A key race to watch in 2004 is for the open seat of retiring Republican Sen. Don Nickles. Conservative Democratic Rep. Brad Carson faces former three-term Republican Rep. Tom Coburn.
The pair agrees on little: that a tough general election battle looms between two candidates with starkly different visions for the state.
Coburn won a bitter Republican primary that included charges of double-crosses and shady land deals. He handily beat former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys, who started out as the favorite but garnered only 25 percent.
The outcome of the Carson-Coburn contest could play a big role in who controls the Senate. Oklahoma is one of only a few states with open Senate seats this year, and Democrats are optimistic Carson can win in November despite the state's GOP leanings in Senate races.
Carson easily won the Democratic primary with almost 80 percent of the vote. His closest competitor was beleaguered Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher, who is fighting criminal charges and an impeachment inquiry over his handling of state funds and a charity.
Coburn, a doctor, was known as a maverick and a conservative in Congress, and in 1997 helped lead a revolt against then-GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Carson, the only Democrat in the state's congressional delegation, is a moderate who supports gun rights, the death penalty and the war in Iraq.
Both men have represented the 2nd Congressional District of eastern Oklahoma and said they would exploit each other's voting records.
Carson's bid for the Senate seat means he leaves the 2nd district seat open, which he has held since 2000. Republican Wayland Smalley is running against state Rep. Dan Boren.
Nickles, who won his seat in 1980 and served six years as the second-ranking lawmaker in the GOP leadership, said he was tempted to seek a fifth term but didn't want to become a Senate "lifer."
Though Gov. Brad Henry is a Democrat, Oklahoma has voted solidly Republican in recent presidential elections and no Democrat has held a Senate seat from the state since 1994.
Carson first made his announcement on two conservative radio programs, an indication of his willingness to appeal to voters across the spectrum.
In the 2002 elections, Republican Senator Jim Inhofe handily won a second term, beating former Gov. David Walters, a Democrat, and James Germalic, an Independent.
Democrat Brad Henry won a three-way race to succeed Republican Governor Frank Keating, beating Republican former congressman (and former football star) Steve Largent and Independent Gary Richardson. Henry defeated Largent by less than 7,000 votes.
In the House races, Republican Tom Cole beat Democrat Darryl Roberts in the battle to replace Republican J.C. Watts, the fourth-ranking member of the House.
Voters banned cockfighting, leaving only two states where the blood sport is allowed _ Louisiana and New Mexico.