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Walters, Henry victors in Okla. runoff

Sept. 18, 2002 at 12:08 AM

OKLAHOMA CITY, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- Oklahoma Democrats nominated former Gov. David Walters in Tuesday's runoff to challenge Republican Sen. James Inhofe in the Nov. 5 election.

They also selected state Sen. Brad Henry to oppose Republican Steve Largent in the race to succeed retiring Gov. Frank Keating.

Walters' victory over Tulsa attorney Tom Boettcher was expected after nearly winning the Senate nomination in the Aug. 27 primary with 49 percent of the vote, but Henry's upset of restaurant chain owner Vince Orza was a surprise to many political observers.

With 100 percent of the unofficial vote counted, Walters had 57 percent of the vote and Boettcher 43 percent. Henry received 52 percent of the vote to Orza's 48 percent, according to the Oklahoma State Elections Board.

The campaign for the Senate nomination was bruising with Boettcher reminding voters that Walters pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor campaign finance violation in 1990 and the former governor questioning some of Boettcher's business practices.

Walters, who was governor from 1991-95, will now challenge Inhofe, a former Tulsa mayor and congressman who is seeking his second, six-year term in the Senate. The only other candidate for the post is independent James Germalic of Stigler.

In the governor's race, Henry also faces a challenge in Largent, a former congressman and NFL Hall of Fame receiver who easily won 87 percent of the vote in the August primary.

Orza had received 44 percent of the vote in the five-candidate primary race and was favored to win the runoff. Henry received 28 percent, enough for second in the crowded contest and another crack at Orza in the Tuesday runoff.

During the runoff campaign, Orza criticized Henry's proposal for a state lottery, claiming it wouldn't bring in the revenue the Shawnee legislator projected. Henry attacked Orza's loyalty to the Democratic Party, reminding party voters he ran for governor as a Republican in 1990.

Henry and Largent seek to succeed Republican Gov. Frank Keating, who will retire after eight years in office because of term limits.

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