Oklahoma gubernatorial candidates to focus on cities with one week left
Candidates for governor plan to spend the final week of the campaign continuing to sell themselves as agents of change, with a particular focus on the state's two largest cities.
Early voting is set to begin on Thursday but Election Day is Nov. 6, giving Democrat Drew Edmondson and Republican Kevin Stitt one more week to make their final pitch to voters through a wave of commercials, rallies and stump speeches.
“We are hitting Oklahoma City and Tulsa really hard,” said Edmondson, who appeared Sunday night at a rally in Oklahoma City.
Edmondson's campaign hopes a slate of competitive races in northwest Oklahoma City will drive up Democratic turnout and that moderate voters in the suburbs could be in play.
Edmondson, 72, of Oklahoma City, said he also plans to encourage young urban voters to show up on Election Day.
“The 18- to 25-year-old voter, they typically vote in low numbers, but if we can motivate them to get involved in the political process, that's a major step forward for our campaign,” Edmondson said on Sunday.
Stitt, 45, of Tulsa, also plans to be visible in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, along with his wife, Sarah Stitt, who has scheduled her own events this week in both cities.
Sarah will also be featured in a new commercial airing this week in both the Oklahoma City and Tulsa markets.
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“Sarah really helps carry Kevin's message to the moderate voters,” said Donelle Harder, a spokeswoman for the campaign.
The Edmondson campaign announced Monday it will continue airing commercials that paint Stitt as a repeat of Gov. Mary Fallin, who is term-limited and deeply unpopular among Oklahoma voters.
Beyond the campaigns, national political action committees and nonprofits have spent millions on ads for both candidates and appear likely to continue.
Protecting America Now, which funded an advertising campaign in support of former state attorney general Scott Pruitt's confirmation as Environmental Protection Agency director in 2017, plans to spend $400,000 in opposition to Edmondson in the coming days, according to expenditure reports with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.
Registered as a nonprofit social welfare organization, Protecting American Now is able to keep the source of its funding anonymous.
The National Rifle Association has reported spending more than $500,000 on ads attacking Edmondson.
The Democratic Governors Association and its Republican counterpart are also funding attack ads.
“The money that pours in I have nothing to do with it," Stitt said about political action committees and spending by other groups in the election. "I don't even have a clue what is happening outside my campaign. I have been matching dollar for dollar everything through my race, I think that's a really important issue.”
Most expensive race
This has already the most expensive gubernatorial race in state history, and both Edmondson and Stitt plan to spend heavily in the final days.
Libertarian Chris Powell, who is also on the ballot for governor, has raised nearly $14,000 during his campaign, according to a report filed Monday.
While he lacks the resources of his opponents, Powell said his low funding shows how much more in common he has with average Oklahomans.
"Somebody who spends nearly $4 million ... on a race, that is not an outsider," Powell said. "Those two gentlemen are both part of the elite, the establishment. I'm the guy who really represents a different voice."
Powell was referring to Stitt, who had loaned his campaign nearly $4 million through mid-August.
All three candidates have said Oklahoma voters appear focused on a variety of local issues, even while an intense national campaign for control of Congress continues.
“The national trends aren't coming up on the campaign trail,” Harder said. “Our focus is on making Oklahoma a top 10 state, rather than focusing on Trump or the national issues, because we aren't hearing about that from voters."