Closing the deal: Fifth District Republican candidates make their final push
By Patrick B. McGuigan
In the Fifth Congressional District, the wide-open primary cycle that began last year when U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin announced she would run for governor will, in the waning hours of July 27, settle in with either a nominee or (more likely) a two-man race in the August 24 runoff.
In the last days of the first round, undecided or “late-decider” voters have received a wave of messages from the candidates in varied media. Each of the three leading Republican candidates have established a credible television advertising presence. Kevin Calvey penetrated with several newspaper ads, as well. Back in the pack a ways, Dr. Johnny Roy put some of his resources into print.
Calvey has sustained his strong conservative message in postcards to likely primary voters. His final postcard mailers encouraged voters to “send a soldier to Congress, not another career politician.” His mailers have emphasized ardent conservatism, his military record, the fight against “Obamacare” and legislative stint as a tax-cut champion.
Calvey’s wife Toni also sent voters a “wife letter” relating her experiences during and after his deployment in the war on terror. Her letter included a copy of her recipe for “Freedom Cookies” she sent to his unit during Calvey’s time in Iraq.
Political newcomer James Lankford has run a strong campaign, surging from far back in the pack to the second or third strongest level of support in the seven-candidate field. In what can only be characterized as an unexpected twist in a crowded field, his emphasis on the nation’s mounting deficit crisis, and the specificity of his spending reduction proposals, drew the favorable attention of Bill Bleakley, publisher of The Oklahoma Gazette.
The potential combination of ardent social conservatives, Lankford’s natural base, with economic conservatives like Bleakley could be an “x-factor” in Tuesday’s results. Additionally, Lankford has developed a social media presence that dwarfs that of all his opponents for the nomination.
Rep. Thompson’s last television spot stressed the leadership role he has played in the Legislature raising intense opposition to the new federal health care legislation. Calvey’s constitutional proposal to allow Oklahomans to “opt-out” of the drastic restructuring of American health care cleared all legislative hurdles and will be on the November ballot as State Question 756.
Recently, Thompson garnered a windfall of news coverage when state Attorney General Drew Edmondson crafted “gist language” for that ballot question, with text that Thompson and other conservatives vigorously challenged. Neighborhoods throughout the district were leafleted by Thompson backers on Saturday (July 24) with a letter from educator Roger Webb and retired Gen. Rita Aragon stressing Thompson conservatism, and listing 100 prominent endorsements of his candidacy.
Thompson‘s postcard stressed his record as a “100%” vote in the eyes of Oklahomans for Life and the state Family Policy Council. That mail piece featured his wife Hayley and their two children.
State Rep. Shane Jett sent a message encouraging supporters to participate in early voting on Friday, Saturday or Monday. His July 23 email provided information on how to locate polling locations at the state Election Board site. A final 30 second TV spot featured his family, including his daughter who has become well-known for advocating “Don’t forget, vote for Jett.” Jett’s wife Ana has worked social media on his behalf.
Dr. Johnny Roy is perceived as the strongest of the last trio of hopefuls. He pressed his closing message with final advertisements in both The Daily Oklahoman and The City Sentinel, among other venues. Roy has explicitly evoked the model of Dr. Tom Coburn and promised that, like Coburn, he will voluntarily limit his congressional tenure and bring a physician’s eye to the new issues of a rising federal role in health care policy.
Harry Johnson and Rick Flanigan participated in candidate forums and placed some campaign signs alongside streets and roads in the compact district, but are expected to finish with a few hundred votes or more each.