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Poll: Jena Nelson has early lead over Ryan Walters in Oklahoma Superintendent race

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Democrat Jena Nelson (left) and Republican Ryan Walters (right) are vying to be Oklahoma's next State Superintendent for Public Instruction in the Nov. 8 election.

A new poll released Monday shows a modern Oklahoma rarity: A Democrat ahead of a Republican in a statewide race.

Democrat Jena Nelson leads Republican Ryan Walters in a poll of more than 400 likely voters, 48% to 43%, according to data released by Sooner Poll Monday. The poll was commissioned by Oklahoma City and Tulsa television stations News 9 and News on 6.

A significant reason: Nelson had support from almost 20% of Republicans, who typically dominate elections in Oklahoma.

Walters — Gov. Kevin Stitt’s appointed Secretary of Education — has made himself a champion of conservative causes like enforcing Oklahoma’s so-called critical race theory ban House Bill 1775 and barring transgender students from using the restroom corresponding with their gender identity.

Walters is heavily preferred by self-identified conservatives, but Nelson — a former state teacher of the year — has a big lead with moderates, with more than 73% saying they would rather vote for her. The two square off on election day on Nov. 8.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Robby Korth grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma and Fayetteville, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Nebraska with a journalism degree.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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