- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 26, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - State Sen. Connie Johnson won the Democratic primary runoff election for an open U.S. Senate seat Tuesday, and will face Republican U.S. Rep. James Lankford in the Nov. 4 general election.

Johnson, of Oklahoma City, beat perennial candidate Jim Rogers of Midwest City in a race in which she campaigned on several social and civil liberties issues, including the legalization of marijuana and reform of Oklahoma’s criminal justice system.

Johnson has said 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.

Phil Defree, 64, a retired civil servant, voted for Johnson and said he would vote for Democrats in the fall. Still, he wasn’t optimistic that a Democrat could pick up a seat in a state where President Barack Obama failed to win any of 77 counties in 2008 or 2012.

“Oh no! Not in Oklahoma. I’m a realist,” he said.

The U.S. Senate seat came open when GOP incumbent Tom Coburn said he would not complete a term set to expire in 2016.

Lankford, who has represented central Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District for four years, gave up the seat and won the Republican nomination in a special U.S. Senate primary election on June 24. Independent candidate Mark Beard is also seeking the seat in the general election.

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Longtime educator John Cox won the Democratic nomination for state schools superintendent and in the fall will take on Republican Joy Hofmeister, who defeated incumbent Janet Barresi in the June primary.

Cox has worked as a teacher, principal and superintendent. He defeated teacher Freda Deskin in a race in which Democrats touted both candidates as better than Barresi, who alienated teachers, administrators and parents in her four-year term.

The Democratic nominee said the November general election should be about who can serve children best - not party politics. Republicans currently hold all statewide offices.

Hofmeister said shortly before the polls closed that her focus, regardless of her opponent, would be on finding “meaningful outcomes for our children.”

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The husband of a state legislator who has made incendiary comments about minorities and gay people will not join her at the Oklahoma Capitol. Steve Kern lost his bid for a state Senate seat from Oklahoma City.

Anesthesiologist Ervin Yen will face Democrat John Handy Edwards in the Nov. 4 general election for the Senate District 40 seat.

Kern is an evangelical pastor. His wife, Sally, made national headlines when she said in 2008 that gay people pose a greater threat to the country than terrorism. In 2012, she was reprimanded for denigrating blacks and women during a debate on an affirmative action bill. She also apologized on the House floor.

She drew no opposition this year for her House seat.

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Associated Press writer Kristi Eaton in Guthrie contributed to this report.


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