TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- A high profile and costly Tulsa mayoral race ends Tuesday, with voters deciding whether to keep incumbent Bill LaFortune for a second term.
A poll taken on behalf of the Tulsa World and KOTV-Channel 6 a little more than a week before the election showed the Republican trailing his Democratic opponent, former Oklahoma Commerce Secretary Kathy Taylor. She had portrayed LaFortune's record as weak in a city government structured to feature a strong mayor.
Taylor resigned her state post to run for mayor. Independents Paul Tay and Ben Faulk also appear on the ballot but their campaigns had been largely overshadowed in a big budget race played out across the city on radio, TV and billboards.
The election could draw a record number of voters to the polls, Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Gene Pace said Monday, basing his prediction on early voting, big campaign expenditures and the fact both candidates were well known.
In 2002, 65,683 voters cast ballot in the mayoral general election. In 1998, 73,086 votes were tallied.
"I think we'll probably reach that high number and there's a fair chance we might break that," Pace said.
LaFortune's campaign emphasized the tough decisions he had to make upon taking office in 2002 in the midst of an economic downturn that cost the city nearly 25,000 jobs in less than two years. Facing a budget crisis, the city slashed some programs, including two years of police academies.
The 48-year-old mayor pointed to reports showing Tulsa now leads the state in job growth and stressed the importance of keeping his administration in place to guide the projects of Vision 2025, a countywide economic development initiative.
His supporters included GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe, Congressman John Sullivan and Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz.
Taylor, 50, questioned the decision to cut police academies in light of Tulsa's rising rate of violent crime, a key issue in the race. She won support of a police officers' union that had been upset by LaFortune's decision to place Chief Dave Been on administrative leave in February for failing to immediately notify him of a report critical of the SWAT Team.
Election records covering the two weeks before and after the March 7 primary showed more than $3.2 million had been raised by five candidates, most of it coming directly from the pockets of Taylor and her Democratic primary challenger, former state Rep. Don McCorkell.
McCorkell had raised allegations of voter and tax fraud against Taylor before the primary, an election she won with 64 percent of the vote.
Tulsa County prosecutors found inadequate evidence to pursue claims she voted in two states in 2000. After Taylor paid back taxes owed on property in Florida, a Florida official said there appeared to have been no attempt to defraud that state's tax laws.
Taylor's husband William Lobeck is chairman and chief executive officer of Vanguard Car Rental Inc., which operates the Alamo and National brands, and moved its headquarters to Tulsa from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 2004.