In a race between two political newcomers, Republican James Lankford wrote a powerful ending to his dramatic rise to federal office. Lankford defeated MidCity attorney Billy Coyle, the Democratic nominee, in Oklahoma’s Fifth Congressional District race last Tuesday.
Lankford garnered 123,223 votes, 62.53% of the total according to final but unofficial results (not including provisional ballots). Coyle had 68,060, for 34.53% support. Two Independent candidates gained 5,794 votes in all, a little less than 3% of the raw vote.
Lankford’s victory built on his first place showing in the July primary, and a strong runoff win over the early frontrunner. Lankford is the former director of Falls Creek Camp in southern Oklahoma, a beloved summer destination for (cumulatively) hundreds of thousands of Southern Baptists and others.
In an interview conducted as he arrived at a Republican celebration, Lankford told CapitolBeatOK, “This is incredibly humbling, to know that many thousands of Oklahomans have put their trust in me. And a vote like this really is an expression of trust. I’m grateful and appreciative of the support and the confidence of the voters.”
He continued, “And now, it’s time to get to work. The longest job interview of my life is finally over. I’m ready to work.”
Coyle, also a newcomer, began the race with great hope when he snagged the party nod in July. Yet, his candidacy was caught in the unprecedented, even shocking, surge of Oklahomans toward the Grand Old Party.
Coyle told Stacy Martin of The City Sentinel, “I don’t know what else I could have done. For six months, I ran hard. I think I out-campaigned the guy. I think I did a better job on the issues. I did some great TV. I poured my heart and soul into it. It’s a tough year for Democrats, especially in Oklahoma.”
Coyle said, “When I first got into this campaign six months ago, nobody gave me a chance or knew who I was. I didn’t shy away from running as a Democrat. I think that goes a long way to show how hard I wanted to fight for it. We rented an RV, toured the district. We made 50,000 phone calls. I thought I was going to do a lot better than I did.”
Coyle concluded, “It’s all right. I got caught up in the Republican sweep.”
Editor’s Note: Stacy Martin, associate editor for The City Sentinel, contributed to this report.