With half a dozen candidates vying for the Republican nomination to fill Oklahoma’s open U.S. Senate, name identification could play a big role in who will advance to a likely runoff.  

Candidates are finding it increasingly difficult to differentiate themselves from the pack. 

Many are focusing their campaigns on similar issues — combating inflation, securing the southern border and strengthening the military. 

U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin and former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon are well ahead of the other contenders. Mullin is polling at 39% with Shannon at 19%, according to a survey of 400 likely Oklahoma GOP primary voters by the Oklahoma City-based firm Amber Integrated.

Minus self-funding, Mullin also leads in fundraising with $2 million in contributions, followed by  Luke Holland, Sen. Jim Inhofe’s former chief of staff, who has raised $1 million. Shannon has brought in $811,405 to his campaign. The remaining three candidates have lagged significantly behind in fundraising.

TW Shannon at the state Republican convention in Oklahoma City on April 10, 2021. BEN FELDER/The Frontier

Mullin also said he wants to reign in federal government spending. He believes some federal agencies should be eliminated entirely including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor and the Department of Agriculture.

“We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem,” Mullin said. “I understand what it takes to make a budget and to make sure you spend within your means. We spend a lot of money on what we want, but what is it that we actually need?”

Mullin said he believes many of these agencies already have corresponding state agencies that would be best suited to do the job.

He is trying to set himself apart by using his DC experience to his advantage. Saying that not only does he have a history of getting bills passed, but he can also work across the aisle without compromising his values.

“I don’t believe in compromising who I am but I do believe in negotiations,” Mullin said. “You have to realize, sometimes you’re not gonna be able to work with an individual, but there’s other ones that you need to learn what their priorities are and you can work with them.”

At a debate on Wednesday, Shannon said he wants to make President Donald Trump’s tax cuts permanent as a key way to fight inflation. 

“​​We need economic policies that generate wealth,” Shannon said. 

In addition Shannon said America needs to “do more to strengthen our military” by increasing the funding for the military.

Shannon also said the nation’s workforce shortage is being made worse by government assistance programs that  incentivize people not to work. He also blames drugs coming across the southern border.

“We have the solutions on the conservative side, and that involves a work ethic and requiring people to work to receive government benefits,” he said. “That’s how Mr. Trump started to change the culture as related to work ethic in this country.”

Former Oklahoma Attorney General and Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt is polling at a distant third place with 6%, according to the Amber Integrated numbers. 

Pruitt, whose time as EPA director was plagued by scandals and allegations of corruption, declined an interview request and refused to answer questions following a campaign event.

Dahm, a staunch conservative, has won the endorsement of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, but has been consistently polling between 5% and 8%. He refers to himself as the “only true conservative” running for the open seat and said everyone else in the race has “ conservative rhetoric but not a conservative record.”

If elected Dahm said he would “vote against all tax increases,” close the southern border and fight to secure America’s elections.

Holland, hopes to appeal to conservative Christians. He attributes a lot of problems the country is facing to “the left kicking God out of everything.”

“From inflation and our values being denigrated against it’s like the left and Joe Biden are trying to throw God out of absolutely everything and that’s something that I don’t like,” Holland said. “That’s why I’m running because I want to restore the foundation and get things back on the right track.”

Dr. Randy Grellner, a longshot candidate who is polling at 1%, said he’s running because he wants to make America energy independent again and to get America out of the World Health Organization.

“I’m somebody who really is the mirror image, from a policy standpoint, of Tom Coburn,” Grellner said. “That message is resounding throughout the state and my grassroots support is like nothing I’ve ever seen.”