Oklahoma: Rice Hires DSCC Vets, Calls for Six Debates

Posted August 1, 2008 at 5:07pm

With the Democratic primary behind him, Senate nominee Andrew Rice has announced that he has filled out his campaign team and issued a challenge to incumbent Sen. James Inhofe (R) to meet him in six debates across the state.

“People don’t want their elected leaders wrapped in slick TV ads and carefully scripted appearances,” Rice said in a statement released by his campaign. “By scheduling regional debates around the state, we give Oklahomans the best opportunity to come and evaluate the candidates side-by-side.”

Rice, a state Senator who remains a heavy underdog in the race, announced some staff additions, including hiring Phil Singer as a communications consultant.

Singer recently served as a communications strategist on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) presidential campaign and last cycle was communications director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Rice has also hired Geri Prado, former deputy national political and field director for Clinton’s presidential team, as campaign manager. Last cycle, Prado was deputy political director for the DSCC.

Despite Rice’s underdog status, DSCC Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) has been high on the candidate’s potential. The hiring of Singer and Prado could signal that the committee is taking a special interest in this race as the fall approaches.

However, the Republicans remained particularly unimpressed with Rice.

In a news release Friday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee noted that Rice’s opponent garnered 40 percent of the vote in the July 29 Democratic Senate primary despite the fact that Rice had spent more than $717,000 on his candidacy as of July 9.

Rice finished with 59 percent of the vote in that contest. But the NRSC noted that Jim Rogers, Rice’s primary opponent, won less than 6 percent of the vote in the 2004 Democratic primary, arguing that Rogers’ improved finish this time around proves Rice’s weakness.

NRSC spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner ridiculed Rice in a statement, saying that if he could not do better against “a perennial candidate whose campaigns consisted mostly of standing on a street corner holding up a sign, what does that say about Andrew Rice’s campaign?”