Woodward, Okla. —
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Both U.S. Senate seats are on the ballot Tuesday during an unusually busy Oklahoma primary that reflects the GOP's rise to power in a state Democrats controlled for nearly a century.
Most of the action is on the Republican side, and the uniqueness of picking nominees for both Senate seats at once for the first time in recent history could boost turnout.
This includes a fiercely competitive race for the seat left open by retiring Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, who is stepping down with two years left on his six-year term amid a recurrence of cancer.
The race for Coburn's seat includes a three-way Democratic primary and a seven-man race for the GOP nomination that includes two of Oklahoma's rising Republican political stars: two-term U.S. Rep. James Lankford, 46, and former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, 36.
In the other U.S. Senate race, 79-year-old incumbent Republican Jim Inhofe faces four little-known challengers in the GOP primary.
There is no Democratic primary in that race.
Gov. Mary Fallin, 59, faces a pair of pro-marijuana Republican challengers in her bid for a second term as the state's chief executive, while Fallin's Democratic opponent, Rep. Joe Dorman of Rush Springs, faces no primary opposition.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. across the state. If no one candidate secures more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote getters will advance to an Aug. 26 primary runoff to determine the nominee.
Because Oklahoma has a closed-primary system, only Republicans and Democrats vote to select their party's nominee. Independents may get to vote in local races for judge or some county or municipal elections.
While primary elections, particularly on the GOP side, have historically drawn a more energized and politically active electorate, Republican pollster and longtime political strategist Pat McFerron says that is beginning to change as the number of registered Republicans increases in Oklahoma.