June 28 primary elections, 2nd District Congressman — and, more to the point, U.S. Senate candidate — Markwayne Mullin looks and acts confident.
All signs point to Mullin comfortably leading the 13 Republicans picturing themselves as successors to retiring U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe.
Polling released Monday by Oklahoma City-based Amber Integrated shows Mullin with a 19-point lead on former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, and no one else reaching double digits.
In keeping with general front-runner strategy, Mullin skipped a televised debate last week with four other leading contenders. His vote on a gun safety bill in Washington, he indicated, was more important than mixing it up with opponents on TV.
Mullin’s vote didn’t matter in the final tally on the gun bill, but it did give him another chance to assure his target audience — readers of Breitbart and The Epoch Times, for instance — that he’s fighting “far-left gun-grabbing.”
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On that and most other issues of substance, there seems little difference among the Republican primary candidates. All profess continued allegiance to former President Donald Trump and the 2nd Amendment; most and possibly all favor a national abortion ban and are worried that schools are teaching too much sex and socialism.
Some entered the primary in a stew about COVID-19 vaccinations, mask mandates and school policies. Some want Congress to revoke the tribal reservation boundaries recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt decision. Some oppose U.S. involvement in Ukraine.
At this point, the race seems to be about who makes a potential runoff with Mullin in August. Shannon is the firm favorite there, leading state Sen. Nathan Dahm and former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt by double digits in the Amber Integrated poll.
The ultimate victor meets Democrat Kendra Horn, independent Ray Woods and Libertarian Robert Murphy in the Nov. 8 general election.
Following is an alphabetical rundown of all 13 GOP primary candidates:
Michael Coibion, 67, Bartlesville: Very low profile and polling numbers.
Nathan Dahm, 39, Broken Arrow: Eagerly campaigns on his 10-year record in the state Senate, which saw his positions prevail on issues such as abortion and constitutional carry despite his frequent estrangements from party leadership. Polling in the mid-single digits.
Jessica Jean Garrison, 47, Owasso: Another low-profile candidate who does not seem to have actively campaigned.
Alex Gray, 32, Nichols Hills: Former Trump administration official who doesn’t seem to have made much headway in his first attempt at elected office. Specialist in Asian trade issues. Among several Republican candidates pledging to disestablish eastern Oklahoma reservations if elected.
Randy Grellner, 56, Cushing: Small-town doctor who advocated alternative COVID-19 treatments and said this week that consolidation of the health care field is closing “little hospitals” and limiting access. Latest polling has him in the low single digits.
Luke Holland, 35, Tulsa: Inhofe’s chief of staff for five years before resigning to run for this office. Campaign themes include Inhofe’s endorsement, praising Trump’s presidency and religion. “The left has been so good at kicking God out of everything,” Holland told a Republican group this week. “We need to invite the Lord back into the center of things.”
Adam Holley, 41, Bixby: Office manager for a commercial construction company. “Kick that woke idea out of here,” he told a Republican group this week. Polling around 1%.
Laura Moreno, 47, Edmond: A doctor who touted ivermectin for COVID-19. Barely registers in latest polling.
Markwayne Mullin, 44, Westville: Five-term 2nd District congressman who’s managed to successfully navigate his constituents’ somewhat complicated relationship with the federal government. Polling says he’s the frontrunner with support in the mid- to high-30s.
Scott Pruitt, 54, Tulsa: Former Oklahoma attorney general and Environmental Protection Agency director who doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of traction. Preaches the oil and gas gospel — more production, more pipelines — and promises to do all he can to disestablish reservation boundaries recognized by the McGirt decision. Polling in the mid-single digits.
T.W. Shannon, 44, Oklahoma City: Former speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives looks like a likely runoff candidate, with polling in the 15% to 20% range. An African American and a Chickasaw, Shannon presents himself as an “only in America” story.
Paul Royse, 51, Tulsa: Twice ran unsuccessfully for state House of Representatives. Not showing any reason to think he’ll do better here.
John Tompkins, 65, Oklahoma City: Physician. Ran for this same seat two years ago without much effect.
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