In about three week Democrats and Republicans from Congressional District Five in central Oklahoma are voting in runoffs to decide their nominees.
Congressman James Lankford is leaving the seat open to run for Senate.
In the first part of our series on Congressional District 5, KOSU’s Michael Cross reports on the two Democrats hoping to win the nomination for a seat which has been in Republican hands for nearly 40 years.
It’s Wednesday night and the Brennan Society is meeting at Johnnie’s in Edmond to hear from a speaker on abolishing the death penalty in Oklahoma.
Tom Guild, one of the founders of the Brennan Society, introduces the guest.
Guild is running as a Democrat in Congressional District Five.
The former Oklahoma City University professor and current professor emeritus at the University of Central Oklahoma came in first with 42% – nearly 12,000 votes.
Guild says he had a goal of knocking more than 18,000 doors before the primary and shows no signs of stopping.
“We have a goal of 20,000 before the runoff, and we’re creeping up on that. I think we’ll easily make it. Probably before the runoff we’ll be in the proximity of 20,600 doors.”
The other Democrat in the race: Al McAffrey served in the State House since 2006 and the State Senate since 2012.
Guild admits he’s much more progressive than his opponent.
“He voted for the big tax breaks for the oil and gas industry in the last legislative session and in fact only two Democrats voted for that, he and John Sparks and there were four or five Republicans who voted against it.”
House Bill 2562 which passed the Senate 30 to 14 before getting signed by Governor Fallin increased the tax on horizontal drilling from 1% to 2%.
Senator McAffrey acknowledges voting for the compromise bill which he says could bring $180 million into Oklahoma’s coffers.
“I disagreed with it on the fact that it should have gone up to four percent maybe five percent on horizontal drilling, but that’s not what the leadership of the Senate decided on.”
McAffrey says decisions like that point to one of the biggest differences between him and Guild: experience.
“Serving eight years in the house and the Senate you learn. You learn how to cross the aisle to the other side. And that’s the big issue in Washington today, no one wants to cross the aisle, they want to stand there with their arms folded and say ‘I’m not budging’.”
McAffrey also points to his experience as an Oklahoma City Police officer and his time in the US Navy.
CD5 hasn’t been held by a Democrat since 1975 when John Jarman switched parties to join the GOP.
In a breakdown the district has 175,000 Republicans, 166,000 Democrats, but also nearly 60,000 Independents.
In 2012, Guild lost in a race against then Incumbent Congressman James Lankford, and in the 2010 primary to Billy Coyle.
But, he believes this year he can be victorious in Congressional District Five.
“We’ve made a point to include Independence in our door knocking and of course we have to hold the Democratic base, get a majority of Independence and peel off 10 or 15% of Republicans and I think that’s imminently doable.”
McAffrey agrees a Democrat can take it, but it must be a moderate like himself.
“You look into history, Rob Kerr, Senator Kerr, a fantastic Senator, and Senator David Boren, they were centrists. They represented the people of Oklahoma. I don’t think Oklahoma’s a left or right state. They’re pretty common sense state. They’re kind of right down the middle and that’s where I try to stay.”
McAffrey came in second in the primary with 31% or about 8,500 votes.
The Runoff Election is coming up on August 26.