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Keith Gaddie Previews Primary Runoffs, RNC (Aug 27, 2012)

Some Oklahoma voters head to the polls Tuesday morning, but some political analysts expect voter turnout will be low.  In Eastern Oklahoma, four candidates are vying for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, the lone Democrat in Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation.  Plumbing company owner Markwayne Mullin faces State Rep. George Faught (R-Muskogee) in the GOP primary, and Democratic voters will choose between Muskogee prosecutor Rob Wallace, and seed company owner Wayne Herriman.

“It’s been two months since we had our primary,” University of Oklahoma political scientist Gaddie said.  “A short period between a primary and a runoff keeps voter interest up.  With no major statewide contests on the ballot, there just was not that much voter interest.  It’s highly localized.”

Gaddie said political consultants have been targeting high-propensity voters who cast ballots June 26.  With one-third of Oklahoma voters abandoning land-line telephones, there’s been an increase in door-to-door pitches by candidates, and direct mailing.

House District 56 opened after State Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore) decided not to seek re-election in order to run for Cleveland County Commissioner.  Gaddie says the GOP runoff for that seat has been a focal point of controversy that speaks to a larger division in the Oklahoma Republican Party.

“You’ll hear new words being thrown out, like ‘Don’t vote for the Chambercrat, vote for the Tea Party Patriot,’” Gaddie said.  “The Republican Party fight has gotten off to the extreme edge of conservative politics, where they’re just eating each other up in primaries.”

Gaddie said GOP differences boil down to a conflict between candidates campaigning primarily on social issues, and those focusing on promoting business interests.

“It’s actually where the fight has always been,” Gaddie said.  “It’s rustics-versus-modernists, and now it’s entirely in the Republican Party.”

The Republican National Convention begins Tuesday night in Tampa, Florida, delayed by Tropical Storm Issac.  Gov. Mary Fallin will have a primetime speaking role Tuesday evening, and Gaddie said Fallin has always been a very popular figure for the GOP to put forward.

“You showcase success stories at a party convention,” Gaddie said.  “When you look at Oklahoma – 4.9 percent unemployment, we keep cutting taxes and balancing our budgets, and yet our revenue is growing again this year.  For a governor like Mary Fallin, she is a symbol of what the Republicans keep trying to promote – that Red State governors are successful in Obama’s recession.”

The Republican National Convention runs through Thursday.  KGOU plans to carry live, special coverage from NPR from 7 to 10 p.m. each night of the RNC.

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