2002 Oklahoma gubernatorial election

← 1998 November 5, 2002 2006 →
Nominee Brad Henry Steve Largent Gary Richardson
Party Democratic Republican Independent
Popular vote 448,143 441,277 146,200
Percentage 43.3% 42.6% 14.1%

Henry:      40–50%      50–60%      60–70%
Largent:      40–50%      50–60%      60–70%      70–80%

Governor before election

Frank Keating

Elected Governor

Brad Henry

The 2002 Oklahoma gubernatorial election was held on November 5, 2002, and was a race for Governor of Oklahoma. Democrat Brad Henry won the election with 43 percent of the vote, beating Republican Steve Largent and conservative independent Gary Richardson.

Henry's narrow win has been attributed to Richardson and Largent's split of the conservative vote[1] and the inclusion of a cockfighting ban on the ballot, an issue which brought cockfighting supporters from Southeastern Oklahoma, a traditional Democratic stronghold that strongly supported Henry, out to vote.[1][2][3] This is the last time that a gubernatorial nominee and a lieutenant gubernatorial nominee of different political parties were elected governor and lieutenant governor in Oklahoma.


Though Democrats had dominated state politics for most of Oklahoma's history, the Oklahoma Republican Party had made historic gains, including five of the state's six Congressional seats at the time of the election. This made it especially hard for Henry to win with a growing Republican dominance in the state. This was most notable in the urban areas of Oklahoma City and Tulsa, both of which voted for Largent.[4]

Democratic primary

Three state legislators sought the Democratic Party nomination, chasing front-runner Vince Orza who had previously sought the Governor's office as a Republican, only to be defeated by Bill Price in the primary runoff.[5] State Senator Brad Henry limped into the runoff with 28% against Orza's 44%, but opposition to the former Republican from New York coalesced behind Henry. Orza found himself again losing the runoff after winning the initial primary. Henry won the runoff with close to 19 thousand fewer votes than Orza received in the initial primary.[6][7][8]

Primary results

Democratic primary results[6]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Vince Orza 154,263 44.03
Democratic Brad Henry 99,883 28.51
Democratic Kelly Haney 59,044 16.85
Democratic Jim Dunegan 28,130 8.03
Democratic James E. Lamkin 9,069 2.59
Total votes 350,389 100.00

Runoff primary results

Democratic runoff primary results[9]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Brad Henry 135,336 52.42
Democratic Vince Orza 122,855 47.58
Total votes 258,191 100.00

Republican primary

Steve Largent easily won the GOP nomination against token opposition.[10]

Primary results

Republican primary results[6]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Steve Largent 179,631 87.25
Republican Jim Denny 16,713 8.12
Republican Andrew Marr, Jr 9,532 4.63
Total votes 205,876 100.00

General election


Source Ranking As of
The Cook Political Report[11] Likely R October 31, 2002
Sabato's Crystal Ball[12] Lean R November 4, 2002


Poll source Date(s)
of error
Henry (D)
Largent (R)
Richardson (I)
Other /
SurveyUSA November 1–3, 2002 710 (LV) ± 3.8% 42% 38% 17% 3%


This election was extremely close, with Henry prevailing by just 6,866 votes or 0.6%. Under Oklahoma Law, if the margin of victory is less than one percent but greater than half a percent, the losing candidate can request a recount that their campaign has to pay for. However, Largent ultimately decided against it, considering that because Henry led by 6,866 votes, the possibility of him prevailing were extremely difficult. On November 23, Largent officially conceded defeat. Two days later on November 25, Oklahoma Secretary of State Kay Dudley certified the results, declaring Henry the governor-elect.[citation needed]

2002 Oklahoma gubernatorial election
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Brad Henry 448,143 43.3 +2.4%
Republican Steve Largent 441,277 42.6 -15.9%
Independent Gary Richardson 146,200 14.1 N/A
Total votes 1,035,620 100.0
Democratic gain from Republican Swing +2.4%

Counties that flipped from Republican to Democratic

By congressional district

Henry won 2 of 5 congressional districts, including that elected a Republican.[13]

District Henry Largent Richardson Representative
1st 37.37% 47.43% 15.20% John Sullivan
2nd 52.98% 33.22% 13.80% Brad Carson
3rd 41.05% 43.19% 15.75% Wes Watkins (107th Congress)
Frank Lucas (108th Congress)
4th 44.28% 42.02% 13.70% J. C. Watts (107th Congress)
Tom Cole (108th Congress)
5th 40.95% 46.29% 12.77% Ernest Istook


  1. ^ Key:
    A – all adults
    RV – registered voters
    LV – likely voters
    V – unclear


  1. ^ a b Averill, David, "Eyeing another campaign: Richardson had impact on 2002 governor's race", Tulsa World, March 22, 2009.
  2. ^ "Henry upsets Steve Largent in governor's race", AP at USA Today, November 5, 2002.
  3. ^ John M. Broder, "The 2002 Elections: Governors; Bright Spots, Amid Dim Ones, for Democrats", The New York Times, November 7, 2009.
  4. ^ Gaddie, Ronald Keith, "Oklahoma Republican Party Archived 2011-09-03 at the Wayback Machine", Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture Archived May 31, 2010, at the Wayback Machine (accessed May 31, 2010).
  5. ^ "An Editorial: Orza is the Worst". The Oklahoman. September 9, 1990.
  6. ^ a b c "Primary Election August 27, 2002 Summary Results" (PDF). Oklahoma State Election Board.
  7. ^ "1990 Results" (PDF). Oklahoma State Election Board. p. C-4.
  8. ^ "The primary runoff alternative that could have changed Oklahoma elections | by Chris Powell | Medium". July 20, 2019.
  9. ^ "Runoff Primary Election September 17, 2002 Summary Results" (PDF). Oklahoma State Election Board.
  10. ^ Greiner, John; Hinton, Mick (August 28, 2002). "Largent easily wins GOP nod Orza, Henry divide Democrats". The Oklahoman.
  11. ^ "Governor Updated October 31, 2002 | The Cook Political Report". The Cook Political Report. October 31, 2002. Archived from the original on December 8, 2002. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
  12. ^ "Governors Races". www.centerforpolitics.org. November 4, 2002. Archived from the original on December 12, 2002. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
  13. ^ "Twitter".