After a crowded Republican field in Oklahoma’s District 2 Congressional race was whittled down to two, former State Sen. Josh Brecheen and State Rep. Avery Frix will face off in the Aug. 23 runoff election.
The winner will compete against Democrat Naomi Andrews and independent candidate Ben Robinson during the Nov. 8 general election.
Frix received 14.7 percent of the vote in the June 28 Republican primary and second-place finisher Brecheen got 13.8 percent.
Congressional District 2 is a mostly rural district that spans much of eastern Oklahoma including McAlester, Muskogee, Claremore, Durant and Miami. The district is also home to many tribal reservations, including large swaths of Cherokee, Choctaw, and Creek lands. Republican Congressman Markwayne Mullin has held the seat for the past decade, but is leaving office to run for retiring U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe’s seat.
A look at the primary election results shows much of Brecheen’s support came from counties south of Interstate 40. Breechen previously represented Senate District 6 in the Oklahoma Legislature, which included the southeastern Oklahoma towns of Atoka and Durant. Frix, who is from Muskogee, received the most support from north-central counties.
Campaign advertisement and finance records show that Brecheen purchased no television ads before the primary. But School Freedom Fund, a super PAC formed by the prominent Republican group Club for Growth independently spent at least $596,569 in support of his campaign. In comparison, Brecheen’s campaign spent $64,133 before the primary, according to Federal Election Commission records. The Club for Growth also had a history of supporting the late U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn. Breechen previously served as a staff member for Coburn. Club for Growth also donated $2,900 directly to Brecheen’s campaign just before the primary.
Brecheen said School Freedom Fund’s spending and the lack of television ad buys by his campaign were not coordinated. Federal election law prohibits independent expenditure groups from coordinating with candidate committees, though it often happens.
“Absolutely not. By federal law, we can’t have any connectivity,” Brecheen said. “People are going to support me who like my message. And the message is we’re going to restore America by being serious-minded and not going up there and playing the game.”
Another Republican super PAC, the Fund for a Working Congress, spent $265,000 campaigning against Brecheen. American Jobs and Growth PAC, a Republican super PAC with a history of supporting pro-Trump candidates also spent $126,675 on mailers supporting Frix.
Unlike Brecheen, Frix’s campaign spent big on television ads with at least $266,502, according to Federal Communications Commission records.
Coming out of the primary, Frix’s campaign had around $171,000 cash on hand, compared to $54,179 for Brecheen’s campaign, FEC records show.
Frix said he hopes to overcome the outside spending supporting Brecheen through grassroots support and his own money.
“We aren't focused on the dark money, we think that voters will see through the large amounts of dark money that is poured in at the very last minute by groups that are not invested in Oklahoma's future, but instead are DC folks that want to try to buy a congressman.”
Neither candidate said they plan to dramatically change their strategies or messages during the runoff, but both said they would be campaigning hard throughout the district.
“We are committed to continuing our message across all 28 counties. We're not conceding any counties, we're not taking any counties for granted either,” Frix said. “We will be campaigning hard down south, will be campaigning hard all across the district.”
If elected, Brecheen said he hopes to work to balance the federal budget, he said.
Frix said his first priority would be to vote for a House Speaker to replace Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, followed by encouraging more oil and gas exploration.