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Oklahoma GOP Runoff Will Set Stage for Challenge to Kendra Horn

August 25, 2020 by Reece Nations
Rep. Kendra Horn. (Photo by Mary Horn Photography)

OKLAHOMA CITY – Republican voters in Oklahoma’s Fifth Congressional District will determine their party’s candidate to face incumbent Democrat Rep. Kendra Horn in Tuesday’s primary runoff election.

Horn, the first Democrat to represent the district in over 40 years, will face off against either entrepreneur and former nominee for Lt. Gov. Terry Neese or state Sen. Stephanie Bice in November’s general election. Although President Donald Trump won Oklahoma’s Fifth District handily in 2016, the seat has remained competitive with Horn winning by just a one-point margin in 2018, according to Roll Call.

The lead-up to the runoff has grown increasingly more contentious due to a slew of attack ads and accusations by both candidates. Bice’s appeal as a moderate candidate poised to recapture crucial independent and suburban women voters’ contrasts Neese’s staunch loyalty to President Trump and advancing his agenda.

Despite leading the field in June, Neese’s campaign has been plagued by unfavorable headlines. Various reports have circulated alleging she instructed employees at a former company to lie to clientele, procured profits from a non-profit charity she operates and misled government officials about the nature of her relationship with the Cherokee Nation to obtain an appointment as a Commissioner to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education.

Out of nine candidates on the ballot in June’s primary, Neese led with 37% of the vote compared to Bice’s 25%. Because neither candidate obtained a 50% vote margin, a runoff was automatically triggered to decide the nomination.

Notably, each candidate knocked the others’ position on Second Amendment rights. The two sparred on this issue and others during a debate ahead of the runoff.

Bice, whose candidacy was endorsed by the National Rifle Association, criticized the policy of a company owned by Neese that bans firearms from its premises. Neese defended her stance on guns by noting her own endorsements, including one from the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association.

Eventually, the debate’s focus turned to the controversy surrounding leaked recordings allegedly depicting Neese instructing employees at her former agency to “lie when communicating with a client, make pretend phone calls, promise clients unconfirmed raises and to ‘manipulate people 24 hours a day,’” according to The Frontier.

Further, the report alleges Neese was pressured to withdraw from contention for a position at the U.S. Mint during President George W. Bush’s administration. On stage, Neese described the report as “an absolute lie” and accused her opponent of planting the story.

Roll Call, the Cook Political Report and Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales each rated the race for Oklahoma’s Fifth Congressional District as a “toss-up.” 

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