Former Air Force captain outraising Baptist preacher in race to represent Edmond (News OK)

By Rick Green

Ultraconservative issues pushed by Edmond preacher Paul Blair appear to be hurting him in fundraising for the state Senate District 41 race against former Air Force Capt. Adam Pugh.

Business interests are concerned that some of Blair’s social policy stances could hit them where it hurts — the cash register.

He favored a bill, which was ultimately vetoed as unconstitutional, that sought to make it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion. The former Chicago Bears lineman also wanted the Legislature to wade into the issue of transgender bathroom use. That bill failed to advance.

The abortion legislation, first of its kind in the nation, drew widespread negative attention to Oklahoma. The bathroom bill, had it passed, could have had a big price tag. A North Carolina law on the same issue led the NBA to cancel an All-Star Game that would have brought millions of dollars in tourism revenue to Charlotte.

Some business groups would prefer that the Oklahoma Legislature focus on things like the budget and education rather than social policy. They have opened their wallets for Pugh, who has received $172,625 in campaign contributions, compared to $66,810 for Blair.

These groups see the cost of social policy legislation, said David Blatt, executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute.

“The business community has quite clearly tried to steer the Legislature away from transgender bathroom bills and certainly has had concerns about extreme open-carry legislation and extreme abortion bills, as well,” Blatt said.

“Certainly they would have the concern that Paul Blair would be a vocal and fiery leader of the social conservative forces and that might be at odds with the more moderate image the business community is trying to promote.”

Mike Jackson, senior vice president of the State Chamber, said his group supports Pugh. Jackson said some issues involving gay and transgender rights and guns directly impact the business community.

“They affect the business community’s ability to hire and recruit to the state,” he said. “They affect many of the things the business community believes is important for communities and the state to grow.”

Political action committees associated with Chesapeake Energy, Cox Communications, Devon Energy and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, among others, contributed to Pugh. He also got contributions from the Farmers Employee and Agent Political Action Committee, the Oklahoma City Business Council and the Oklahoma Medical Political Action Committee.

Meantime, Blair regards it as a feather in his cap that most of his contributions have come from private individuals.

“The vast majority of support for my opponent has come from special interests, lobbyists, even Democrats,” Blair said. 

Blair said he had a family vending machine business with his brother for 29 years, and knows what it takes to run a successful endeavor. Blair said the operation was debt-free, and he would like to bring his ideas about conservative economics to the state Capitol.

He’d spend more of his time on that rather than social policy, he said. 

“I’d like to see an adult in the room in the Capitol, helping to design a budget and follow a budget,” he said.

His ties to the churchgoing community in Edmond may help his cause. He is pastor of the Fairview Baptist Church.

Pugh nearly won the voter majority required in the primary to prevent a runoff. Runoffs typically have lower turnouts. 

“Blair has a devoted following as a minister, and he’s run before,” Blatt said. “The expectation is that he will have an easier time mobilizing supporters than Pugh will.”

Blair challenged Republican Sen. Clark Jolley for the same Senate seat four years ago and lost. Jolley is term-limited. 

For his part, Pugh said both he and his opponent share conservative philosophies.

“My style is different,” he said. “How I engage is different. How I ask questions is different.”

He said he thinks the business community has responded to his military leadership experience and his work ethic on the campaign trail.

“I’ve been knocking on doors for 220 days in a row.”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.