Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum will be in Tulsa today to support area Republican leaders in a show of unity behind Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, the party's county chair said.
Santorum, along with U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, U.S. Congressman Jim Bridenstine and 24 state legislators, will speak at a media-only event at the Tulsa Press Club Thursday evening.
It will be Inhofe's first public appearance since recent heart surgery.
The Tulsa mayoral race is nonpartisan, but both candidates are trying to stake their claim to Republicans before the Nov. 12 general election. The race has been oft-contentious, especially in the home stretch.
Bartlett is a Republican. But supporters of his challenger, former mayor Kathy Taylor, a Democrat, have organized a group that calls itself "Republicans for Taylor."
Its website declares: "We started this group to stand against those people who are trying to inject partisanism into Tulsa's non-partisan race by showing that we have support from Republicans, too!"
In response, Republican leaders say they want voters to know there is no discord within the party when it comes to the Tulsa mayor's race, and they support Bartlett's re-election.
According to the Tulsa County Republican Party Chairman Jerry Buchanan, Santorum is in the area for an event in Bartlesville, and also will be the headline speaker at the Tulsa Press Club event, which begins at 5 p.m.
Taylor Campaign Manager Monroe Nichols released a statement Thursday, criticizing Santorum's participation in local events.
"At a time when rape is up in Tulsa, it is shocking that Dewey Bartlett would bring a DC politician with an abysmal record on women's issues here to try to tell Tulsans what is important to them," Nichols said, sticking to the campaign's current strategy of focusing on Tulsa's crime rates under the Bartlett administration.
Santorum stumped twice in the Tulsa area during the 2012 Presidential election. He spoke at an overflowing town hall at Oral Roberts University in February 2012, and the next month, spoke at Broken Arrow's Grace Church.
He told national reporters in his run for the Oval Office that Oklahoma is "ground zero" of the conservative movement.