Politicians play to their audiences. Everyone gets that.

Still, it was jarring to listen to Mayor Dewey Bartlett on Friday as he downplayed before a largely Hispanic audience the importance of his support for Donald Trump.

“What happens in Washington, D.C. can become a big distraction, but (what) we need to focus on is what we’re doing in Tulsa, Okla., and this particular mayor’s race,” Bartlett said.

Less than two weeks earlier it was Bartlett who appeared on the right-leaning Pat Campbell radio show and pressed his main challenger in the mayor’s race, City Councilor G.T. Bynum, to say whether he would support Trump and U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine in the November elections.

“I think that the statement should be made about who you do support in these races, G.T.,” Bartlett chided Bynum.

Later, it was Bartlett who told The Frontier that he believed it was important for Tulsans to know who their mayoral candidates support for president because, “in my view, (it is) a good judgment of what your political philosophy is.”

Bartlett went on: “It could be an example of what one might think of Obamacare, for example, and how that would affect the entirety of the city. … For him to not say something like that, to me, brings into question — does that mean he is for trying to get rid of our oil and gas industries as the Obama administration is trying to do? That has a tremendous impact.”

But Friday was a different day, and a different audience.

About 50 people, most who were Hispanic, gathered inside the East Central Junior High School auditorium for a mayoral debate sponsored by the Tulsa World and Que Buena radio. Moderator Juan Miret wasn’t about to let the mayor get away with supporting Trump the politician without asking him about Trump the man.

First, he reminded Bartlett that a poll conducted by the Washington Post found that nine out of 10 Latinos nationwide have some negative opinions of Trump, and that approximately 87 percent of Latinos who are registered to vote would not vote for Trump for president.

Then it got worse.

“It has been brought up by several of our local Latino registered voters and they think this (support for Trump) is a deciding factor” in who they would vote for for mayor, Miret said.

Then he reminded Bartlett why.

“Trump has said the Mexicans, and I quote, ‘are bringing drugs, they are bringing crime, they are rapists,’ end of quote,” Miret said. “Also, he has called women several times, dogs.”

And then, for good measure, Miret reminded the mayor of his stated support for Trump; “You said, and I quote: ‘I support him, absolutely.’ “

All this served as the backdrop to the opening question of the debate, which went to Bartlett first: “What is your message to local Hispanic registered voters who have expressed that they cannot vote for a candidate if this candidate is supporting Trump?”

“You know me, you know my heart,” Bartlett told Miret before condemning Trump’s statements as disgusting.

“We absolutely do not support what he says,” Bartlett said. “When I run for mayor, I am not promoting or supporting, necessarily — I’m not campaigning for any presidential candidates. I’m interested in being re-elected as the mayor of the city of Tulsa.”

Four of the cities five mayoral candidates debated Friday at East Central Junior High School. Pictured, left to right, are Paul Tay, Tom McCay, City Councilor G.T. Bynum and Mayor Dewey Bartlett. KEVIN CANFIELD/The Frontier

Four of the city’s five mayoral candidates debated Friday at East Central Junior High School. Pictured, left to right, are Paul Tay, Tom McCay, City Councilor G.T. Bynum and Mayor Dewey Bartlett. The debate was sponsored by the Tulsa World and Que Buena radio. KEVIN CANFIELD/The Frontier

Bartlett, a Republican, did not waiver in his support for Trump, saying he could not get behind either of the Democratic candidates for president, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

Not that Tulsans should worry themselves about such matters.

“At the end of the day, we, the Hispanic community and I, all of Tulsa, must find a common ground (for) the good of all of us,” Bartlett said.

Miret said Monday that while the Hispanic community is not a monolithic group — and has concerns other than Trump — it may be hard for it to find that common ground with a candidate for mayor who is supporting the presumptive Republican nominee.

“It is hard to imagine a Latino voter supporting Trump’s ideas,” Miret said. “Pretty hard.”

Bartlett has made a political calculation that it makes good political sense to hitch his wagon to Trump. The presumptive Republican nominee may have finished third in the Oklahoma Republican primary for president, but he received the support of 23,927 Tulsa County voters, many of them from Tulsa.

Those votes would go a long way toward helping Bartlett secure his third term as mayor when voters go to the polls for the June 28 primary.

Or, perhaps, the Donald could doom him. Tulsa’s mayoral election is a nonpartisan affair, meaning the primary is open to Republicans, Democrats and independents alike.

The city of Tulsa has 90,377 registered Republicans; 82,099 registered Democrats; and 29,082 registered independents, according to the latest figures from the Tulsa County Election Board.

Maybe it’s Bynum’s political calculation that will pay off. Bynum, who is also a Republican, has repeatedly refused to get dragged into questions about who he’ll support for president, saying he wants to bring all Tulsans together, regardless of their party affiliation, to make the city better.

After all, what happens in Washington, D.C., can become a distraction from what is going on in Tulsa.

Just ask the mayor.