OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Mayor Mick Cornett is running on his record as he seeks a fourth term leading Oklahoma City. So is his chief opponent.
Cornett says that, in his three terms, he has transformed Oklahoma City into a place known for more than terrorism and tornadoes. Dr. Ed Shadid, a city councilman, says Cornett "likes to cut ribbons" but doesn't have a broad plan for the city.
The pair head a four-man field in Tuesday's election. If no one collects more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held April 1.
With an aggressive, voter-approved city improvement plan and the successful pursuit in 2008 of the Seattle Supersonics NBA franchise, now known as the Oklahoma City Thunder, Cornett has seen the region grow to 1.2 million people, with Oklahoma City as its hub.
"The addition of our NBA team has allowed us to have something associated with the city that's positive," Cornett said. "Before that, most people would think of the Oklahoma City bombing or tornadoes, but now when I run into somebody across the country or world, or even the president, what they want to talk about is the Thunder."
Cornett, 55, was a key player behind the expansion of the three-stage Metropolitan Area Projects program, or MAPS, a capital improvement program to create and upgrade sports, recreation, entertainment, cultural and convention facilities.
Shadid, 45, agrees that the MAPS program has been a success but fears that perhaps all of the city hasn't enjoyed its fruits.
"I think the MAPS program itself is a unique concept: it's basically the idea that you would invest in yourself and your quality of life with a pay-as-you-go system where you're not borrowing or paying interest," Shadid said. "I think it's worked well, but it's been hijacked by this mayor and those who are pulling his puppet strings."
Shadid, who has been in office four years, says the mayor backs larger projects to kowtow to the interests of his donors, rather than improving the already sprawling city. He said that while Oklahoma City has drawn major employers under Cornett, its streets have 84,000 potholes and a slower response time from emergency workers.
"This mayor likes to cut ribbons, but he doesn't like to pay the monthly bills," Shadid said. "This campaign has been a game in which he won't meet with journalists, his handlers tell the media we don't have a comment on that. ... It's made a mockery of the democratic process that he wants to restrict things to prepared statements and 30-second sound bites."
The mayor points to the city's crime rate being down and says he is being targeted because he's been successful.
"It gets back to neighborhood quality of life. The way I described it is, 'It doesn't matter how many NBA teams you have in town, if you don't feel safe in your neighborhood, that's not good,'" Cornett said.
Through the campaign, the mayor has rejected invitations to debate his opponents.
"We feel like we've been under assault for seven months because we have such a good story to tell," Cornett said. "I'm an incumbent, and like it or not, I'm running on my record."
Between them, the men have raised more than $1 million to pursue a job that pays $24,000. Cornett has a 2-1 edge in fundraising. Shadid, a spinal surgeon, loaned his campaign $291,000 of the $375,000 collected for the campaign.
Phil Hughes and Joe Sarge Nelson are also in the race for the four-year term. The race is non-partisan.