Oklahoma’s Second District: Guns and Gaffes – or ‘Book ’em, Danny’?

OKLAHOMA CITY — Incumbent U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, the only Democrat in the Oklahoma delegation, is retiring from the Second Congressional District seat. With Barack Obama atop the Democratic ticket, Boren’s departure put the seat into the “likely pickup” category for Republicans. 

But before that can happen, Republicans have to agree on a nominee in the August 28 runoff. Although not in the race, Tulsa attorney Gary Richardson, a two-time party standard-bearer for the seat, could impact next week’s balloting. 

In a crowded field of seven hopefuls, businessman Markwayne Mullin of Westville, a political newcomer, ran first in the June primary with 42 percent. He has the edge over state Rep. George Faught of Muskogee, a three-term legislator who garnered 23 percent in the first-round.

Mullin has enjoyed a spending advantage throughout, along with deft consultants, and waves of television advertising. Questions about his residency and other issues, especially connections to Timothy Lee Saylor — a former employee and previously convicted felon sent to prison again for a 2009 illegal gun possession– have thus far not eroded Mullin’s polling lead. 

Faught and other critics say Mullin could face investigation until at least 2014 over allegations of a “straw purchase” in the Saylor case. Some Republicans worry a Mullin nomination will boost chances for Democrats to hold the seat in November. 

Former U.S. Attorney David O’Meilia asserted that in the Saylor matter Mullin was “a cooperating witness, not a suspect.” Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz is also in Mullin’s corner.

That’s where Richardson, who served 1981-84 as Ronald Reagan’s U.S. Attorney, comes in. Old Republicans don’t always fade away, and non-candidate Richardson is a case in point. In the 1970s, he twice was the party nominee in the district, losing to the late Mike Synar, a Democrat. 

Then, in 2002, Richardson ran for governor as an Independent, drawing 14 percent statewide – far more than the difference between winning Democrat Brad Henry and the second-place Republican, Steve Largent. 

On Sunday (August 19), Richardson confirmed for CapitolBeatOK the contents of a critical analysis of the Mullin-Saylor situation he prepared for Faught.

Richardson contends Sheriff Glanz did not have the whole picture when he prepared the letter requested by Mullin’s staff. Richardson believes the statute of limitations on Saylor-Mullin ties has two years to run, and that the only person in a position to speak with authority in the matter is Danny C. Williams, recently confirmed as Barack Obama’s U.S. Attorney for the state’s eastern district.

Richardson maintains it is a stretch to call Mullin a cooperative witness in the 2009 probe that led to Saylor’s conviction. In fact, he concludes that Mullin’s affidavit during the investigation “was provided for the purpose of supporting the defense of his former employee, Timothy Saylor.” 

Mullin also drew scrutiny when, in a candidate forum, he was captured on film as not understanding “single-payer” health insurance. In another instance, he could not explain the health exchange controversy that has helped shape Republican views of “ObamaCare,” the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010. 

Despite the gaffes and the lingering controversy over the Saylor case, polling for Mullin gives him a comfortable lead. Working for him are some of the state’s most successful Republican political operatives.  In late July, state Treasurer Ken Miller endorsed him. 

Faught the underdog has gathered activist support from Oklahoma Conservative PAC, Gun Owners of America, Eagle Forum, Concerned Women for America, and Citizens United Victory Fund. He has the support of Auditor & Inspector Gary Jones, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Faught has what might be the largest Republican grass roots organization ever built in the traditionally Democratic district.
Immediately after the primary, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington, D.C., said the GOP runoff election was a choice between “two seriously flawed” candidates.

The DCCC’s Stephen Carter trashed Mullin for being “ethically challenged” and Faught for holding “extreme” conservative policy views. 

Although their party still has a registration advantage in the Second District, the Democratic runoff between former prosecutor Rob Wallace of Fort Gibson and Wayne Herriman of Collinsville has not attracted as much coverage as the Mullin-Faught joust.

Some of the district’s party activists are saying they’ll have a field day if Mullin is the Republican choice, but their own eventual nominee will face long odds in eastern Oklahoma, the most Democratic section of a state where every county went against Barack Obama in 2008.

from Pat McGuigan: When this story was posted on Sunday (August 19) I believed
Sheriff Glanz had used a text prepared for him by the Mullin campaign staff.
Based on further reporting, I believe Glanz wrote the letter himelf. The story above is revised accordingly. 

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