In November, Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry saw a cornerstone for his plan to increase funding for education, a statewide lottery, become a reality.
The education lottery won easy passage with about 64 percent of the vote. Supporters said it would raise $150 million a year for common, higher and technical education.
A companion measure was also approved, which will create a constitutional ''lockbox'' and prdvent lawmakers from dipping into lottery revenue to replace existing education dollars, something that has happened in other states.
The 17 AP members who took part in the survey selected Terry Nichols' trial for the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building as the No. 2 story.
On Aug. 24, with little fanfare, Nichols was transferred out of Oklahoma custody and handed back to federal marshals and then flown from McAlester to a maximum-security federal prison in Florence, Colo. He had been held in Oklahoma since Jan. 31, 2000.
Judge Steven Taylor sentenced Nichols on Aug. 9 to life in prison without the possibility of parole after a jury deadlocked on the death penalty after deliberating for 19 1/2 hours over three days.
This was the same sentence he received in his federal trial for the deaths of eight federal agents killed in the April 19, 1995, bombing.
Nichols' trial on 161 state murder charges, for the others killed in the bombing plus one fetus, spanned 2 1/2 months after years of motion hearings ranging from who cuts Nichols' hair to a change in venue from Oklahoma City to McAlester.
More than $10 million was spent for a trial that ended with prosecutors failing to achieve their goal of sending Nichols to the death chamber.
Last year, the effects of the war in Iraq on soldiers and families in Oklahoma was voted as the top Oklahoma AP story of the year.
Here are the top 10 stores of 2004 as ranked by AP members:
1. Passage of the lottery: Passage of the lottery measure culminated months of campaigning by educators and other supporters who said the measure would deliver much-needed revenue for public education. Oklahoma voters rejected the statewide game a decade ago by a 60 percent margin, but the second time was the charm.
2. Terry Nichols: After convicting Nichols of 161 counts of murder in just five hours, the jury wrestled with his punishment for 19 1/2 hours before concluding they could not agree on a penalty. Lawyers for both the prosecution and defense agreed jurors were influenced by Nichols' religious conversions and defense attorneys portrayed Nichols as being Timothy McVeigh's puppet. McVeigh was executed for the bombing in June 2001.
Nichols never testified, but after the trial, information was released that in an effort to have the prosecution drop their request for a death sentence, Nichols acknowledged having a major role in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. The negotiations fell through because prosecutors thought Nichols was not forthcoming enough.
3. Republicans regain majority in the House: For the first time in 83 years, the Republican Party will have a majority in the Oklahoma House when the gavel falls at the start of the 2005 session. In the November election, the Republicans took over the House majority with a 57-44 seat advantage.
Republican candidates took advantage of open House seats resulting from term limits that forced popular incumbents from office, as well as the popularity of Republican President Bush, who won Oklahoma with 65 percent of the vote.
4. Race for U.S. Senate: The race to replace retiring Sen. Don Nickles was the most expensive in state history, with Democrat Brad Carson and Republican Tom Coburn, spending a combined $10.6 million. Coburn, who won the election, spent nearly $4.6 million, according to campaign spending reports, while Carson spent $6 million, by far a record.
In an appeal to conservative voters, Carson ran away from his party's national ticket, highlighting his support for some of Bush's initiatives, including the war in Iraq, and avoiding mention of Kerry's name.
Carson and Coburn ran scads of negative television ads, including one from Carson that raised a woman's allegation that Coburn, an obstetrician, sterilized her without her permission.
5. Carroll Fisher: Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher resigned Sept. 24, heading off a Senate impeachment trial on charges of incompetence, neglect of duty and corruption. His resignation came after months of refusing to step down from his post, saying he had done nothing wrong.
He continues to face several felonies in two criminal cases where he is accused of illegally operating a charity and mishandling an education fund set up for insurance agents.
Fisher ran for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in the primary but got only 8 percent of the vote.
6. Electronic gambling approved at race tracks: Voters approved the tribal gaming measure, giving the state some authority over and profits from Oklahoma's more than 80 Indian casinos, while permitting three of Oklahoma's struggling horse racing tracks to offer the same electronic games allowed at American Indian casinos. Officials estimate it will raise about $70 million a year for public education.
7. Bill restricting sale of pseudoephedrine: Legislators passed a bill that restricted the sale of the tablet form of pseudoephedrine, which is the main ingredient in making meth. The number of illegal meth lab seizures dropped by almost 50 percent since the law was enacted in April.
8. Flu Shot Shortage: Healthy Oklahomans were asked to forgo flu shots this year to ensure that high risk populations had access to the vaccination. Those that qualified for the shots faced long lines when the flu shots did became available.
9. College students binge drinking: Oklahoma University student Blake Hammontree, 19, died Sept. 30 after he attended a Sigma Chi ''Big Brother/Little Brother,'' party in which fraternity members furnished drinks to pledges. His death resulted in OU prohibiting the drinking of alcohol in all Oklahoma fraternities and residence halls.
10. Gene Stipe: Longtime Oklahoma politician Gene Stipe pleaded guilty in April to two felony charges and a misdemeanor in a congressional campaign funding scandal. He was sentenced to six months house detention, fined more than $1 million in civil and criminal penalties and ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service. He completed his detention in August.