With a week to go, the Republican primary runoff in the 5th District between Patrice Douglas and Steve Russell has, thus far, been marked by multiple endorsements and what’s described by some as an intense ground game.
Russell, who ran first in the primary, is being outspent by a considerable sum, campaign reports show. He’s resorted to an aggressive person-to-person campaign, relying on a network of military friends and admirers and supporters developed during his term in the State Senate. He and his allies have used Facebook and other social media platforms regularly.
A new poll by VCreek/AMG, released on Wednesday by Americas PAC, showed this result:
Steve Russell 43.7%
Patrice Douglas 30.8%
Douglas, the former mayor of Edmond now a Corporation Commissioner, would seem to have the logistical advantage; her roots in the more-Republican part of the district (the Edmond area) and exposure to voters through her city and state service should play well in this race. She, too, is working the social media with campaign news.
At first glance, the race would appear, at this writing, a toss-up. But of the multiple uninvolved consultants and activists we asked about the race, there’s the consensus that Russell may lead with a week to go.
One of those measuring the race is Keith Gaddie, political scientist and chairman of the University of Oklahoma Political Science Department.
“I see the candidates finally making their way to TV,” Gaddie said. “But this is a low turnout affair, so one-to-one contacting is the key. Last poll I saw had it 41-31 Russell (in a roll released by Russell). I doubt the undecideds show up, so based on the data you’d expect it to break about 54-46 for Steve.
“If the GOP electorate were still at its fever pitch, issue knocks might have worked more. The big wild card is mobilization. As one consultant put it to me, ‘his narrative traveled north pretty good.'”
Senator David Holt offers a circumspect assessment: “This race started with no well-known candidate, and the primary didn’t alter that, with the winner getting less than 30 percent. In such a low-information environment, where the candidates have no discernible policy differences, the winning candidate will be the one who has the best personal narrative.”
A few we asked for an assessment didn’t want to do so on the record; they have friends on both sides, or business alliances, or just don’t want to be quoted by name.
“Patrice is a superb office-holder,” said one. “That being said, I think Russell is the better campaigner. I don’t think he’s missed an event of any size in the past 60 days, and people remember that.”
Said another: “At this point, the race is essentially revolving around Russell. Russell has the story that is easiest to convey – charismatic, successful veteran with adequate political experience. But he is also the candidate with the most baggage – he doesn’t live in the congressional district, he cast some conspicuously bad votes in the Senate (tort reform, Common Core), and he missed a staggering number of votes in the Senate. But I think Douglas has struggled with how to convey those negatives to the electorate. Perhaps they would have been messages best carried by an independent group, but it doesn’t look like the people who could afford to do that are going to make the kind of investment in this race it would require…Russell enters Election Day as the favorite.”
However, a source close to the Douglas campaign said, “Patrice certainly started out behind, but her strong fundraising and aggressive campaigning seems to have tightened the race. We will see what happens in the final week, but it looks like things are moving in her direction and she is on track to win a close election.'”