Bartlett with 4 point lead over Bynum going into last night's Tulsa mayoral debate
Current Tulsa mayor Dewey Bartlett led the field of candidates running for Tulsa mayor in the most recent SoonerPoll. Bartlett led City Councilor G.T. Bynum by four points, 36 to 32 percent, with slightly more than one-in-four likely voters still undecided. The election is June 28th.
"Voters are happy overall with Tulsa city government and believe the city is headed in the right direction, but Bartlett will have his hands full with a popular challenger," said Bill Shapard, founder of SoonerPoll.
Bartlett was known by all but eight percent of Tulsans, with 53 percent favorable toward him, but nearly two-thirds of that favorablility was only "somewhat favorable." Bynum was known by all but 28 percent of the electorate. His combined favorability rating was under 50 percent, but more of his voters were strongly favorable toward Bynum.
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A plurality of just under half of all likely voters in Tulsa believed Tulsa was headed in the right direction.
"It is always hard to beat an incumbent when the citizens are happy with their government and believe it's going in the right direction," said Shapard. "Bynum will have to convince voters to change jockeys in the middle of the race."
While both leading candidates are registered Republicans, the Tulsa mayoral election is non-partisan. Bynum, who has the endorsement of former Democratic mayor Kathy Taylor, has the support of 41 percent of Democrats and 27 percent Republicans. Bartlett has 51 percent of the Republican electorate and 19 percent of Democrats.
"This race will be won and lost by how Republicans and Democrats alike make up their decision on who to vote for," said Shapard. "Will Republicans support a candidate with the backing of Kathy Taylor? Will Democrats turn out to vote at all if their only choice is two Republicans?"
It's important to note that these poll results were before either candidate had begun running any television advertising.
The poll was commissioned by Rogers State University TV, which hosted a debate last night between Bartlett and Bynum, along with the Tulsa World and Public Radio 89.5 KWGS. The poll was used to determine the candidate's eligibility for the debate, and only those with at least 10 percent of the vote were allowed to participate.
"This is a common practice and useful in order to keep a productive debate among the viable candidates for a particular office," said Shapard, who went on to note, as an example, that the state requires voter support via petition signatures before an issue can be placed on the ballot.
Controversy arose last night when one candidate interrupted the debate because he was made ineligible to participate in the debate with only 1.6 percent voter support in the poll.