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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.

Robby Korth joined KOSU as its news director in November 2022.
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