(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.)
For the second election in a row, an experienced legislator and an experienced candidate have wound up in a runoff for the Democratic nomination in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District.
Just 13 votes separated Al McAffrey and Tom Guild in the June primary, but Leona Leonard took 26 percent of the vote and forced the Oklahoma County Democrats’ version of the Odd Couple into the Aug. 23 runoff. It’s a familiar situation for the men, as Guild led in the seat’s 2014 primary only to see McAffrey prevail in the runoff.
Congressional District 5 has been a Republican stronghold since the 1970s. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin held the seat for four years before retiring to run for and win her current position. Geographically, the district includes Pottawatomie County, Seminole County and most of Oklahoma County.
McAffrey is no stranger to Oklahoma politics: In 2006, he won a seat in House District 88, went unopposed in 2008 and was re-elected with almost 70 percent of the vote in 2010. In 2012, he became the state’s first openly gay senator after winning a special election after then-Sen. Andrew Rice stepped down in the middle of his term.
With these eight years of legislative experience, the father of three and Sulphur native has received a handful of high-profile Democratic endorsements, including Sen. Anastasia Pittman (D-OKC), Rep. Mike Shelton (D-OKC), executive director at Black Lives Matter Oklahoma Sheri Amore and 2014 gubernatorial nominee “Floppy” Joe Dorman.
McAffrey’s current campaign marks his second attempt to defeat a Republican frontrunner for Congress, with Russell besting him with 60 percent of the vote in the 2014 CD 5 election. In seeking to avoid a repeat of that landslide, McAffrey has already made a few jabs on Instagram (of all places!) accusing Russell of living outside the district he represents.
McAffrey’s website lists no legislative accomplishments under “Al’s political career,” and his “blog” page is empty.
For more on his platform, check out the video below, in which he bids his family farewell to meet up with some fellas in a bar:
After falling short of McAffrey in this year’s primary by only 0.05 percent, professor emeritus Tom Guild is making his fourth run for CD 5. A former Republican who switched parties during George W. Bush’s second term, Guild was actually endorsed by then-Sen. McAffrey in 2012. Like McAffrey, Guild is also gay.
Currently, the Edmond resident has claimed his own spate of endorsements on Facebook, including the Brennan Society, Sister Giant, Bernie Congress, and the Garfield County Democratic Central Committee, among others.
Given that this is his third attempt and also the close margin resulting from the primary, Guild has gone negative several times in the runoff. He attacked McAffrey for spending money on “campaign liquor” and repeatedly critiques the former senator’s ties to corporate donors. Last, on social media and in a handbill, Guild attacks the former OKC police officer’s attendance record on legislative voting:
Tom Guild, perfect attendance 30 year career at UCO & OCU; Dem opponent missed 303 votes in just 2014 session of OK state senate! #TeamGuild
— Tom Guild (@guild4congress) August 14, 2016
The Guild for Congress YouTube page has disabled embedding of its past campaign commercials (because why would a candidate want free publication of his ads?) but one piece from his 2012 campaign remains awkwardly amusing, even today.
In the ad about women’s health care, Guild proclaims, “When the government takes away her right to contraception or her right to make those decisions, that’s not personal freedom; that’s like an octopus putting its tentacles in the most intimate personal areas of a woman’s life.”
Odd metaphor, Tom.
Election day less than a week away
If the primary was any indication, the CD 5 Democratic runoff could come right down to the wire and be an interesting race to watch in the days leading up to Tuesday’s vote.