OKLAHOMA CITY — U.S. Senate candidate James Lankford's campaign staff seemed unusually tranquil in the days leading up to Tuesday's Republican primary.
For good reason, as it turned out.
Lankford's supporters blew the top out of pre-election projections and carried him to a 57 percent majority in a seven-way race for the GOP nomination to succeed U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn.
Lankford acknowledged Coburn in his victory speech.
"The legacy he has laid down for our state and our nation is a long shadow," said Lankford. "His are shoes that cannot possibly be filled, but it is a responsibility we have to take on."
Lankford will meet the winner of the Aug. 26 Democratic runoff between state Sen. Connie Johnson and perennial candidate Jim Rogers, plus independent Mark Beard, in the Nov. 4 general election.
Former House Speaker T.W. Shannon, expected to push Lankford to the finish line, managed only 34 percent and conceded about 9 p.m. Former state Sen. Randy Brogdon's outspoken supporters failed to show up at the polls in sufficient numbers to push him above 5 percent.
Lankford's victory was a blow for the hard-line right, both nationally and in the state. Shannon had the backing of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, as well as the likes of the Senate Conservatives Fund.
Brogdon's failure to reach double digits came as a shock and disappointment to many who expected an army of supporters to materialize.
Shannon and Brogdon had both attacked Lankford as too willing to negotiate on fiscal affairs, and for being part of House Republican leadership.
Lankford beat Shannon 3½ to 1 in Oklahoma County and 2 to 1 in Cleveland and Canadian counties. Lankford won Tulsa County by about 6,000 votes. With more than half of all Republican voters in those four counties, Shannon had no chance.
"We have said all along, the other six folks in this race were not our opponents," said Lankford. "(Majority Leader) Harry Reid is our opponent.
"This was not an election to say we want the Lankfords to go to Washington," he said. "This election is about us saying we want someone to go to Washington and represent us and get government out of our family."
"The job is clear," Lankford said, and then listed the things he said needed to be done, including repealing the Affordable Care Act, bringing the federal budget into balance and generally reducing government influence in everyday life.
In the Democratic primary, Johnson finished with 44 percent to 35 percent for the eccentric Rogers, a frequent candidate for federal office. Patrick Michael Hayes of Anadarko got 21 percent, without any noticeable campaigning.
Johnson carried Oklahoma and Tulsa counties by wide margins but ran into difficulty in rural areas, where she is less known. Rogers got 48 percent of the vote in heavily Democratic Pushmataha County, where he outpolled President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential primary. Johnson finished third in Pushmataha County, behind Hayes.