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Former program director at Baptist retreat center wins GOP House runoff


OKLAHOMA CITY (BP) — A political newcomer and former Southern Baptist leader continued to surprise the political world Aug. 24 by winning the runoff in a congressional Republican primary to advance to the general election, where he will be the favorite to win a seat in the U.S. House.

James Lankford, who has never held political office, defeated Kevin Calvey 65-35 percent to win the GOP nomination for Oklahoma’s fifth district, four weeks after he pulled a come-from-behind victory to win the primary’s first round – an upset that one political expert told was “unfathomable.” The district covers Oklahoma City.

Lankford, 42, was program director at the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s Falls Creek summer camp from 1996 to 2009 but quit his position because he said he felt God was calling him to run for Congress.

A former state legislator, Calvey was endorsed by the Club for Growth and had a significant cash advantage prior to the first round, although Lankford’s first-round win gave him enough momentum to outraise Calvey in the final four weeks. Lankford also benefited by support from a strong Southern Baptist and evangelical base, as well as endorsements from Mike Huckabee and J.C. Watts.