WASHINGTON — The next congressman from eastern Oklahoma will soon be thrust into debates here over taxes, Medicare reform and a host of other complex challenges.
But the Republican and Democratic candidates vying in the 2nd congressional district runoff primaries on Aug. 28 are busy fighting over whether one bought a gun for a felon and another was part of a scheme involving Ukrainian gems.
Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, is retiring from Congress, and the race to replace him is expected to draw national attention and money as Democrats try to hold on to their only Oklahoma congressional seat.
Republicans are hoping to capitalize in a district that — though overwhelmingly Democratic in registration — has shown its conservative leanings by favoring Republican presidential candidates since 2000.
The general election race, which will begin after the nominees are selected, could offer sharply different approaches to the major fiscal issues facing the country — or it could be like the runoff primaries.
Democrat Wayne Herriman, who finished second to Rob Wallace in the June 26 primary, has refused to participate in a public debate on issues with Wallace but has distributed, through a campaign spokesman, dozens of pages of documents purporting to show that Wallace owes back taxes on numerous businesses and got involved in a shady jewel deal.
Republican state Rep. George Faught, who finished second to Markwayne Mullin, has hammered the plumbing company owner for a misstatement on health care financing and for employing a felon who had an illegal stash of weapons.
Tom Montgomery, the Oklahoma Republican Party's chairman in the 2nd congressional district, was careful in his comments on the race, saying he would be happy with either Mullin or Faught as the Republican candidate.
“I know it's gone negative some,” Montgomery said of the race. “It's part of it.”