Mike Pence, the head of the Republican Study Committee in the House of Representatives, wants Mick Cornett to join the conservative group next year. Cornett is the mayor of Oklahoma City, and he is running to replace Ernest Istook in Oklahoma’s fifth congressional district. Pence’s stand aligns him with former congressman David McIntosh, another well-known conservative. But both Pence and McIntosh are at odds with their usual allies at the Club for Growth, who have endorsed Kevin Calvey. Ed Meese and Paul Weyrich, meanwhile, have endorsed a third candidate, former lobbyist Denise Bode.
Conservative infighting isn’t the only thing that makes this a confusing race. Calvey has been running hard against illegal immigration and rounded up support from Chris Simcox, the leader of the Minutemen. Yet he is the only candidate in the race who has supported giving illegal immigrants in-state tuition. He voted for it as a state legislator, and his explanations for the vote have made it sound as though he didn’t know what he was voting for: which is perhaps not the best recommendation for a would-be congressman. Club president Pat Toomey says that Calvey got the group’s endorsement because of his strong tax-cutting record, not his stand on immigration (on which the club is neutral).
Cornett was a late entrant to a crowded primary field. The other major candidate is lieutenant governor Mary Fallin. Perhaps because of the dynamics of a multi-candidate field, the race has been boringly positive until recently. Cornett’s record as one of the most conservative mayors in the country has, however, helped him to move up in the polls. He has now overtaken Bode and is just behind the front-runner, Fallin.
As a result, Bode has just gone negative against Cornett. She points out that as a member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors he joined “liberal Democrat mayors”—that is, most of his colleagues—in supporting a resolution asking the Congress to tread lightly before restricting municipalities’ powers of eminent domain. For Bode, that resolution makes Cornett an enemy of property rights.
Calvey, the Club for Growth’s candidate, is in fourth place with 10.5 percent of the vote, according to the local Fox affiliate. Don’t be surprised if some of his supporters switch to Cornett by Tuesday’s election. The run-off will be in August.
Cornett, oddly, is the only candidate to endorse Istook’s bid for governor. Istook is expected to win his primary.