WASHINGTON — Campaign reports indicate a competitive Republican primary contest is shaping up in Oklahoma's 5th Congressional District while incumbent Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn keeps up an aggressive fundraising pace.
One of the top Republican candidates for the seat is state Sen. Stephanie Bice, of Oklahoma City, who has been in office since 2014. She already had $334,105 cash on hand at the beginning of the year. She has gathered another $15,500 from political action committees.
Another well-known name in the running is Janet Barresi. Elected in 2010, Barresi served one term as the superintendent of public instruction. She has entered the race in the 5th District, with $435,233 cash on hand at the start of the first quarter in 2020. Barresi also contributed half a million dollars to boost her campaign.
The race in the seat, which is comprised mostly of Oklahoma City along with Pottawatomie and Seminole counties, is shaping up to be one of the most expensive in recent history.
Horn reported she already has raised $200,000 more than all eight GOP candidates combined in hopes of repeating her shocking victory two years ago. Horn reported she started the first quarter of 2020 with $1.82 million cash-on-hand.
Among the other GOP candidates Republican Terry Neese is continuing her political career with a start in the first quarter of 2020 with $655,266 cash on hand. She boosted her campaign with $450,000 in loans. Neese received $2,500 from political action committees for her campaign.
But Keth Gaddie, University of Oklahoma political science professor, said it’s too early to talk about money.
“Kendra Horn is the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent in the U.S. House,” said Gaddie.
The real question is who the Republican party nominee is going to be.
It is all about style and generations. Gaddie said an open seat primary election is not going to be about PAC money; there will be plenty of national Republican money that comes flooding in once there is a nominee.
“The question is to what extent is a dollar that Bice has gotten from a voter more valuable than a dollar Barresi or Neece has gotten from themselves, we don’t know yet,” said Gaddie, “It’s how those dollars translate those candidates into people who carry a message and voters want.”
Michael Crespin, curator of the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center and professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma, also weighed in on the financial aspect of this race. Crespin explained there wouldn’t be the amount of money being seen in the Republican primaries if the GOP wasn’t confident it can pick up that seat.
“Whoever the (Republican) nominee is, is going to win … any of these candidates who is going to give an incumbent a challenge,” said Gaddie. “The one the most dangerous to Kendra is Bice because she is young and she knows the job and she presents incredibly positively … and I think that resonates. It does matter.”
Neese was nominated for the seat of lieutenant governor in 1990 when she made state history by becoming the first woman in Oklahoma to do so, though she did not win the election. Since then, she has become a businesswoman in Oklahoma, receiving multiple awards on her behalf.
David Kimmell Hill Sr., who is one of Oklahoma’s well-known CEO’s, is entering the race and beginning the first quarter of 2020 with $172,426 cash on hand.
With no previous political experience, candidates Oakley Claron Jacob and Daniel Joseph Belcher have yet to raise any campaign funds.
Horn said she welcomes the challenge.
“The record-breaking support we received shows people are standing with our shared values and standing against the politics of divisiveness that hold us back from working together for the common good,” said Horn. “I am grateful for the support of those who share our values and our vision.”
Despite the support Horn spoke about, Oklahoma State Election Board said only 37.91% of registered voters in the 5th District belong to the Democrat Party. Oklahoma still is a primarily red state despite the shift that elected Horn in the first place.
Another Oklahoma incumbent facing challenges in the upcoming 2020 primary race is Republican U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, who has served Oklahoma since 1994.
Inhofe has yet to announce he is running for re-election, yet he continues to raise money. He has reported raising $608,430 for the 2019 year and begins the first quarter of 2020 with $2.3 million cash on hand.
If he does announce, Inhofe will have five Democrats and one Republican running for the Senate seat.
J.J. Stitt, the only Republican so far announced for the seat, has raised nearly $6,500 and will begin the first quarter of 2020 with $377 cash on hand.
Of the Democrats running for the nomination, candidate Abby Broyles has raised the most money at almost $64,000 and will begin the first quarter of 2020 with $42,377 cash on hand.
The other Oklahoma incumbents, Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern , Tom Cole, Markwayne Mullin and Frank Lucas, up for re-election have filed reports with the Federal Election Commission that show them far ahead of their competitors in raising funds.
Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.