Rus­sell lost race with nearly $300K re­main­ing

The Oklahoman - - NEWS - BY JUSTIN WINGERTER Staff Writer [email protected]­la­

U.S. Rep. Steve Rus­sell had nearly $300,000 in his cam­paign cof­fers when he sur­pris­ingly lost re-elec­tion last month by a few thou­sand votes, cam­paign fi­nance re­ports show.

The large amount of money raises ques­tions about the Rus­sell’s cam­paign’s man­age­ment in the weeks be­fore his upset loss to Ken­dra Horn on Nov. 6. It also raises the ques­tion of whether Rus­sell will chal­lenge Horn again in 2020.

“It re­ally does seem that Rus­sell be­lieved he would win on the strength of his pre-con­gres­sional ca­reer … and the anti-Demo­crat wave seen in the vast ma­jor­ity of Ok­la­homa elec­tions,” said Rose State Col­lege po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor James Daven­port, re­fer­ring to Rus­sell’s dis­tin­guished mil­i­tary ca­reer.

Horn con­sis­tently raised and spent more money than Rus­sell, in­clud­ing in the fi­nal weeks. She raised $173,556 af­ter Oct. 18 and Rus­sell raised $103,185. She ul­ti­mately spent $389,399 more than Rus­sell dur­ing the elec­tion cy­cle. Her cam­paign has $53,839 on hand but owes $49,300 in debt.

“When you have an ag­gres­sive op­po­nent who is at­tempt­ing to tap into a cou­ple of is­sues that gen­er­ally do fa­vor Democrats, ed­u­ca­tion and health care, and you don’t re­spond, at least enough to be seen, it al­most leaves the im­pres­sion that he didn’t re­ally care if he was re-elected or not,” Daven­port said. “And I think vot­ers re­sponded ac­cord­ingly.”

Rus­sell’s de­ci­sion to spend rel­a­tively lit­tle money as the race was tight­en­ing in Oc­to­ber and to leave $295,348 un­spent on Elec­tion Day has baf­fled po­lit­i­cal ob­servers on all sides of the spec­trum. JD Jo­hannes, his for­mer cam­paign man­ager, said Fri­day that Rus­sell pledged much of the un­spent money to the Na­tional Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional Com­mit­tee.

“De­spite me and oth­ers urg­ing him to spend those funds dur­ing the cam­paign, Colonel Rus­sell is not the type of can­di­date to go back on a pledge for his own per­sonal gain,” Jo­hannes said.

“Colonel Rus­sell made a pledge to run a clean cam­paign and not run neg­a­tive ads. He kept that pledge. Colonel Rus­sell made and kept two pledges in the cam­paign that likely were to his own detri­ment. How many politi­cians do that?”

Rus­sell has re­jected claims that his de­ci­sion not to air neg­a­tive ads ul­ti­mately harmed him, in­stead cit­ing the 5th Dis­trict’s chang­ing de­mo­graph­ics. In re­marks to the Na­tional Jour­nal last month, he ex­pressed frus­tra­tion with Horn’s fo­cus on what he con­sid­ers to be state is­sues: health care and ed­u­ca­tion.

“If you don’t study the is­sues, like a dog lap­ping up an­tifreeze, you’ll lick it up; it tastes good. There’s con­se­quences,” he said of vot­ers.

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