The runoff for state Senate District 45 isn't ugly yet, but it is not as pretty as when the race started.
After the July 29 primary, Steve Russell and Kyle Loveless were the two Republican candidates still standing at the end of voting. Five candidates were in the race and odds were high of a runoff. With no Democrats competing for the seat, the Aug. 26 runoff election will determine the District 45 senator.
The contest began to heat up one week after the primary when Russell held a news conference at the state Capitol to show off his endorsements from the other candidates. Jerry Foshee, Melinda Daugherty and Marty Gormley flanked Russell in front of the press and warmly gave their support.
Russell didn't go into specifics about the difference between him and Loveless. The retired Army war veteran hammered home his experience as a military officer.
"I've held positions of great authority and great responsibility," Russell said. "I've commanded thousands of soldiers and been in charge of tens of thousands of civilians in cities that were under my care as a soldier."
Before retiring, Russell's last tour of duty was in Iraq where the lieutenant colonel and his unit were part of the hunt and capture of Saddam Hussein. During the primary, Russell found himself having to explain his role in the capture.
Loveless shrugged off the endorsements to his opponent and is focused on his own boots-on-the-ground strategy.
"It's like sudden death," Loveless said. "Right now, you have a big group of people who voted for somebody else other than Steve and I, so the race is on to get those people."
Loveless is also employing a strategy of pointing out the differences between himself and Russell. Loveless raised the issue of a candidate survey conducted by the state Chamber of Commerce which asked a variety of questions, including restricting states from passing immigration reform and supporting lawsuit reform. Loveless said he answered no on restricting state immigration laws and yes to lawsuit reform.
Loveless criticized Russell for not answering those questions.
"In the primary, he said he was for immigration reform and lawsuit reform," Loveless said of Russell. "That's fine, but that's not how he answered the questionnaire."
But Russell said some of the questions were vague in definition and poorly worded, making it difficult to answer.
"The questionnaires are often designed for 'when did you quit beating your wife,'" Russell said.
He said the question of immigration reform needed a more complex answer than just yes or no. Russell said he supports immigration reform.
Russell also said that while he has some concerns about specifics, he supports lawsuit reform. Russell pointed out he has received campaign contributions from tort reform political action committees. "Scott Cooper