OKLAHOMA CITY — Four men vying for the state's only open congressional seat in primary runoff elections made a final pitch to voters Monday across eastern Oklahoma's sprawling 2nd District, encouraging them to head to the polls for what is typically a low-turnout affair.
Two Republicans and two Democrats square off Tuesday in contests deciding who will advance to the November general election in a race to replace the only Democrat in Oklahoma's congressional delegation, retiring U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, who decided not to seek a fifth term.
On the Republican side, plumbing company owner Markwayne Mullin faces three-term state Rep. George Faught, who owns a carpet cleaning business. Democrats will choose between longtime state and federal prosecutor Rob Wallace and Muskogee seed company owner Wayne Herriman.
"It's a runoff, so it's turnout bound and we're doing everything we can to connect to the folks that voted for us before," said Wallace, 49, of Fort Gibson.
He planned to speak to paper mill workers Monday in Valiant and visit a cattle auction, a hospital and several diners. His day was to wrap up with a get-out-the-vote rally in McAlester.
Herriman, 59, said he planned to travel around the district through Tuesday and touch base with as many people as he can.
"This district is just so huge, there's lots of ground to cover," he said. "There's still a few spots that we need to go to."
Mullin, 35, of Westville planned to spend much of the day Monday calling voters and encouraging them to cast their ballots Tuesday.
"Our plan really hasn't changed from September of last year. We knew we were going to be in three elections," Mullin said, referring to the primary, runoff and general elections.
With the help of a $255,000 personal loan to his campaign, Mullin recently reached the $1 million fundraising mark and has raised more than any of his opponents, Republican or Democrat. He received 42 percent of the vote in a six-man Republican primary on June 26, while Faught finished second with 23 percent, enough to force Mullin into Tuesday's runoff. Faught, 50, of Muskogee reported raising about $463,000, according to the latest filings with the Federal Election Commission.
Wallace received 46 percent of the vote in the three-man Democratic primary in June compared to 42 percent for Herriman. Wallace raised nearly $670,000, while Herriman reported raising more than $410,000, including a $215,000 personal loan to his campaign.
Mullin has painted himself as a political outsider who is fed up with government regulation strangling small businesses like his, while Faught has touted his political experience and his ability to get elected in a Democrat-leaning district. Both men have promised to serve no more than three terms in office if elected.
Herriman also has embraced his status as a political newcomer, and both he and Wallace have described themselves as conservative Democrats that fit the populist nature of the district.
Both primary runoffs have turned nasty, with Faught attacking Mullin for hiring a convicted felon and for a gaffe on the campaign trail in which Mullin said he supported a "single-payer" health care system. Herriman has blasted Wallace for several failed business ventures and his record as a state prosecutor.
The heavily Democratic 2nd District stretches across 26 counties and spans eastern Oklahoma, from the Kansas border in the north to the Red River border with Texas in the south.
Despite the 63 percent Democratic voter registration in the district, Republicans have held the seat before. U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, served three terms before stepping down in 2000 as a result of self-imposed term limits. Republican presidential candidate John McCain defeated President Barack Obama in the district by a nearly 2-to-1 margin in 2008.
In Oklahoma's presidential preferential primary in March, Obama barely topped 42 percent among Democratic primary voters against little-known, poorly funded opponents.
The winners of Tuesday's runoff elections for the U.S. House seat in eastern Oklahoma will join independent Michael Fulks of Heavener on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Sean Murphy can be reached at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy
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