WASHINGTON — Fighting in the sprawling congressional district in eastern Oklahoma, Markwayne Mullin and Rob Wallace have collected small donations from local residents and thousands of dollars from Washington special interests. They have plowed those contributions back into their campaigns, buying ads and yard signs and paying aides and consultants.
Across the state, in the large western Oklahoma district long controlled by Rep. Frank Lucas, there is a different campaign model — that of a safe incumbent acting as a fundraising operation for fellow Republicans.
Through Sept. 30, Lucas, R-Cheyenne, had spent more than $1 million — about the same as Mullin and more than Wallace — in the two-year election cycle. More than two-thirds of Lucas' money came from political action committees. And he directed more than half of the money he raised for his campaign to other GOP campaign organizations.
Neither of the situations is unique in — or to — Oklahoma. Mullin, a Republican, and Wallace, a Democrat, are running for the seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Dan Boren, and open-seat races are typically competitive and expensive; both had to advance through two preliminary rounds to get their parties' nominations.
Early on, Mullin, a plumbing company owner from Westville, was a major contributor to his own campaign, loaning nearly $276,000 to the cause and contributing thousands more. But he has collected money all across the district and state, with the construction, finance, real estate and oil and gas sectors being particularly helpful, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Since winning the runoff primary in late August, Mullin has gotten a significant boost from congressional Republicans, who have donated from their own campaigns and the political action committees they control.
Wallace, a former prosecutor from Fort Gibson, has received almost no help from the Democratic Party, but has collected a large portion of his campaign money from traditional party constituencies: organized labor and lawyers. Those were the two sectors contributing the most to Wallace's campaign through the runoff, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and both have sent more money since then.
Still, both candidates have received donations from a variety of sources in and out of the district — ranchers, bankers, car dealers, educators, retirees, homemakers, small business owners, mayors, sheriffs and others.