State Sen. Stephanie Bice (R-OKC) defeated businesswoman Terry Neese in a runoff election today for the Republican Party nomination in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District. Bice’s victory marks the end of a long and contentious fight for the right to face incumbent Democratic Congresswoman Kendra Horn in November.
Bice got 52.9 percent of the vote to Neese’s 47.0 in Tuesday’s runoff, according to unofficial results from the Oklahoma State Election Board.
The 46-year-old Bice won on the strength of her performance in Oklahoma County where she bested Neese by 9 percentage points. Neese won Pottawatomie County by 15 points, but it wasn’t enough to offset Bice’s advantage where most of the district’s population lives.
It’s a reversal of Bice’s fate in the June 30 primary, That day, Neese picked up 36.6 percent of the vote to Bice’s 25.4 percent in what was a crowded field.
Both candidates spent heavily on TV advertising during the runoff, but Neese launched a closing local TV ad blitz highlighting her strong support for Donald Trump, guns and cutting taxes.
Late Tuesday, Neese posted a thread about her defeat on Twitter:
We came up short tonight, but I am incredibly humbled by the outpouring of support I have received from Oklahomans across the district since I launched my campaign sixteen months ago. #OK05
— Terry Neese (@NeeseForOK5) August 26, 2020
U.S. Mint nomination creates controversy
A report by The Frontier stirred controversy at the runoff debate between Neese and Bice earlier this month. In 2005, President George W. Bush nominated Neese to lead the U.S. Mint. Neese later withdrew herself from consideration one day before the confirmation hearing process, citing family commitments.
But according to the report, the Bush White House asked Neese to withdraw her nomination after tapes surfaced of Neese training employees at Neese Personnel, her employment services company.
“In the training tapes, Neese told her employees several times to lie when communicating with a client, make pretend phone calls, promise clients unconfirmed raises and to “manipulate people 24 hours a day,” the report said.
That set off an exchange during NonDoc’s Aug. 18 debate when Neese was asked about the tapes in which Neese accused Bice of leaking the audio to media.
“That is an absolute lie,” Neese said before stepping forward on stage and presenting two letters from Bush administration officials that she said back up her contention she withdrew to take care of her ailing mother.
Neese said the allegation amounts to nothing more than campaign dirty tricks.
“At the very last minute, seven days out from the election — wake up folks,” she said. “We’ve got somebody that is putting out a lot of dirt.”
Neese went on to accuse Bice of leaking the recordings, something she denied.
“That’s unequivocally false,” Bice said.
Guns, legislative pay a key issue
Both Bice and Neese touted their Second Amendment credentials throughout the GOP primary. Bice picked up the NRA endorsement earlier this summer, but Neese earned the endorsement from the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association.
Bice ran television and digital ads showing signs banning firearms at Neese’s former business. Some of Neese’s ads featured her toting a pistol.
Club for Growth, a conservative PAC that endorsed Neese, spent nearly $1 million prior to the June 30 primary attacking Bice for voting to raise legislative pay. The Legislature, however, does not vote on its own pay.
In a bizarre ad, the group attempted to tie Bice to disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein based on Bice’s support for the Oklahoma film industry in the senate.
Horn holds massive cash advantage
Horn (OK-5) will start the general election campaign with a sizable cash advantage over her opponent. First elected in 2018, Horn has raised $3.6 million in 2019 and 2020, and has more than $2.6 million in cash on hand, according to her campaign’s most recent filing. Horn also recently began airing TV ads highlighting her accomplishments in her first term.
Meanwhile, Bice had about $79,000 on hand in her campaign’s most recent filing, highlighting the financial cost of the runoff for the GOP candidate.