Oklahoma held runoff elections in their party primaries on Tuesday, and I’ve added the unofficial results to my historical chart of such contests. That listing now details the last 56 Congressional, statewide, and state legislative primary runoffs in the state over the previous 5 cycles, from 2008 through 2016. A link to a .pdf version of this chart appears at the bottom of this post.
The top-line story from Tuesday’s voting was the incredibly close race for the Democratic nomination in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District, as 2014 nominee Al McAffrey defeated the party’s 2012 nominee, Tom Guild, by just 40 votes out of 16,000 votes cast – a margin of one quarter of a percent. It is not yet known whether Mr. Guild will seek a recount; he has until 5 p.m. on Friday to request one. This race was a repeat of the 2014 Democratic primary in this district, which was also won by Mr. McAffrey by a much-larger 54%-46% margin. This year’s race saw 17% fewer votes cast as compared with 2014, however. Furthermore, neither Mr. McAffrey nor Mr. Guild received more than 37% of the general election vote in either of the past two cycles, so I doubt that the tight margin of Tuesday’s primary changes the fact that Republican Rep. Steve Russell should win re-election to this seat fairly comfortably in November.
After that, the historical trends I identified in my primary runoff preview last week generally held up:
- Candidates who finished first in June’s primary continued to do quite well, especially in State House races. The runoff was won by the first-place finisher in the primary in all six of Tuesday’s State House runoffs and in 11 of 14 contests overall (78%). These 2016 results means that the average of this statistic over the last five cycles is 73% in Oklahoma, which is just slightly above South Carolina’s rate of 72% over the same period. So as a general rule, the candidate who finishes first in the primary in Oklahoma goes on to win the runoff about 3 out of every 4 times.
- Note that in the last 3 election cycles, the runoff has taken place 9 weeks after the primary; in 2008 and 2010, it was only 4 weeks after. During these last 3 cycles, and despite a longer runoff campaign, the performance of candidates who won their primary is even stronger, winning the runoff 78% of the time (31 out of 40 instances).
- Recall also that there were two State Senate races where the primary winner received more than 49% of the vote, and thus just narrowly missed avoiding a runoff altogether. However, both Lonnie Paxton in SD #23 and Adam Pugh in SD #41 won their respective runoffs rather easily.
- The runoff elections held on Tuesday were closer than those from the last four cycles. In 2016, the average margin of victory by the runoff winner was about 12%, whereas the average margin from 2008 to 2014 was about 17%. There was also only one contest (in HD #8) which was decided by a margin of larger than 25 percent. However, that doesn’t mean that there were a lot of close races. Just 3 of 14 runoffs had a margin of less than 5 percent.
- The number of votes cast in Tuesday’s primary runoffs averaged 70% of the amount cast in the original primary, which as I noted in my preview last week, is almost exactly the rate it has been over the previous four election cycles. This year, however, there was a wider variability in that number among races. For only the second time since 2008, there were more votes cast in a primary runoff than in the corresponding primary. This happened in SD #41, which saw 16% more votes cast in Adam Pugh’s runoff victory on Tuesday than when he finished 9 votes shy of winning his primary outright in June. But there were also 2 state legislative races which saw turnout in the runoff decline by more than 50 percent (SD #39 and HD #16), and that had previously happened only once before in the last 5 cycles (in the Republican runoff for the 2nd Congressional District in 2010).
Pdf listing of Oklahoma Runoffs 2008 to 2016