OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma's broadcast airwaves are practically void of political advertising just seven weeks before Oklahomans make their choices for the U.S. Senate, Congress, governor and other statewide elective offices in the Nov. 4 general election.
Voters were inundated with political chatter as candidates tried to gain momentum in the days and weeks before June and August primary elections where voters picked their parties' nominees for the state's top offices.
Political observers say it won't be long before Oklahoma politics returns to the airwaves after campaigns revamp, retool and recover resources spent on primary elections.
"It has to do with the time of the year and the nature of the campaigns," said Keith Gaddie, chairman of the University of Oklahoma's political science department.
Primary races depleted the campaign finances of many candidates, funds that must be replenished before candidates can afford the expense of broadcast advertising.
"You're at this stage where you go after donors," Gaddie said. "Part of what is going on is the money game."
Candidates must also restructure their campaigns to appeal to a wider electorate than just members of their own party, which was their goal in the primaries. Gaddie said candidates are now concentrating on delivering their messages in a different way with personal appearances and direct mail campaigns.
Brandon Lenoir, a professor in the political science department at Oklahoma State University, said the lull in broadcast advertising at this stage of a campaign is normal.
"This is that brief period of breathing," Lenoir said. But it won't be long before candidates return to the airwaves and television viewers are inundated with political ads again, he said.
"This is around the time that voters are even going to start paying attention to the races," Lenoir said.
Incumbent Republican Gov. Mary Fallin and her Democratic challenger, state Rep. Joe Dorman, are engaged in statewide tours to meet voters and deliver their messages personally.
A spokesman for Fallin, Alex Weintz, said she is continuing the statewide Mary on the Move campaign tour that was launched on Aug. 5 in an effort to personally meet as many voters as possible.
"She's never going to take this race for granted. She is getting out, hitting the road," Weintz said.
Dorman's communications director, Adrianne Covington-Graham, said the Democrat is pursuing a grass-roots campaign in all 77 Oklahoma counties in an effort to increase his name recognition and find out firsthand the needs of voters.
"We're really just focusing on the people and getting in front of as many people as possible," she said. "We're really focusing on showing Oklahomans who Joe is."
Former state Sen. Steve Russell, the Republican nominee for central Oklahoma's open 5th Congressional District seat, said his campaign's resources were depleted during the hotly contested runoff.
"It's kind of a rebuild time," Russell said. Although it's still too early to begin airing television ads, Russell said he is engaging voters in a more intimate way through personal appeals and appearances as he tries to appeal to a wider audience.
"You've got to look at voter engagement," he said. "That takes a little bit of pivot."
Russell's Democratic opponent, state Sen. Al McAffrey, is also working to restore his campaign's finances.
"He's spending a lot of time of the phones dialing for dollars," said Linda Gray Murphy, a campaign consultant. "We're rebuilding our war chest."
McAffrey is also attending neighborhood events and visiting voters throughout the 5th District, especially areas outside of his Oklahoma City state senate district.
"We're going to need some of those voters," Murphy said.
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