At the ripe old age of 27, Oklahoma state house Rep. Mike Turner is hoping to be the next U.S. Representative from Oklahoma’s Fifth District, and polling suggests he might be able to pull it off.
Turner, a Republican, caused a big upset in 2012, when, in his first run for public office, he defeated a four-term incumbent who was far better funded by 11 percent of the vote. Now, he is vying for the seat currently held by Oklahoma Republican Rep. James Lankford, who is running for Senate.
According to an internal poll provided first to The Daily Caller, Turner has the chance to pull off an upset.
The poll, conducted by WPA Opinion Research, found Turner rapidly gaining on Republican primary frontrunner state Sen. Clark Jolley over the past two months.
Another poll conducted by the same company at the end of January had Turner at the bottom of the five-candidate field, getting just four percent of the Republican vote, while Jolley took 16 percent. But the latest poll, conducted March 26-27, has Turner squarely in the game with 13 percent of the vote, behind Jolley’s 18 percent. The other three candidates have less than ten percent of the vote. 49 percent of voters remain undecided.
With so many voters undecided, the pollsters attribute Jolly’s early lead in part to his high name recognition – 66 percent. Turner has 54 percent name recognition. The three other candidates: former state Rep. Shane Jett, Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas, and former state Sen. Steve Russell are known by 40 percent or less of the Republican electorate.
Turner has also seen big gains with important subgroups in the Republican primary: his support among voters who identify as “Strong Republicans” has jumped from 5 percent in January to 14 percent in March. Among independents, he has gone from three percent to 16 percent.
Twelve percent of “Very Conservative” voters now support him, compared to five percent in January. Support from “Traditional Republican voters,” tea party voters, and women has also jumped six to seven points.
The poll is based on a sample of 401 likely Republican primary voters surveyed from March 26-27 by a live telephone operator. The pollsters screened respondents to weed out anyone who was “a member of the news media, a public relations company, or a political campaign.” The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
The pollsters conclude that Turner was “the one candidate positioned as the conservative alternative to Clark Jolley,” and that he has the “momentum” to carry him through.
That is exactly the candidate that Turner says he wants to be.
“I believe firmly that we need active conservatives; I’m tired of passive individuals, I’m tired of lukewarm conservatives,” he told The Daily Caller in a phone interview Monday, describing his thought process when he first decided to run for the state legislature
“I was just some young punk and I literally came from nowhere and proved that you can be challenged and the time for passive conservatives is no longer,” he said.
He touts his vote against the state house budget in 2013, which he says he cast in spite of eight different people attempting to convince him to go along with it.
“And I’m like, no, this is an unethical budget. There’s too little tax relief and it just enhanced the size of government. And I don’t care the ramifications of it, the point is that I wasn’t elected to feather my own nest, and I wasn’t elected to keep things the status quo,” he explained.
“They’re not getting a yes man with me; they’re getting a very aggressive fighter,” he said.
He says he will not take campaign donations from PACs or lobbyists.
His age, he said, has been more of an asset than a hindrance. He says people thank him for getting in the race, saying that they need someone representing him “who has the energy” to fight for what they want. To be fair, he is not exactly running against senior citizens: Jolley is only in his forties.
To people who say he lacks experience, Turner says, “more political experience just means nothing more than becoming more of the status quo and background noise. That’s not me.”