Oklahoma GOP Primary Moves To Runoff To Fill NASA Chief’s Congressional Seat

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Tim Pearce Energy Reporter
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Former Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris and businessman Kevin Hern defeated three other opponents to score spots in the August primary runoff to replace former GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine in Oklahoma’s District 1 House seat.

Harris secured his bid to the runoff around 11:00 p.m. EST, claiming 27.5 percent of the vote with 92 percent of precincts reporting. Hern officially won second place Wednesday morning, claiming 22.7 percent of the vote after all precincts reported. Hern beat the third place contender, Air Force veteran Andy Coleman, by less than a percentage point, according to The New York Times.

Bridenstine left the seat to serve as NASA’s head administrator. The Senate confirmed Bridenstine to take over the U.S. space agency April 19, ending a record-setting 15-month stint without a Senate-confirmed leader. (RELATED: Congress Approves Trump’s NASA Pick, Ending 15 Months Of A Leaderless Space Agency)

Coleman and Hern were early frontrunners in the five-way Republican primary. The race attracted the attention of high-profile, national organizations as the conservative Coleman and more centrist Hern battled during the primary.

Harris began the race as a bit of a dark horse candidate but showed up strong on election night. He relied on his experience in law enforcement and advocated conservative family values, both safe bets in the conservative state.

Hern has poured $700,000 into the race, a large sum that set him ahead early. He raised another $1.3 million in contributions, more than every other contender in the race combined. On top of his substantial resources, he earned the endorsement from the centrist group Republican Main Street Partnership.

Hern’s centrism also earned him the ire of the Club for Growth Action conservative super PAC. Club for Growth Action spent roughly $272,000 in anti-Hern ads and messaging.

Coleman won big name conservative endorsements from the House Freedom Caucus and Club For Growth. As a veteran, he gained an endorsement and $200,000 worth of political messaging from the non-partisan With Honor Fund, dedicated to helping veterans win political office.

Oklahoma’s First District is expected to stay red through the general. The seat has gone to the GOP every election since 1986.

The runoff election will be held August 28. The winner will face the winner of the Democrat runoff between Tim Gilpin or Amanda Douglas.

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