The Journal Record
November 1, 2018
OKLAHOMA CITY – The campaign donation ledgers of Oklahoma’s major-party gubernatorial candidates have many differences, but some are easier to see than others.
The most obvious difference is the total dollar amount. Republican Kevin Stitt’s more than doubles that of his Democratic challenger, Drew Edmondson. Stitt has accumulated about $10 million and Edmondson has less than $5 million. Stitt does have about $4 million of his own money going into the campaign. Without it, Stitt still leads but the gap is smaller: about $1.3 million.
Other differences are harder to see. When looking at their committee contributions, it’s clear Stitt has touted his private-sector background. Most of that money came from corporate donors, whereas Edmondson, who touts his public-service experience and education background, gets most of his from workers and teachers unions.
However, a deeper look at the number of contributions overall can highlight a few differences between the candidates, observers said, such as their experience levels and the state of the party with which they’re affiliated.
Stitt leads Edmonson in the amount of money received, but Stitt has gotten significantly fewer donations than Edmondson. From Jan. 1 to Nov. 1, the Stitt campaign has gotten about 4,300 total donations. Edmondson has nabbed more than 14,000.
University of Oklahoma political science professor Keith Gaddie said there are two major schools of thought when considering the number of contributions that fill a candidate’s war chest.
“One is small donors in large numbers represent grassroots effort,” he said. “The other is a dollar is a dollar is a dollar.”
Republican campaign consultant Chad Alexander said in this specific race, there is likely a little more to it. The Republican gubernatorial primary was competitive and the Democratic primary wasn’t. Also, Edmondson has significantly more experience running for statewide office in Oklahoma.
For most of the year, three candidates were vying for the Republican nomination: Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and Stitt. Polling showed a toss-up through June’s election, and the final results were within a few points of one another. Oklahoma requires a runoff if there are three or more candidates and none receive 50 percent plus one vote. Lamb and Stitt took turns for second place all night, and the final vote margin sending Stitt to the runoff was in the triple-digits. Stitt had to compete against Cornett from June until the end of August.
“The Republican pie was cut up a lot,” Alexander said.
On the other hand, Edmondson ran against Connie Johnson, a longtime state lawmaker who from the beginning didn’t poll strongly. She garnered about 39 percent of the vote in June.
In addition to the short amount of time Stitt had to campaign this year, he’s a first-timer, Alexander said. Edmondson made four successful runs for attorney general. Residents already knew him, and he already knew whom to contact.
“He already had a statewide donor list,” he said.