It has gotten real personal in the race to succeed Oklahoma Gov. Henry Bellmon (R), who is retiring after one term. "A knife fight," is the way one observer described the campaign between the top contenders among the five Republicans and five Democrats running for their parties' nominations in Tuesday's primaries.

Education, jobs and taxes are mentioned in the campaign, but not much.

Rep. Wes Watkins had been the Democratic front-runner, mainly because he has raised the most money -- more than $1.5 million -- three times more than any opponent. His main rivals are state House Speaker Steve Lewis and businessman David Walters, the 1986 Democratic nominee.

The race closed to a near three-way dead heat after Walters went on the attack, calling Watkins "a fake and a fraud . . . who became rich while representing one of the poorest congressional districts in the country." Watkins also went on the attack, saying Walters "illegally financed" his 1986 campaign by taking out nine mortgages on his home.

Lewis, hoping to capitalize by being a mediator, told his two rivals to "start thinking more about Oklahoma instead of their own egos." Late last week, the candidates agreed to stop their negative ads.

Things are not much different in the Republican race among conservative former federal prosecutor Bill Price, the more moderate Burns Harquis, an attorney, and former television news anchor and restaurateur Vince Orza, who has benefited from being seen as not part of the system.

Price was criticized by Harquis for his "negative childishness" and by Orza for not attending public schools and for being a lawyer.

Michele Davis, of the Republican Governors Association, called the campaign "frustrating."

"Nobody seems to be breaking out of the pack -- it's anybody's ball game," she said. "No real issues have popped up that anyone can hang their hat on."

No candidate in either party is expected to win the 50 percent required to void a Sept. 18 runoff.