OKLAHOMA CITY — With one week to go before runoff elections in Oklahoma’s sprawling 2nd Congressional District, a new campaign ad has heated up the race for the Democratic nomination between Muskogee seed seller Wayne Herriman and former prosecutor Rob Wallace.
The 30-second ad, paid for by Herriman’s campaign that began airing last week, questions Wallace’s record as district attorney of Leflore and Latimer counties for six years. It opens with a string of mug shot photos of unidentified men with Wallace’s face superimposed over them.
“These criminals went free to commit more violent crimes because Rob Wallace didn’t do his job,” an announcer states. He then suggests that as DA, Wallace authorized plea deals that allowed people accused of violent crimes to go free, including a man who allegedly committed murder after his release. The man is not identified in the ad.
Wallace’s campaign manager described the ads as a “despicable” attempt to distort Wallace’s record in the campaign’s final week.
“It’s just another desperate attack from a desperate campaign,” said campaign manager Kyle Gott.
Wallace, 49, led the three-way Democratic primary election on June 26 with 46 percent of the vote, but Herriman forced a runoff with 42 percent. With the runoff scheduled for Aug. 28, Herriman said it’s time voters learned about Wallace’s record.
“His record should speak for itself,” Herriman said. “When you’re convicted of a crime, you should serve the sentence.”
Herriman’s campaign manager, Tony Coppola, said the ad accurately reflects Wallace’s performance.
“As a prosecutor, Rob Wallace permitted deals in hundreds in cases,” Coppola said. “I don’t think Rob Wallace had to allow these deals to happen.”
But Gott said Wallace, who served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Muskogee as well as district attorney, has a strong law-and-order record as a prosecutor that includes obtaining the death penalty against a defendant who was convicted in the deaths of an elderly couple.
Gott said Herriman, 59, has refused to debate the issues with Wallace and instead is “hiding behind his ads.”
“He’s trying to distort the record of a good man and a good prosecutor,” Gott said. “That’s just his typical behavior. He’s not as informed and prepared to serve in Congress as Rob Wallace is.”
Both campaigns believe the race remains close in the district that spans eastern Oklahoma from the Kansas border to the Red River.
The two Democrats are vying to replace U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, the lone Democrat in Oklahoma’s congressional delegation who announced last year he would not seek a fifth term in office. Dan Boren has said he does not plan to endorse anyone in the race.
A runoff for the Republican nomination is also set between plumbing company owner Markwayne Mullin, who finished with 42 percent in a six-man primary field, and three-term state Rep. George Faught, who had 23 percent of the vote in the primary.
The winners of the runoffs will appear on the November general election ballot along with independent Michael Fulks of Heavener.