Controversy Surrounds 5th Congressional District Campaign Ads

Monday, August 25th 2014, 7:00 pm
By: News 9

It's one of the most talked about runoff races Tuesday. The 5th Congressional District seat is gaining a lot of attention, largely due to campaign ads. Candidates Patrice Douglas and Steve Russell are up against each other, and a controversial campaign mailer is at the center of debate.

In final the days leading up to the election, both campaigns made some mention of Congressman James Lankford, and there is speculation on the way both candidates presented their message.

Late last week, Douglas's campaign sent out thousands of mailers to Republican voters in the 5th district. It shows Douglas pictured side by side with Congressman James Lankford from a photo they took three years ago when she was being sworn in on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

“I wanted to let people know that we had a working relationship and that many of the people who backed him, backed me," Douglas said.

Although the mailer does not say Lankford endorses Douglas, her opponent Steve Russell says the picture and the message are very misleading.

"That is not proper. That is not appropriate. You don't try to falsely mislead somebody that they are supporting you, when they do not," Russell said.

Both Russell and Douglas say they are close friends of Lankford. But Douglas says it was Russell's robo-call on Tuesday that first implied Lankford endorsed Russell's campaign.

Russell's robo-call, done by Labor Commissioner Mark Costello, said:

"The same group of political consultants who slung mud at James Lankford are now slinging mud at Col. Steve Russell. Let me restate, a group of professional mudslingers have been hired to throw more mud, this time it's not at James Lankford, it's at Col. Steve Russell."

“I, unlike my opponent checked in with James first, my opponent didn't check in to say can I use your name in my robo-call," Douglas said.

Russell says the robo-call is far from an endorsement by Lankford.

"We have run a campaign of integrity. We have tried to take the high road," Russell said.

In a recent statement Lankford said:

"Several candidates across the state and in the 5th District have recently used my name and photo in robo-calls, mailers and discussions. I want to make it very clear that I am not endorsing any candidate for the Tuesday runoff election.”

Lankford's office said he wouldn't confirm if either campaign had permission to use his likeness in any way and that he is staying neutral.

Polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. until to 7 p.m.