Republican Jim Bridenstine and Democrat John Olson agreed on one thing Wednesday: Voters in northeastern Oklahoma have a clear choice in congressional candidates this November.
Bridenstine and Olson are vying for the 1st District seat held by longtime Republican Rep. John Sullivan, who lost his bid for a sixth term to Bridenstine in the primary.
It will be the first time in a decade that someone new has occupied the seat, which represents a huge swath of northeastern Oklahoma, including the city of Tulsa.
Bridenstine, a Navy pilot and tea-party backed political newcomer, told about three dozen people at a forum in Coweta that voters could go with the conservative way of governing that he supports or choose what he called the liberal polices supported by Olson.
"On one hand, you have the Obama Democrats who have a vision of more government, more taxes, more deficits, more debt and Obamacare," Bridenstine said.
"We need more liberty, lower taxes," he said.
Olson, a small businessman who is in the U.S. Army Reserve, told those gathered at the forum that he's willing "to roll up his sleeves" to serve Oklahoma residents and won't just "run down the street attacking the White House."
"I'm a workhorse, not a show pony," Olson said.
Bridenstine made a pitch to conservative Democrats, telling them "they don't have to vote now the way they voted then."
Independent Craig Allen also pitched himself to voters at the forum.
Allen, who has arguably had the lowest profile of the three during the campaign, said he would make an ideal congressman because he wouldn't be beholden to special interests.
He promised to work to remove government regulations from the backs of small business owners if elected.
"I don't owe anybody any favors," Allen, a commercial airline pilot, told the crowd. "If we take a step back, maybe a third voice will help."
Bridenstine upset Sullivan during the primary by aligning himself with the tea party and running on a platform that called for fresh voices in Washington and highlighted Sullivan's votes that he said weren't conservative enough for Oklahoma.
Bridenstine also brought up Sullivan's battle with alcoholism, his hundreds of missed votes in the House and a series of arrests more than two decades ago which Sullivan called cheap shots at the time.
Sullivan is endorsing Bridenstine.
Copyright The Associated Press