By Jim EllisAug. 26, 2020 — State Sen. Stephanie Bice (R-Oklahoma City) scored a mild upset victory last night over former lieutenant governor nominee and businesswoman Terry Neese with a 53-47 percent OK-5 Republican runoff victory. She wins the right to oppose freshman Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Oklahoma City) in the November election from a district that voted 53-40 percent for President Trump in 2016.
Sen. Bice withstood strong opposition from a Club for Growth independent expenditure totaling just under $1 million, almost all of which was spent on negative media and digital ads, with the goal of denying her the congressional nomination. This, on top of the seven-figure resources that Neese expended for her own campaign.
In the June 30 primary, Neese placed first in a field of nine candidates with 36.5 percent of the vote, while Sen. Bice secured the second runoff position with 25.4 percent more than six percentage points ahead of the third-place finisher. In the primary, 68,032 GOP votes were cast.
Last night, it was the district’s predominant county, Oklahoma, which houses the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, that carried the day for Bice. She scored a 55-45 percent majority of the Republican votes cast in the county, while Neese recorded 57 percent in the district’s two other counties, Pottawatomie and Seminole. Both of those counties, however, are small and accounted for just over 13 percent of the aggregate Republican vote.
At this point in the counting process, and there will likely be votes added to the final total, 51,762 individuals returned for the run-off election, meaning a retention rate of at least 76 percent when compared to the late June primary.
The OK-5 general election now becomes a top-tier Republican challenger race, joining at least 13 other such contests from around the country. Each of these district political battles is of clear importance to any chance the Republicans have of re-gaining the House majority. Realistically, the party must win all of them to even be in position to challenge for the majority, and that also assumes the GOP holds its own defensive toss-up districts.
Last night’s runoff produced a new Republican nominee in Bice, who will campaign in the third-highest Trump district that now has Democratic representation in the House. Incumbent Horn won an upset midterm election victory in 2018 over sophomore GOP Rep. Steve Russell within a turnout of 238,960 voters.
The participation number represented a 50 percent increase over the 2014 midterm vote but came 14.4 percent under the 2016 presidential turnout figure, a raw vote number of 41,610 individuals. To underscore the margin’s context, Horn’s 51-49 percent win over Russell constituted a difference of 3,338 votes, just 8 percent of the total presidential turnout expansion number.
There is no doubt that Bice finally begins her race against a Democratic opponent in a major fundraising hole. Her campaign receipts were strong in a GOP primary field of nine candidates. She topped $1.46 million, but her expenditures were high because she was forced to compete in two elections just to reach this point. Horn is a successful freshman fundraiser and has over $2.6 million in her campaign account to begin the general election, and we expect a fast start now that she knows the identity of her November opponent.
Because of this district’s importance to the national House party division, the Horn-Bice congressional election will draw national attention on election night. A Republican win here is a must in order to achieve their party’s goals. Conversely, a Horn re-election victory would virtually guarantee that Democrats will hold the House in the next Congress.