The Oklahoman endorsement: Patrice Douglas is our pick in 5th District race between two good candidates

The Oklahoman Editorial Board 

CONSTITUENTS in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District are losing an excellent representative in Republican James Lankford. After two terms in the House, Lankford has his sights set on the U.S. Senate.

The House seat he will vacate is considered “safe” for Republicans. The good news for GOP voters is that two strong candidates are on the ballot in Tuesday’s runoff election. Former state Sen. Steve Russell and Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas were the top two vote-getters in the six-person primary in June. Russell won 26.6 percent of the vote, Douglas 24.5 percent.

Tuesday’s winner will face either Tom Guild, a retired college professor, or state Sen. Al McAffrey, who are meeting in the Democratic runoff. Neither has much chance of winning in November.

Russell spent 21 years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. He then served one term in the state Senate, stepping aside in 2012. His background makes him well versed in foreign affairs and military affairs. If he were to win election to Congress, he would be a strong voice in both these areas.

His views on some issues, such as immigration, appear more inclusive and tolerant than those espoused by many conservative candidates. In explaining his brief stay at the state Capitol, Russell said he accomplished everything he set out to do when he got there. Among the highlights was a bill that removed the state income tax on federal pay to troops.

Russell’s spotty attendance for floor votes is troubling, however, as was his vote against a lawsuit reform bill that aligned him with liberal Democrats. His explanations for the former have been vague; his defense of the latter, rooted in the book of Leviticus, is unconvincing. Other raps on Russell — that he doesn’t yet live in the 5th District, for example — are less concerning and shouldn’t be a factor when voters make their choice.

As a former mayor of Edmond, Douglas would take to Washington her experience as a municipal leader, where she saw how federal policies can have unintended consequences at the local level. She has a firm business background. As a banker, repealing the Dodd-Frank overreach is on her to-do list. Her three years on the Corporation Commission (to which she was appointed by Gov. Mary Fallin and then re-elected in 2012 without opposition) have provided valuable and extensive insight into the energy sector, which is crucial to Oklahoma and the country.

The voting records of these two candidates would be alike on most issues of importance to the 5th District. Each is a solid conservative, concerned about such things as the national debt and this country’s standing in the world.

In this race between two good GOP candidates, we lean toward Douglas. Like Lankford, she is pragmatic. She seems more willing to build alliances and listen to the other side. If given the choice between half a loaf or none, partial victories are preferable to full defeat. That mindset is badly needed in Washington.

This will be a tough call for Republican voters, as it was for us. Each candidate has strengths, but we believe Douglas is the better choice to succeed Lankford and carry on his legacy of statesmanship and thoughtful, well-reasoned positions on the major issues facing the next Congress.

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