Tulsa Mayoral Race to be Competitive

Contributing Editor

OUT: Former Tulsa City Councilor and radio talk show host Chris Medlock lost to Republican opponent Dewey Bartlett in the Tulsa mayoral campaign. Medlock tried to portray Bartlett as a “liberal.” He cited Bartlett’s “outside of the box thinking” approach to addressing city problems as evidence of his “liberal” leanings. It apparently was an assertion lost on Republican voters with Bartlett coming out the clear winner in his party’s primary.

DANIEL C. CAMERON for GTR Newspapers

On Sept. 8 somewhere around 35,500 Tulsa voters went to the polls to decide who would get their party’s nomination. There were few, if any surprises. Chris Medlock was able to garnish nearly 32 percent of slightly over 22,000 Republican votes. This was more than polling had predicted. Anna Falling ended in third place with almost 10 percent while Dewey Bartlett won with a convincing 54 percent. Adelson won handily with nearly 94 percent of the 13,412 mayoral votes cased by Democrats. Avoiding the primary election and appearing on the general election ballot will be independent candidates Lawrence F. Kirkpatrick and Mark Perkins.

And so the slate is set and now the race begins in earnest for Tulsa’s next mayor. It will be a rematch of the State Senate race of 2004 between Adelson and Bartlett with the exception of two independent candidates thrown in to add a little confusion to the mix. August polling of a heads up match between Adelson and Bartlett showed Bartlett with a 10-point lead over Adelson with more than 18 percent of those polled undecided. Adelson was the winner in the close 2004 race, but whether registered independents and independent minded voters will vote for either Perkins or Kilpatrick remains to be seen and will be crucial to the outcome.

Bartlett will need to convince Medlock’s 32 percent and Fallen’s nearly 10 percent of primary voters to hope for a win in November. Adelson will need to address the meager Democratic voter turnout in the primary if he is to have any chance of winning the general. The independent candidates will be faced with the same challenge as always, how to pull enough party line votes away from the two party candidates. But all candidates will need to capture the lion’s share of those independent voters throughout the city who in the end usually decide close local elections.

When and if negative ads will began is uncertain. Adelson hasn’t shown much of a taste for negative advertising in past campaigns and Perkins criticism of the bad results stemming from rancorous politics would seem to rule him out as one who would be willing to run attack ads.

While the Republican field was duking it out to determine who was the most conservative of the conservatives, Democrat Adelson was having a pretty easy time of it against a weak slate of primary opponents. Consequently he wasted no time in beginning in mid August with what pundits sometimes refer to as warm, fuzzy television ads. Typically these ads try to push all the good person/accomplishments buttons and thereby lay the foundation of good will with voters often needed in a political campaign. This is to hopefully ward off the negative effects of the inevitable ugliness to come. Usually featured in such ads are family togetherness interwoven with dynamic shots of the candidate going about the business of being an honorable, dedicated and accomplished public servant and leader. And it won’t just be Adelson running such warm and fuzzy messages. Most candidates, unless they are so far behind in the polls and don’t have a chance, will begin their campaigns with a positive media blitz. When and if they turn to negative attacks is often a barometer of how far behind or ahead they are in the polls. In the case of Adelson, he was able to begin laying down the foundation of good will early hoping to put the eventual Republican candidate at somewhat of a disadvantage image wise.

Will we see attack ads in this campaign?
Though one never knows, it does appear attack ads don’t always work as intended in Tulsa’s current political climate. Maybe, and that’s a very conditional maybe, voters will be spared typical political smear tactics and witness a mayoral campaign focused on issues. Is that too much to hope for in this day and age? We’ll see.

Updated 10-15-2009

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  1. — Chuck    Sep 21, 05:15 PM    #

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