A showdown in Edmond is drawing statewide attention as two conservative Baptists vie for a coveted Senate seat with billboards, radio advertisements, yard signs and even a few TV spots.
Despite their similarities, the two suburbanites are focusing on their differences and working to win the Republican primary on June 26.
Sen. Clark Jolley has held the Edmond seat since 2004 and is a leader within the Republican caucus and chair of the powerful appropriations committee.
He is challenged by Paul Blair, a popular Baptist minister and former Oklahoma State University lineman who went on to play in the NFL.
Both candidates pride themselves on their fiscal and social conservatism.
The winner will face independent candidate Richard Prawdzienski in the November general election. A Democrat withdrew from the race shortly after filing for office in April.
“There's a lot of interest in this race because we have a celebrity that's deciding to run against an incumbent,” Jolley said. “We have a former Oklahoma football star ... and you've got an incumbent that's the chair of the appropriations committee. When it comes down to it I think the voters in Edmond are going to look at the job that I've done, what we've been able to achieve, and say there's no reason to make a change.”
Blair sees the situation slightly different.
“It's unusual that this race should be so talked about,” Blair said. “It's because Sen. Jolley happens to be the appropriations chair and special interests who are trying to buy his influence are taking interest in the race. ... We're doing very well financially for a typical Senate race, but this has not been a typical Senate race.”
January through March, Jolley raised roughly $126,000 according to campaign reports and spent $57,000. During the same period, Blair raised about $28,000 and spent $11,500. Campaign finance reports will next be submitted June 18, a week before the primary.
Blair said he thinks voters are looking for a break from the status quo of liberal voting disguised on a conservative ticket.
Politically, Blair associates himself with the Tea Party candidates and the High Noon Club that meets at an Oklahoma City gun club to talk politics.
“Our country is in a mess and Oklahoma has the potential to set an example, to be a shining city on the hill. With true conservatism and social responsibility,” Blair said. “They all campaign as conservatives and then when they're in office they vote like liberals. It's the influence of lobbyists and special interests on the politicians.”