OKLAHOMA CITY — Republicans U.S. Sen. James Lankford and U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin both coasted to election victory on Tuesday, with Mullin poised to become the first Native American in the U.S. Senate in nearly 20 years.
In an unusual twist this election cycle, both of Oklahoma’s U.S. Senate seats were on the ballot. U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe shook up the state's political scene by announcing this year that he planned to step down before his term was finished.
In the race for Inhofe’s seat, Mullin, 45, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, faced former Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, 46, an Oklahoma City attorney who in 2018 ousted a two-term GOP incumbent from a seat that had been in Republican hands for four decades.
"Tonight's victory is the honor of my lifetime, and a great win for our country," Mullin posted on his Facebook. "I want to thank all the Oklahomans who supported our campaign and volunteered to elect strong Republicans across the state. Tonight, the American people rejected Joe Biden's extreme Socialist movement, and embraced a new conservative agenda to get America back on track. I am humbled to have the opportunity to serve the greatest state in the union in the U.S. Senate. God bless Oklahoma, now and always."
(Related: ICT's #NativeVote2022 coverage)
But winning a congressional seat in an increasingly diverse and progressive city is different than winning a statewide race in Oklahoma, where Republicans now make up more than 50 percent of registered voters, compared to less than 30 percent for Democrats. Most polls showed Mullin winning comfortably over Horn, Libertarian Robert Murphy and independent Ray Woods.
“Kendra Horn had an opportunity to do something for our state, and she didn't," said Jessica Perez, 46, of Oklahoma City, who cast her vote for Mullin Tuesday at Oklahoma Christian University.
Mullin will become the first Native American in the U.S. Senate since former U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado left the Senate in 2005, according to U.S. Senate records.
In Oklahoma's other U.S. Senate race, incumbent Republican Lankford, 54, fended off a challenge from political newcomer Madison Horn, 32, a cybersecurity industry professional who is not related to Kendra Horn, along with Libertarian Kenneth Blevins and independent Michael Delaney.
Lankford, who received some criticism for seeking to delay certification of President Joe Biden's election victory in 2020, faced a feisty primary challenge from a Tulsa pastor who criticized Lankford for not fully embracing the falsehood that the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.