Second district representative Tom Coburn's decision to retire from office has put Green Country in Washington's sights. But the shots that may be fired from Capitol Hill will be with large amounts of cash; aimed to helping their candidates win this congressional seat. The News on Six talked with the candidates who've raised the most money for the campaign so far.
Andy Ewing wants Coburn's seat in Congress. If the name of this Republican candidate sounds familiar, it's probably because of car commercials. Ewing served as spokesman on his commercials for Andy Ewing Toyota in Muskogee. The retired businessman has Coburn's endorsement and viewpoint on key issues. Friday, he signed a pledge committing to the term limits movement in Washington. But the sky's the limit when it comes to the amount of money the candidates may spend in the race.
The second district race and a few others like it across the nation is so critical, one Washington observer called the campaigns "Armageddon." Republicans are battling to preserve their razor slim five-seat majority in the U.S. House. They know rival Democrats angry over the impeachment of President Clinton would like to take control of the House as revenge.
Campaign documents obtained by the News on Six shows Ewing raised almost $94,000 in just a few months. That's the most money raised by anyone in the race. But it will only be a drop in the bucket by election day. When asked by the News on Six about the campaign, Ewing commented that the race will get "very rough." Rough enough for political action committees to try to tip the balance. Ewing already reports $12,500 in PAC contributions. He says he'll need more than a $1,000,000 from various sources to win the campaign. "To me, special interest money is money to help me get elected," Ewing said. "It comes with no strings attached. I will go. I will listen to them, but there are no strings attached," he said.
Democrat Brad Carson of Claremore hasn't received any PAC money yet, but he knows he'll need some to supplement the $76,000 he's already raised from private citizens. He hopes to someday change the finance system. "I want to go out there and raise my money from the voters of the second district, the individuals out there," Carson said. "I'm not going to try to solicit money from people who have no interests in common with people of the second district."
Right now, there are five Republicans in the race. Jack Ross, Steve Money, Stuart Ericson, Eric Troutt and Andy Ewing. On the Democratic side, two candidates have announced: state representative Bill Settle of Muskogee and Brad Carson.