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New poll shows Jena Nelson leads over Ryan Walters in Oklahoma superintendent race

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 shows a modern Oklahoma rarity: A Democrat ahead of a Republican in a statewide race.

Democrat Jena Nelson has a narrow lead on Republican Ryan Walters, per the poll from Amber Integrated commissioned by OKC television station KOCO.

Pollsters asked 500 likely voters their preference for state superintendent, 49 percent picked Nelson, and 44 percent picked Walters.

That’s similar to another poll by Sooner Poll released earlier this month showing Nelson with a five-point lead.

Nelson is the strong preference of voters in Oklahoma City and Tulsa — two places that helped propel Walters to his victory in the GOP primary runoff against April Grace.

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.

He’s heavily preferred by GOP voters – capturing 71% of them – but Nelson is preferred by 22% of polled Republicans, while Walters gets much less support from Democrats and Independents.

The two candidates are closely tied to the gubernatorial candidates in their parties, with Walters getting endorsed by Stitt and Nelson frequently making campaign appearances with Democrat Joy Hofmeister.

Pollsters also asked voters about their preference for lieutenant governor. Incumbent Matt Pinnell has a comfortable 15-point lead in his bid for re-election on Democratic challenger Melinda Alizadeh-Fard, who 34% of voters prefer, and Libertarian Chris Powell, who is preferred by 5%.

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