Nothing unexpected in only debate of governor's race 

click to enlarge Rep. Joe Dorman and Gov. Mary Fallin shared the state on Oct. 2 for the only debate of the 2014 governor's race in Oklahoma. - MARK HANCOCK
  • Mark Hancock
  • Rep. Joe Dorman and Gov. Mary Fallin shared the state on Oct. 2 for the only debate of the 2014 governor's race in Oklahoma.

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Democrat Joe Dorman’s campaign followed up Thursday’s debate with an e-mail blast claiming victory and the state party chair described Dorman as “clearly winning.” Gov. Mary Fallin’s team said the difference between the two candidates was stark and Republican leaders proclaimed a solid victory for the governor on social media.

In reality, neither candidate offered anything too new, the jabs at one another were kept to a minimum and nothing much unexpected took place on the only debate stage voters will see in this year’s race for Oklahoma governor.

“We simply must invest in the future and we need real leadership that will work across the aisle to do that,” Dorman, a representative from Rush Springs, said in an answer to a question on education funding and standards.

Dorman has made education his primary talking point throughout his underdog campaign and Thursday night he continued to pivot to the issue, even evoking the name of Janet Barresi, the state’s embattled superintendent of public instruction, attempting to link her with Fallin.

While Dorman pointed out the state’s shortcomings on issues like teacher pay and adequate resources for prisons, Fallin asked voters to consider the good in Oklahoma’s economy and the progress made since she took office in 2010.

“Four years ago … I came into office at a very tough time,” Fallin said. “Our state was literally broke.”

Fallin said she agreed more needs to be done in the area of education, but said the state was already on a path to make improvements, especially as the economy continues to flourish.

“The first thing we had to do … is bring prosperity back to Oklahoma,” Fallin said.

The debate, which was held at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, the alma mater for both candidates, featured a panel of three journalists asking questions, followed by questions from the audience.

When a question on federal funds was offered, Fallin defended her decision to reject Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act. Fallin also argued her focus on tax cuts would be reversed in the event of a Dorman governorship.

The debate came a little more than one month before Election Day in a race that has shaped up much closer than most political observers had originally predicted. In a heavily Republican leaning state like Oklahoma, Dorman was viewed by many as the sacrificial lamb for the Democratic party, simply filling out the ballot.

However, Dorman has maintained his ability to win since late last year and polls over the past few months have shown a tight race. Dorman’s campaign announced a Clarity Campaign Labs poll this week showing him just 2 percent behind Fallin.

“This result confirms that the governor’s decline in support has continued unabated over the past several months, and shows no sign of changing course,” Tom Bonier, a partner with the polling firm, said in a memo to the Dorman campaign.

The poll appears promising for Dorman but has been rebuked by Republicans who point to other polls showing a double-digit lead for the governor.

Dueling campaign ads have begun to hit airwaves across the state as the race hits the homestretch and both candidates will be more active on the campaign trail ahead of the Nov. 4 election.

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