WASHINGTON — Oklahoma's two freshman House members began the year with their campaign accounts nearly depleted, and one has more than $300,000 in debt, according to new campaign finance reports.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin, of Westville, whose victory in November made the Oklahoma delegation all Republican, had debts of $307,628 on Jan. 1 and only $23,102 in his campaign account.
Mullin's latest report to the Federal Election Commission shows $228,000 of the debt is owed to himself for personal loans made to the campaign. Federal law allows those loans to be repaid with future campaign contributions.
Nearly all of the remaining debt is owed to campaign consultants.
Freshman Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, who knocked off Republican Rep. John Sullivan in last year's primary, reported having $16,540 in his campaign account when the year began.
Mullin spent more than $1.6 million and Bridenstine spent more than $760,000 in the two-year election cycle to win their seats, and they have time — and, now, the power of incumbency — to raise money for their next contests.
The latest reports cover a very short postelection period — Nov. 27 through Dec. 31 — when most lawmakers are still paying off campaign bills and haven't started raising money for the next race.
Lawmakers are often considered most vulnerable to challenges in their first terms, and being low on cash can make them more so. House members must run for re-election every two years. Bridenstine and Mullin have pledged to serve no more than six years.