- The Washington Times - Monday, November 4, 2002

Republican Rep. Steve Largent, once ahead by double digits in his race to become Oklahoma governor, has put on a mad dash in the closing days of the election as the contest tightens.
Two polls last week indicated the closeness. One said Mr. Largent was running ahead; the other said his Democratic opponent was leading.
An angry response to a television reporter's questions last month is seen as the main cause of a once-safe lead becoming tenuous for Mr. Largent, a conservative from Tulsa.
He angrily used profanity in response to questions about his whereabouts September 11, 2001, and during State of the Union addresses. Since that TV interview, he has spent much of his time apologizing, to the extreme pleasure of his two opponents.
Mr. Largent, a former University of Tulsa football star and a record-setting NFL receiver, has won a congressional seat from Tulsa four times, with 62 percent to 69 percent of the vote.
His name identification has been perhaps the largest in recent Oklahoma political history, and since the state has become much more Republican in recent years, he was the heavy favorite in this race from day one.
His Democratic opponent, state Sen. Brad Henry of Shawnee, was not expected to present a strong challenge.
Mr. Henry upset a favored former Republican, Vince Orza, in the Democratic primary in September and has gained steadily on Mr. Largent.
"There's a real sense of excitement," Mr. Henry said last week. "People are really believing we can win this race."
"We're moving at light speed," Mr. Largent said Friday. "It's an all-out blitz from here on out." He had stopped in Oklahoma City, Altus, Tulsa, Edmond and Lawton in the previous 24 hours.
A candidate in the race, Republican-turned-independent Gary Richardson, though apparently having no chance to win, is seen by many as drawing from expected Largent voters, perhaps enough to make a difference.
Mr. Richardson, a wealthy Tulsa lawyer, has spent mostly his own money on the campaign and says the numbers are moving in his direction.
While in debate and on the campaign trail, the three talk of the state's budget deficit, the effect of a war with Iraq and the hottest ballot question that of the legality of cockfighting. Mr. Largent's TV blunder also usually arises.
The reporter asked Mr. Largent where he was when the September 11 attacks occurred.
Mr. Largent was on a hunting trip in Idaho that day and was out of touch with his office. His staff issued a statement with his official reaction even though they had not talked with him, a fact that embarrassingly became evident later.
The reporter then asked Mr. Largent what he was doing when the past two State of the Union addresses were given. Mr. Largent said he watched one on television and was in New Mexico the other time.
Obviously unsettled, Mr. Largent then used a curse word to describe the interview.
Mr. Richardson quickly produced an ad featuring country singer Alan Jackson singing about the attacks, "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)." The ad says Mr. Largent was on a hunting trip, then the ad shows a snippet of the interview and Mr. Largent cursing at the reporter.
Mr. Henry generally has not commented, though an aide said last week, "Largent said more than we could ever say. The story speaks for itself."
Mr. Largent was leading in a poll conducted by his consulting firm, Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates Inc. KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City released a poll last week that had Mr. Henry slightly ahead.
"Only one poll matters," Mr. Largent said at week's end, "and that is the one on November 5. There's a lot of people doing polling, but it's going to be about who shows up to vote. We've said all along it will be a competitive race."

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