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Oklahoma U.S. Senate race turns negative

By Chris Casteel June 3, 2014

A group backing state Rep. T.W. Shannon in the U.S. Senate race has launched the first negative attack in that race, financing an ad that criticizes U.S. Rep. James Lankford for some budget votes.

The ad, paid for by Oklahomans for a Conservative Future, began airing late last week in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa media markets. Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, suggested the ad was in response to recent ads showing him ahead.

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Lankford and Shannon, a Lawton Republican, are the front-runners in the Republican primary to replace U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, who is retiring at the end of the congressional session. The primary is June 24.

Both candidates are supported by so-called dark money groups — ones that don’t reveal their donors — but those groups have run positive ads for the past several weeks.

The new ad says Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, voted “with liberals” to raise the debt ceiling twice. And it says Lankford voted for “the Obama budget” that increased spending by $65 billion and cut military funding.

The ad does not give roll call vote citations to back up its claims. It’s not clear what the ad means about Lankford voting for President Barack Obama’s budget.

Information filed with the Federal Election Commission shows the group spent about $246,000 on the ad, with most of the money used to purchase air time.

Conservative Future group

One of the designated leaders of the group, Oklahoma City lobbyist Chad Alexander, was arrested last month on drug charges. Neither he nor Xavier Neira, who works for a construction firm and is also listed as a leader of the group, responded about the ad.

Instead, a Washington, D.C.-based political consultant, Evan Kozlow, answered questions.

Neira told The Oklahoman in March that Oklahomans for a Conservative Future was formed to counter the influence of non-Oklahoma groups and “offer a truly Oklahoman support base and perspective.”

However, given the Washington consultant’s role in answering questions about the ad, it’s not clear what Oklahomans are involved. The group keeps its donors secret so it’s not known whether any are Oklahomans. The ad that recently began running was produced by a company in the Washington, D.C., area.

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