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Running rich: Candidates in affluent districts build biggest war chests

The Journal Record

June 7, 2018

OKLAHOMA CITY – Although many state legislative races within Oklahoma City are relatively quiet, a few races have been drawing heavy campaign donations and a slew of candidates.

House Democrats around the city such as Rep. Mickey Dollens and Rep. Collin Walke saw no opposition after campaign filing deadlines arrived. Other House races did draw competitors, but the newcomers raised no money by the end of March, the end of the most recently reported finance filing period.

But two Senate races in the western part of the city have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars already. Campaign consultants said that is likely attributable almost completely to location and demographics.

One of the most competitive districts in the city is Senate District 30. The winner will replace David Holt, who left the seat when he was elected mayor. The boundaries are wonky, shaped like a cursive capital L that encompasses parts of The Village, Warr Acres, Bethany and northwest Oklahoma City.

Seven candidates have thrown their hats into the ring, six of them Republicans. Second-quarter campaign finance filings will be released in the coming weeks, but first-quarter filings show an expensive race already. The Republicans had raised about $225,000 total by March 31. Those contenders include Evan Vincent and John Symcox, the top first-quarter fundraisers, who each raised more than $55,000. Julia Kirt, the lone Democrat to file a campaign finance report, had raised about $140,000 in that time. Democrat Larry Dean Buss is also a candidate.

Right next door in Senate District 40, which encompasses northwest Oklahoma City and Nichols Hills, a smaller pool of candidates are raising money quickly. Incumbent Ervin Yen, a Republican, had aggregated about $174,000. He faces no primary challenger, but two Democrats are vying to replace him. Danielle Ezell, the former head of the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition, was ahead in fundraising as of March 31 with about $77,000 raised. Carri Hicks had raised $28,000.


Lance Cargill of Cargill Walker said it’s unsurprising that fundraising is going well in those districts. They’re some of the most affluent portions of the state.

“When you gain a supporter in that area, they’re not just going to put a sign in their yard,” he said.

Chad Alexander, another Oklahoma campaign and elections consultant, said geography played a major part, but a few other factors played in.

Many of the candidates vying for House seats decided to run during the teacher walkout, he said. It’s typical for other candidates to start knocking doors nine or 10 months before the primary election, and those who filed during the walkout had only two months to campaign before primaries.

“When you start in April, you don’t leave yourself a lot of time,” he said.

Those grass-roots candidates face a few setbacks when it comes to fundraising. He said someone who has spent decades in a lucrative industry will likely have more friends or associates who can contribute large sums of money than someone who spent 20 years as a public school teacher. Any candidate for the state Legislature will face an uphill battle getting money this year because there are so many high-level races.

“There are so many difficult races that are sucking up money, there are a lot of candidates struggling to raise money this year,” he said.

Ed. note: This story was updated on June 9, 2018, to correct candidate information


About Bo Broadwater

Bo Broadwater joined The Journal Record Legislative Report as legislative report manager in October 2017. Bo is a member of the Warr Acres City Council and very active in his community. For the past several years, he has been the owner of a small business that provides window treatments such as shutters, blinds and shades as well as window and door replacement. He was a candidate for the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2016. He attended Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City and the University of Oklahoma and graduated with a degree political science.

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