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Inside Politics

Coburn projected to win in Oklahoma

U.S. Senate seat to stay in Republican hands


story.tom.coburn.jpg
Polls leading up to the election showed a tight race between Brad Carson and Tom Coburn, above.
SPECIAL REPORT
Senate: OK Updated: 5:33 p.m. ET
Coburn 53%
Carson 41%
100% precincts reporting
Election Results Main Page

(CNN) -- CNN is projecting that former Rep. Tom Coburn will win the Senate seat vacated by Republican Don Nickles in Oklahoma.

The tenor of the race between Coburn, a physician, and Democratic Rep. Brad Carson turned nasty as the race came down the stretch.

The race was tight the entire last month, as polls fluctuated with both Carson and Coburn taking turns in front but failing to build a lead of more two percentage points. The Sooner Survey (done by Fox25 News in Oklahoma City and KSWO-TV in Lawton) also showed a one-point race, with Coburn hanging onto the statistically insignificant lead.

Carson turned up the heat on Coburn late in the race via a series of attack ads and aggressive campaigning.

The crux of the ads labeled Coburn a loose cannon with a knack for making off-the-wall comments, including remarks that the Holocaust movie "Schindler's List" was too obscene for television and that those who perform abortions should be subject to the death penalty. Carson also accused Coburn of putting his own agenda ahead of the interests of the people of Oklahoma as a representative in the House.

Coburn, a general practitioner, retaliated by labeling Carson a closet liberal who is trying to "hide the ball" on his voting record.

Muskogee native Coburn, 46, is a product of the public school system and graduated with a B.S. in accounting from Oklahoma State. After working -- and growing Coburn Optical Industries for eight years -- he returned to school to become a physician, graduated from University of Oklahoma Medical School in 1983 and opened a family practice.

Coburn was first elected to represent Oklahoma's 2nd District in 1994. Considered a "budget hawk" whose primary focus was on balancing the budget, he served on the Committee on Commerce and sat on subcommittees on Health and Environment. He was also vice-chairman for Energy and Power and Oversight and Investigations.

Coburn, a co-chair of the President's Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS, also authored a bill encouraging testing of infants for HIV, which the Wall Street Journal called "the first legislation to pass in this country that will rescue babies."

Carson, 37, is a sixth-generation Oklahoma native whose mother's ancestors came to the state on the Trail of Tears. A Rhodes Scholar, Carson entered into public service in 2000, when he was elected to the House of Representatives in Oklahoma's 2nd District in a runoff election. He was re-elected in 2002, garnering 74 percent of the vote.

A member of the Transportation and Resources Committee, Carson has worked to reform the quality of care in nursing homes and prescription drug benefits for seniors. He has been praised for his centrist voting record by members of both parties, as well as by President George W. Bush for his ability to reach across the aisle.


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