WASHINGTON -- The reelection chances of Kendra Horn, Oklahoma’s sole Democrat in Congress, may have been hit on Tuesday after announcing her vote to impeach President Donald Trump.
Horn, who sits in a district that voted for Trump by 13.4 percent in 2016, said: “The oath I took to protect and defend the Constitution requires a vote for impeachment.
“This is not a decision I came to lightly, but I must do my part to ensure our democracy remains strong,” she said. Horn said that by voting for impeachment she’s ensuring that no President, regardless of party, can overrule Congress.
“It would set a dangerous precedent for us to say that inviting foreign interference in our elections is acceptable,” Horn said.
Horn’s vote could have had a larger impact over the weekend, but it won’t change much now, said Charles Finochiarro, associate director of the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center at the University of Oklahoma.
Finocchiaro said Horn’s vote isn’t as significant after the “cascade,” of other Democrats who were undecided and announced they would vote for impeachment over the weekend.
“People basically see impeachment through partisan lenses at this point,” said Finocchiaro. “It's not clear to me that by voting no on impeachment, the Republicans are all of a sudden going to decide they support her for reelection if they were not likely to beforehand.”
Alternatively, Finocchiaro said Horn’s vote could energize both Republican and Democratic voters in Horn’s areas. He said the Republican party will likely spend more money than they previously planned to try to vote Horn out.
“There was already going to be a lot of money spent on this race on the Republican side to try to defeat a vulnerable incumbent Democrat,” said Finocchiaro. “Maybe that helps them [Horn’s office]. This district is certainly in the national conversation and national spotlight in a way that it wasn't previously.”
A swift reaction came from other members of the state’s Congressional delegation and Republicans who have announced plans to oppose her reelection in 2020.
Bob Salera, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said that Horn’s vote was the “nail in the coffin,” of her political career.
“This fits the pattern of what Kendra Horn has done since she came to Washington,” said Salera. “She talks a bipartisan game but when it comes time to vote, she always sides with the Democrats.”
U.S. Rep. Markwane Mullin (R. — Okla.) tweeted that President Trump hasn’t committed an impeachable offense and “despite their efforts,” Democrats haven’t found a crime.
“It all comes back to what Rep. Al Green (D.-Texas) said: ‘If we don’t impeach him, he will get re-elected.’ Today is a sad day for our country.“ tweeted U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R.-Okla.)
Horn’s 2020 opponents, including Oklahoma State Sen. Stephanie Bice, businesswoman Terry Neese and Janet Barresi, a former state superintendent of public instruction, all denounced her vote.
“Kendra Horn spent her week in the district hearing from hundreds of constituents who hoped she would stand up to Nancy Pelosi and put their interests first like she promised – and then she promptly returned to Washington to stab them in the back,” Neese said referring to the just concluded Congressional Thanksgiving break.
Horn spent nearly a week reviewing the articles of impeachment before announcing her decision.
While there are other newly-elected representatives who face difficult choices, Horn’s choice was trickier than most because she sits in the most competitive seat in the U.S., having won with just 0.3% of the vote.
The White House also denounced Horn’s decision.
“Instead of focusing on community over partisanship like she said she would, Rep. Kendra Horn has now succumbed to the pressure of Nancy Pelosi and progressive Democrats by announcing her vote in favor of this baseless impeachment sham,” said Deputy Press Secretary Steven Groves.
Trump, in a six-page letter to House Speaker Pelosi denounced what he called a “partisan impeachment crusade: being waged against him by Democrats,” calling the effort to remove him an “attempted coup.”
Finocchiaro said Horn has been one of the more vulnerable Democratic seats going into 2020.
“Maybe she diminishes a bit of the Republican opposition to her by voting no on impeachment, but I think it's really unlikely that they'll be a lot of Republicans who are swayed by Horn casting a no vote,” said Finocchiaro. “By taking this position, it's going to be more palatable to Democrats and Democrats are going to be the primary source of funding for her. I think that it probably helps her.”
Gaylord News is a reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.