Dakota Woods hopes late advertising, resume put him in Second C.D runoff

With the Tuesday (June 26) primary nearing, Dakota Woods, a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer who is one of six candidates in the Republican primary for Oklahoma’s Second Congressional District, hopes his resume and campaign performance will, in combination with a modest burst of late advertising, lift him into the August 28 runoff. 

CapitolBeatOK this week asked Woods a standard question: How is it going? 

He responded: “We try to be brutally honest. I think we’re running strong. We have done 2-3 radio ads that are aimed at the political demographics where indeed the primary voters are. We have television ads running on the Weather Channel and in major weeklies, including full-page advertisements. We did a 50,000-piece mailer.

“So, we saved our salvo for the final week and now we’re on the air. The ads have an optimistic tone, and I’m optimistic. We’re trying to offer solutions and be upbeat.”

Woods and all the competitors have aimed their messages at Republican primary voters – only 27,000 people in 2010 in a conservative district which has elected two Republicans in the past (Wes Watkins and Tom Coburn) – and where Democrats still have an overwhelming registration advantage. Thus, a moderate conservative Democrat might still be able to win a race in this particular district.

U.S. Rep. Dan Boren is vacating his seat, and Democrats have a competitive primary of their own to decide their nominee. Woods told CapitolBeatOK his “gut” tells him there may be 35,000 votes in the GOP primary. 

Most observers – and the candidates themselves – expect a runoff. Woods argues, “No one will win outright. There are two lagging candidates, and four with good chances to make it into the runoff. Statistically, I just don’t believe it’s possible for anyone to win this outright.”

Although he is not polling constantly as some campaigns do, Woods is not operating without data. He told CapitolBeatOK, “We did two polls, a benchmark in February, and another six weeks ago. I think we’re where we need to be” entering the primary campaign’s final weekend.

Woods said his read of the electorate is that a cluster of economic issues are the central focus of concern. He sketched those issues as follows: “ObamaCare, people want it repealed; a tax code that is inequitable and doesn’t treat people fairly … with 48 % of the people not paying any income tax; the national debt; deficit spending feeding the debt; the role of the federal government.”

As for the latter point, the issues he hears raised most often, other than the 2010 health care law, are the intrusiveness of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and economic regulations such as Dodd-Frank, and Sarbannes-Oxley.”

Wood says the percolating scandal involving a former employee of frontrunner Markwayne Mullins is having an impact. He asserts, “He is taking a lot of hits. None of the rest of us are involved in anything similar. It really calls into question his integrity and judgment.”

The case involves a convicted felon arrested after a raid on Mullins’ plumbing business – a man who had worked for Mullins for several years and was found to have guns in his possession – a violation of his parole provisions. 

While Mullins assures voters and local reporters he regularly performs background checks on employees, that was not the case with Timothy Salyer, who ultimately was convicted and is now serving a sentence.

Wood says, “Either [Mullins] didn’t know for 5 or 6 years, or he knew and abetted the situation. Then he’s complicit. and that is not a good picture. People are looking critically at this. It raises questions of good judgment, and of Mullins’ legislative ability.”

Several Republicans in the race, and others watching it, have not hesitated to express concern about nomination a GOP nominee with ties to such as controversial situation, in light of the burgeoning “Fast and Furious” gun walking scandal touching the Obama administration.

CapitolBeatOK popped the question: Are you the guy with the right resume for this job? Wood replied, “Well, I am a retired Marine, a long time servant of the people. Our country is facing extraordinary challenges. Voters should ask themselves who is better situated to deal with these issues.”

Wood concluded the interview by reflecting: “Democrats have Rob Wallace [a former prosecutor] running; if he is the nominee in November it would be shocking if Democrats don’t point out the statute of limitations has not been exhausted in this matter” of Mullins’ former employee. 

Wood is apparently in a competitive position – perhaps as far back as fourth or as close as second behind Mullins. He won a couple of recent straw polls (Choctaw and LeFlore counties) in the sprawling District. In a race where the nature of the Republican electorate is evolving, he has gained favorable notice and, in some voters’ mind, is a popular second choice (that is, the candidate voters might turn to if their preferred candidate fades). 

The Weekly Standard, a national publication, has given the race (and Wood) some attention. In a recent release to newspapers around the district, Wood made his closing case: “I still believe America’s best days are ahead of us, but we need real leaders who present actual solutions and proven results to get us through these difficult times. We hear a lot candidates talk about taking on the Washington bureaucrats and special interests. I have actually done it and won. I helped get a $14 billion outdated, wasteful program cut from the Defense Department budget.

“My campaign has always been about continuing my service to my country and Oklahoma’s 2nd District. We need more citizen servants in Congress. At a time when only 1 in 5 members of Congress have served in the military and that number is declining, we need more people in Congress who understand what it really means to fight to defend our Constitution and founding principles of limited government and personal responsibility.”