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Ads try to link opponents to unpopular figures

The Republican Governors Association began airing a commercial Thursday accusing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson of being too liberal for Oklahoma.

The 30-second spot highlight's Edmondson's support for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who lost every Oklahoma county in the 2016 election.

The commercial also quotes a 10-year-old editorial from The Oklahoman claiming Edmondson "sounded more like (U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy) Pelosi than an Oklahoma Democrat," because he urged union members to vote for Democrats.

The commercial continues a trend of national partisan groups attempting to link their Oklahoma opponent with unpopular political figures.

The Democratic Governors Association has aired commercials in recent weeks claiming Republican candidate Kevin Stitt has the same policies as Gov. Mary Fallin, who is term-limited this year and has received some of the lowest approval ratings for a governor in the nation.

Each candidate's campaign is also airing their own commercials, but neither mentions his opponent.

Instead, the negative attacks are coming from political action committees that state law prohibits from coordinating with a candidate's committee.

In announcing the new commercial, David Weinman, a Republican Governors Association spokesman, said Edmondson was too liberal for Oklahoma because he wants to "raise state income taxes on Oklahoma's working families."

Edmondson has proposed raising taxes to provide increased funding for various state agencies, often saying he wants to target the state's most wealthy taxpayers and large corporations.

In his own commercials, Edmondson presents himself as a moderate Democrat, promising small government and low taxes on working families.

“Drew has not advocated raising taxes on Oklahoma families and to say otherwise is blatantly false,” said Mike Clingman, Edmondson's campaign manager. “Drew does want to close special interest oil and gas tax breaks to fund our schools. Kevin Stitt opposes that.”

Edmondson has proposed eliminating the capital gains tax deduction, but a recent study showed the tax break mostly benefits high-income citizens.

Clingman accused the Republican Governors Association of trying to distract from a Wednesday hearing in a New York bankruptcy court concerning a lawsuit by Lehman Brothers that names dozens of mortgage companies for deceitful lending practices. One of the companies named in the lawsuit is Gateway Mortgage, the company Stitt founded.

“Oklahomans don't want a predatory lender as our next governor and they don't want a third term of Mary Fallin's failed policies,” Clingman said.

Donelle Harder, spokeswoman for the Stitt campaign, said Lehman Brothers has filed hundreds of lawsuits since it went bankrupt and this particular case involves only five loans from Gateway.

"Gateway Mortgage is a success story with more than 1,200 employees, many in Oklahoma, and a nationwide award-winning reputation with a delinquency rate that is 50 percent below the national average,” Harder said. “Desperate Drew better do better than this.”

The Republican Governors Association Oklahoma PAC was registered with the state ethics office earlier this week. The Democratic Governors Association's local PAC, called Stronger Oklahoma, began running commercials last month.

Edmondson and Stitt will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot with Libertarian Chris Powell.

Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›