James Lankford and Kevin Calvey are in a mad dash for money and votes in the closing days of their runoff election. The two Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination to become the next representative of Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District.
Calvey and Lankford were the two top vote-getters at the end of primary night last month. Lankford led the way with 18,760 votes, or 33.58 percent, while Calvey finished with 18,147 or 32.48 percent. Neither received the required 50-percent-plus-one majority, leading to Tuesday’s runoff.
Lankford is surging since his primary result, both in support and money, receiving endorsements from almost all of the other candidates in the GOP primary. And since the end of the primary, Lankford has raised $60,150, according to campaign reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Calvey has amassed $46,100.
“What you’re seeing is the bets being placed,” said University of Oklahoma political science professor Keith Gaddie. “Local and big-time donors are placing their money on Lankford to win because he performed so far above expectations. If the bet is running toward Lankford, it paints a dire picture for Calvey.”
Going into the primary, Calvey led most polls, with Lankford a respectable second. Given the fact that Calvey had built up quite a campaign treasury with hundreds of thousands of more dollars than any of his six other opponents, Lankford’s performance knocked Calvey out of the front-runner’s spot.
An examination of the candidates’ campaign fundraising reports reveals some similarities, but also some stark contrasts.
Going into the primary, Calvey had hundreds of more donors than Lankford, and Calvey was also boosted by a $250,000 loan to his campaign. According to the final report filed before the primary on July 7, Calvey had $720,757 in the bank, compared to Lankford’s $471,145. Between the date of the report and primary day, Calvey took in another $15,600, while Lankford cashed in $17,700.
“What makes a runoff competitive has very little to do with what the front-runner does,” said Gaddie, an Oklahoma Gazette commentary writer. “It has to do with the guy coming out of second place. If he can spend even or better than the guy in first place, it keeps turnout and interest up, and it also lowers the prospect the front-runner wins the second round. Calvey has got to keep up in the money game to have a shot at it.”
Who is giving to the candidates? Both are getting funds from many of the same interests. Calvey and Lankford have received considerable support from the energy, business, retirement, homemaker and health sectors.
Lankford convinced his friends in the religious community to not only endorse his candidacy but back that endorsement up with a check, a move Gaddie called “impressive.” More than $15,000 traveled from ministers across the state to Lankford’s campaign account.
The tie-in is easy for Lankford, after spending 15 years as head of the Falls Creek Youth Camp in southern Oklahoma. The camp is touted as the largest Christian camp in the country, with more than 51,000 participants attending during the summer of 2009. Lankford stepped down as executive director of the camp last year.
Calvey’s fundraising can be summed up very easily: Club for Growth. The conservative national organization, a powerhouse with GOP candidates, sided with Calvey. Not only did direct donations from the organization to the candidate ” totaling more than $100,000 ” provide much needed help, but Club for Growth solicited from its national constituency to give money to Calvey. The group is responsible for more than half of Calvey’s donations.
“Groups like this will go to their membership and say, ‘Here are a list of candidates we want funded,'” Gaddie said.
This network not only shows up in donations stamped with Club for Growth’s mark, but also in the location of the donors. More than a third of Calvey’s donors are from out of state. With just a handful of exceptions, nearly all of Lankford’s contributions are in the state of Oklahoma.
“They both have in-state donor bases,” Gaddie said. “Calvey was raising about as much money in-state as Lankford was. But what it means is there is a big bank of local donors Lankford hasn’t tapped. A general rule is the guys who regularly win for Congress raise the lion’s share of their money inside the district. That’s the most typical model. Lankford looks like a more typical candidate in that aspect.”
Neither Calvey nor Lankford made themselves available for an interview. “Scott Cooper
LANKFORD | CALVEY
Total contributions $471,145 | $720,757
Donations since primary $60,150 | $46,100
Main contributor Businesses | Organizations
Percent in-state donations 98 percent | 61 percent
Source: Federal Election Commission
top photo James Lankford.
bottom photo Kevin Calvey. Photo/Mark Hancock.