Republican party prepares for US Senate debate in Durant - - No One Gets You Closer

Republican party prepares for US Senate debate in Durant

DURANT -- Candidates for Oklahoma's open U.S. Senate seat will begin a series of statewide debates in Durant on Wednesday.

Hundreds of politically-minded people are expected to fill up the Hallie McKinney ballroom on the campus of SOSU.

"It is a very big deal," Holly Gerard, vice chair of the Bryan County Republicans said.

Five microphones in the front of the room await the republican candidates who've agreed to participate in the debate.

They all want to take over the senate seat held by Tom Coburn (R) who announced he's resigning at the end of the year with two years left on his term.

"I believe it is the first time we've ever had republican candidates on the senatorial level come to our area," Gerard said.

Wednesday's debate is the first of three scheduled statewide by the Oklahoma Republican Party this month. Another debate will be held Friday in Lawton and on June 20 in Enid.

A total of seven republicans are vying for the party's nomination in the race to replace the seat held by Sen. Coburn. Three democrats and one independent are also in the race.

Gerard says the fact that Durant was chosen for the debate reflects a trend in Bryan County which she says has historically leaned democratic.

"In 2009, we organized and we have been going like gangbusters ever since. We are registering people, they are flipping registration very quickly," she said. "It just really shows me and shows our community that rural conservatives are being listened to."

There are enough chairs to seat 350 people in the audience Wednesday. So far, Gerard says a little more than 200 tickets have been reserved.

Even though the debate is being hosted by the Oklahoma GOP she says anyone is welcomed, regardless of which side of the aisle you're on.

Doors open at 6pm tomorrow. The debate is scheduled from 7-8:30pm.

Tickets are free at

Primary elections in Oklahoma are June 24. A primary runoff, if necessary, will be August 26. The general election is November 4.