- Associated Press - Sunday, April 6, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Elections for both of Oklahoma’s U.S. Senate seats, the open 5th Congressional District seat and statewide seats including governor and lieutenant governor will highlight a busy 2014 political season that formally kicks off Wednesday when candidates begin arriving at the State Capitol to file paperwork and pay fees to have their names placed on the ballot.

More than 500 people are expected to submit their names as candidates for one of the more than 300 elective positions that are up for grabs during the state Election Board’s three-day filing period that begins Wednesday at 8 a.m. and ends Friday at 5 p.m., according to Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax.

A total of 586 candidates filed for office during the three-day filing period for the last gubernatorial election in 2010, including 391 - 67 percent - on the opening day. A total of 275 candidates filed for legislative offices and a statewide seat on the Corporation Commission during the presidential election two years ago.

Candidates for the Supreme Court and Oklahoma appellate courts will file with the Secretary of State’s office to be placed on retention ballots. Candidates for county assessor, treasurer and other county offices will file with their local county election boards.

Leading the 2014 election ballot are both of Oklahoma’s seats in the U.S. Senate.

In addition to the six-year U.S. Senate term for the seat currently held by Republican Sen Jim Inhofe that was already scheduled to be on the ballot, the two-year unexpired term of the seat held by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn will also be up for election. Coburn announced in January that he was stepping down at the end of the current session of Congress.

Inhofe announced last year that he would seek a fourth term in the Senate. A Democrat, investment planner Matt Silverstein, has said he will challenge the GOP incumbent.

Coburn’s resignation set off a flurry of campaign announcements early this year. Republicans who have said they will run for the seat include 5th District Rep. James Lankford, former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, former state Sen. Randy Brogdon and at least three other lesser known hopefuls.

Democrat Charles Jenkins Jr., a retired federal government employee from Lawton, has said he will seek the Democratic nomination for Coburn’s Senate seat. Democratic state Sen. Connie Johnson of Oklahoma City has said she is considering running and will make an official announcement on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Lankford’s departure from the 5th Congressional District seat after two terms has attracted a crowded field of candidates.

Republicans who have said they will seek the seat include Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas, state Sen. Clark Jolley, former state Rep. Shane Jett, Army veteran and former state Sen. Steve Russell and state Rep. Mike Turner.

Democrats seeking the 5th Congressional District seat are state Sen. Al McAffrey, retired University of Central Oklahoma professor Tom Guild, who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2010 and 2012, retired federal contractor Keith Davenport and former state employee Marilyn Rainwater.

Elections are also scheduled in Oklahoma’s four other congressional districts, where incumbents will be heavily favored.

First-term Gov. Mary Fallin is seeking re-election and is being challenged by term-limited Democratic state Rep. Joe Dorman of Rush Springs. In addition, candidates for other statewide seats will file for office as well as all 101 Oklahoma House seats and 25 of the Senate’s 48 seats, including the unexpired term of Sen. Jerry Ellis, D-Valliant, who is term limited.

For the first time since candidate filing and election dates were changed three years ago, filing for an Oklahoma gubernatorial election will take place during an ongoing legislative session.

State lawmakers passed the “Let the Troops Vote Act” in 2011 to comply with provisions of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act passed by Congress in 2009. The measure requires states and counties to provide absentee ballots to military and other overseas voters 45 days before an election.

The bill moved the three-day filing period for elective offices from June to April. It also shifted Oklahoma’s primary election date to the last Tuesday in June, instead of the last week in July.

This year’s primary election is scheduled for June 24 with a runoff, if necessary in any race, scheduled on Aug. 26. The general election is schedul3ed on Nov. 4.

The Election Board reported in January that there are 1,978,812 registered voters in the state, including 885,609 Democrats, 854,329 Republicans, 238,870 independents and four Americans Elect registrants.

Voter registration is down slightly from just more than 2 million registered voters in Oklahoma in 2012.

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