In deep-red Oklahoma, GOP fights to regain lost seat

Mike Seals - October 22, 2020 10:29 am

By SEAN MURPHY

EDMOND, Okla. (AP) — Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, a lawyer from Oklahoma City, accomplished the most stunning political upset in the nation two years ago when she ousted a two-term GOP incumbent and captured a seat that had been held by Republicans for four decades.

But in this year’s election cycle, Horn, 44, won’t have the element of surprise she had in 2018, and both state and national Republican groups have launched a massive counter-attack to win back the seat that virtually every political prognosticator has listed as a toss-up.

Although Oklahoma has a reputation as a deep-red state, with Republicans controlling every statewide elected office and enjoying super majorities in both chambers of the Legislature, the 5th Congressional District includes the state’s capital of Oklahoma City, which has become younger and more diverse over the last decade.

“This is not some right-wing paradise in Oklahoma City,” said Mayor David Holt, who has avoided endorsing either candidate. “Oklahoma City does not have the same profile as the state of Oklahoma, and Congresswoman Horn’s election was probably the strongest statement yet that the city was changing and behaving, really, more like a big city.”

The race is among a number in the Southwest this year that show a conservative political tradition colliding with the increasing leftward drift of large and medium-sized cities.

In 2018, the Republican candidate for governor, Kevin Stitt, won his race handily in the statewide ballot but lost the city’s vote by 13 percentage points to his Democratic opponent. In this year’s primary, a gay, Black, Muslim woman won a legislative seat in the county, which is 3.5 years younger than the national average age.

Horn’s district includes several traditionally conservative suburbs where the politics appear to be shifting. In well-to-do Edmond, a group of Democratic women created after President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory has swelled to more than 500 members and become the largest Democratic group in Oklahoma after the state party.

“I’ve heard people say to me they’ve never heard the words Edmond and Democrat in the same sentence,” said the group’s president, Gwen Shaw. “Before the 2016 election, you just felt underground, like you were the only Democrat in the area.”

Now the group’s members are getting involved in precinct-level politics, holding fundraisers and knocking doors for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.

 

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