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5th Congressional District candidates McAffrey and Russell will battle it out in November

Liz Burleson / Red Dirt Report
Democrat Al McAffrey will now face Steve Russell in the general election.
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Fifth District congressional foes Steve Russell and Al McAffrey have walked similar life paths, but their stances on political issues will be the focus when the two square off in the Nov. 4 general election.

Russell (R-Oklahoma City) and McAffrey (D-Oklahoma City) both served in the U.S. military and the Oklahoma Legislature. At one point, the two were colleagues in the state Senate. They also own successful small businesses, but that’s where the similarities stop.

Aside from their allegiance to different political parties, there are other distinct differences. According to most political analysts, the starkest contrast will be the liberal progressive agenda of McAffrey battling the constitutional conservative stands Russell has undertaken.

“I’m a leader and have been a leader all my life. I’ve had to make decisions in some very difficult situations and I want to try to do something to stop the erosion of government into our lives,” Russell said after he defeated Republican runoff opponent Patrice Douglas. “I will do everything in my power to protect every American’s core constitutional rights. I’ve done that my entire adult life.”

During his victory speech Aug. 26, Russell specifically cited basic freedoms listed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, gun ownership, protection from unreasonable search or seizure and equal protection under the law as written in the 14th

Russell, who retired as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, served with distinction in Iraq as his unit helped capture Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Russell authored the book “We Got Him!” a memoir of the hunt and capture of the brutal dictator.

Meanwhile, McAffrey paints himself as a candidate who is willing to listen to problems constituents face while providing governmental solutions.

“I’ll do my best to put people before politics,” he said after winning the Democratic runoff Aug. 26. “I think the biggest issues will be our philosophies on where government stands. Political affiliation shouldn’t matter. It should be about the people and what they need and putting them in touch with the right person.”

Both candidates believe they can attract voters from the other side of the political spectrum on Nov. 4.

“This district is not conservative and it’s not liberal. It’s more moderate than anything,” McAffrey said. “They like (former U.S. Senators) David Boren and Bob Kerr. I admit he (Russell) has the momentum with the Republican Party, but I think you’ll find Republicans who supported Patrice will come over to me.”

At the same time, Russell is confident he’ll be an attractive candidate to all voters regardless of party.

“As time goes on, I think you will see a lot of people uniting behind the Republican candidate. During the Republican runoff, it gave people a chance to know me and it was clear how much they supported me by the wide margin of victory we had,” the GOP nominee said. “We’ve already had some Democratic operatives approach us.”

Russell’s appeal among Republicans was never more evident than at the Edmond precincts where he soundly defeated Douglas in her hometown. Edmond voters cast 4,076 ballots for Russell and 2,867 for Douglas, according to figures released by the Oklahoma State Election Board.

“I think one of the things that intrigued a lot of people is that I could not be put in a single category,” he said.

Russell believes his candidacy has broad appeal to a variety of voters, including constitutional conservatives and Tea Party members, mainstream Republicans, veterans, gun owners, seniors and women.

Russell and McAffrey will get a chance to show off their different political philosophies should the two candidates debate. Both men said they are open to public debates, but none have been scheduled yet.

Drawing voters

The Fifth District Republican runoff election drew substantially more voters than the Democratic runoff, according to election board figures. Republicans cast 32,692 ballots while Democrats cast only 19,210.

With those numbers in mind, McAffrey will have to attract almost all Democratic voters and a significant number of Republicans to defeat Russell. However, general elections typically draw more voters than primary or runoff elections.

“Our biggest issue is getting the numbers and finding out where the votes came from and where they didn’t,” McAffrey said.

McAffrey carried Oklahoma County in the runoff, but did not win Seminole or Pottawatomie counties.

“I think we have a challenge ahead of us, but one I think we can be successful at,” he said, citing the need for television ads, social media and mailers. “The biggest challenge will be getting my message out.”

McAffrey, who spent six years in the Oklahoma House of Representatives before being elected to the state Senate in 2012, listed education, Social Security, Medicare, improved public transportation and veteran’s affairs as key campaign issues.

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Tim Farley

Tim Farley is an award-winning journalist with more than 30 years of experience, including...

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