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Two Candidates Vying for GOP Nod in CD5

Candidates for Congressional District Five in Central Oklahoma are making a final push to get out the vote for the runoff election in about a week.

The winner hopes to replace Congressman James Lankford who is running for Senate.

A couple of weeks ago, we introduced the two Democrats in the race, today we look at the Republicans.

KOSU’s Michael Cross introduces us to the candidates with experience in both the private and public sectors.

June’s primary election ended in a near tie with Steve Russell and Patrice Douglas getting 26% and 24%, respectively, a little more than 1,000 votes separating the two.

To increase her support, Douglas says her campaign changed its tactics in the primary which focused on media and broadcasting.

“We’re really going door to door now. We’re meeting people at their doorstep. We’re making a lot of personal phone calls not robocalls, personal calls. I’m on the phones every day. When I can be, I’m knocking doors on the weekends.”

Former State Senator Russell admits it’s not easy to reach all 750,000 people in the district.

“We go to where people are. Tremendous amount of volunteers, we’ve got literally, several dozen precinct captains. We have has as many as 75 volunteers turn up for event.”

Corporation Commissioner Douglas worked as an attorney and businesswoman before getting elected as Edmond mayor where she served from 2009 to 2011.

She says she points to her experience managing a large city during the downturn in the economy and shortfall in funds.

“I still had to balance a budget and did so in a way that kept our policemen and our firemen working that we were able to pave some roads and fill some potholes. We managed two of the largest natural disasters that the city of Edmond had ever faced.”

Russell began his career in the military before getting elected to the State Senate in 2008, but currently runs his own business which manufactures small rifles.

As one of the commanders in the hunt and capture of Saddam Hussein, he says voters are usually impressed with his experience in life or death decisions.

“My military background gave me a chance only because of the incredible things that I by chance happened to be involved with and I’m grateful to take a soldier’s story and use it for good.”

The GOP has had a tight grip on Congressional District Five since 1975.

The Cook Political Report, a non-partisan, online newsletter analyzing elections and campaigns, names CD5 an R6 for strongly Republican-safe district.

The area which includes most of Oklahoma, Pottawatomie and Seminole County includes 175,000 registered Republicans compared to 166,000 Democrats.

A 9,000 voter majority could seem small when looking at Tulsa’s District One where there are 64,000 more Republicans than Democrats.

District Three in northern and western Oklahoma boasts a 46,000 voter GOP majority.

So, Steve Russell says Oklahomans might consider it more moderate when looking at other parts of the state.

“If you were taking an R6 Congressional District anywhere else in the country they would look at that as ‘Oh yeah, that’s going to be Republican’. We just compare it to our other districts and think that somehow it’s not favorable to Republicans, but it is.”

As for Patrice Douglas: she’s not taking anything for granted in the general election.

“I don’t think it will ever be a cakewalk through November, but it is a Republican district. It is likely to go Republican. I don’t think you ever disregard any opponent you have.”

The GOP winner faces either Tom Guild or Al McAffrey in the General Election.

Polls open for the runoff on Tuesday, August 26th with early voting next Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

You can hear Michael’s story on the Democratic nominees for Congressional District Five here.

Michael Cross is the host of KOSU's Morning Edition.
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