TULSA, Okla. (AP) A policymaker with more than 30 years' experience will face a 79-year-old perennial candidate in Tuesday's Democratic primary runoff election for a U.S. Senate seat. The winner faces two-term Rep. James Lankford in the fall.
Both the candidates and party officials believe a race is winnable against the popular Lankford, who has amassed an army of voters who know the Baptist minister from his years as director one of the country's largest Christian youth camps.
State Sen. Connie Johnson, D-Forest Park, faces Midwest City resident and perennial candidate Jim Rogers for the chance to fill the remaining two years of Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn's term.
"It's kind of like a horse race: you can talk all the talk you want, but you actually have to run the race," said Wallace Collins, the chairman of Oklahoma's Democratic Party. "Our candidate will be an underdog, there's no question, but we kind of relish that."
Johnson, who received 44 percent of the vote in the June primary and has been a policymaker for more than 30 years, has campaigned on several social and civil liberties issues, including the legalization of marijuana and reform of Oklahoma's criminal justice system. She also says the state's economy is struggling and never fully regained its footing after the recession. She suggested putting people back to work rebuilding Oklahoma's and the nation's deteriorating infrastructure and crumbling roads and bridges.
"The middle class is shrinking and the types of jobs here pre-2008 are no longer here because ... they've been replaced with low-paying jobs that don't allow people to enjoy a middle-class lifestyle," Johnson said.
Rogers won 35 percent of the vote in the primary and has appeared on every statewide primary ballot for more than a decade. The 79-year-old estimates he's spent around $1,900 on this campaign go-round with $1,000 of that paying for the filing fee and vowed he'd run again for the Senate seat in two years if he loses Tuesday's runoff.
Similar to his fellow Democrat, Rogers said more can be done to assist the middle class and to create and keep jobs and a valuable tax base in the U.S. instead of companies sending work overseas.
"Send the work to Midwest City, Oklahoma City, Tulsa those places all over the country," Rogers said. "Let's create jobs for these people so they will pay taxes and won't be unemployed."