(Editor’s Note: As with NonDoc’s #HotRaces series from June, time constraints and limited resources prohibit us from personally interviewing each of almost 30 candidates from Oklahoma’s ongoing runoff elections that we’ve chosen to include in a new series: #OKrunoffs. Instead, we’ve opted to filter information about runoff contenders using publicly available information online and present it through the lens of political commentary and analysis. As the field narrows leading up to the general election Nov. 8, we plan to reach out to remaining candidates more directly.)
After the dust settled from the Senate District 13 primary June 28, Republican voters in parts of Pontotoc, Hughes, Garvin, Seminole and Pottawatomie counties were split between reality TV’s favorite cowboy Jet McCoy and former Ada mayor Greg McCortney.
With a margin of 5.28 percent separating the two, the results have spurred a runoff race between McCoy, a self-described “common sense conservative,” and McCortney, billing himself “husband, father and Ada native,” among others. The runoff election will be Aug. 23, and the Republican who emerges victorious in that contest will go on to face SD 13’s Democratic nominee, Eric Hall. The candidates are vying to replace term-limited Sen. Susan Paddack (D-Ada)
The narrow margin by which McCoy polled over McCortney has seemed to redouble the former’s efforts. With a revamped web site and increased visibility on social media, the Fittstown churchgoer appears to be reaching out to his constituents with a fervor unseen before the primary.
That access can be a double-edged sword, however, as for about every 10 positive comments of encouragement on one of his Facebook posts, there’s usually someone interjecting with an actual question. For example, beneath a post encouraging voter participation the night before the primary, a user named RK Lyon asks (legitimately, it would seem, despite the lack of question marks):
RK Lyon reiterates the following day their question about McCoy’s stance on immigration policies, twice, but never gets an answer. The poster, obviously frustrated (if the amount of question marks now present counts for anything), tries a different tack but still receives only crickets:
It wouldn’t be such a puzzling social media strategy if McCoy exhibited an across-the-board deafness to questions from his voting bloc. That isn’t the case, though, as illustrated in several responses to comments in a thread below a lengthy diatribe railing against a blogger for analyzing the rhetoric this would-be public official posts on public-facing web sites and then interpreting them through their lens of education-oriented commentary. McCoy failed to link or name the blogger (it was Dallas Koehn, a Tulsa-based educator who runs BlueCerealEducation.com), but Koehn at least had the stones to reply to McCoy’s criticism of his blog post:
As of Monday afternoon, none of those three likes on Dallas’ comment are from McCoy.
Point being: There’s a saying that goes something like, “You can judge the quality of a country’s leadership based on how well it treats the lowest of its citizens.” To extend the metaphor to a candidate in the 21st century, you can gauge the quality of their potential leadership with how they engage with their would-be online enemies/trolls. At present, it appears McCoy would prefer to bask in an almost unending stream of compliments rather than answer a serious question from a potentially undecided voter, and the silence is deafening.
During the primary race for this district, McCoy’s fundraising power caught the eye of the state’s political reporters, as the husband and father managed to out raise every other candidate regardless of district or party affiliation statewide. That advantage appears to remain firmly within the cowboy’s lariat, although the latest filing data for the two candidates differs by about a month, so it’s hard to compare apples to apples. The next filing period for campaign-finance reporting is between Aug. 9 and 15.
Meanwhile, there’s far less drama unfolding online on the McCortney camp’s Facebook wall. Rather, McCortney appears to address any potential drama before it unravels, taking time to reply to even staunch adversaries who criticize overzealous door knocking on the part of his volunteers:
Even after the user above claims to be voting for McCortney’s opponent, the Sunday school teacher and small-businessman replies with a clear understanding of public relations optics and essentially kills ’em with kindness:
Also, when a potential voter (rather disjointedly) questions McCortney about what kind of conservative he is, McCortney responds with aplomb:
The difference in responsiveness between the two candidates may speak to McCortney’s government experience at the city level, in which he served as Ada’s mayor in 2012 and 2013. He has been on the City Council since 2011 and currently holds an at-large position.
McCortney appears to believe that elected officials can’t treat opponents as enemies, and that a successful campaign requires candidates to respond to all constituents’ concerns, especially those who would criticize it.
Voters will head to the polls Tuesday, Aug. 23.