WASHINGTON -- Thursday, the only Democrat representing Oklahoma at the Capitol voted to continue the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. Now, experts say impeachment could put Kendra Horn (D-Okla.) in a tight spot for re-election.
“Any reelection effort for Representative Horn was going to be contentious,” said political expert Keith Gaddie, who teaches at the University of Oklahoma. He said that Horn sits in the most competitive seat in the nation.
“This vote merely made plain what her critics would have tried to make of her in any event,” said Gaddie.
Horn said she won’t let the impeachment talk affect her work in Washington. She also said her vote was not for impeachment, but for more transparency with the impeachment inquiry.
“I didn't run for office and I don't show up every day and work hard to serve the people of Oklahoma and the Fifth Congressional District to try to impeach somebody,” said Horn. “I work hard every single day to listen to my constituents.”
Oklahoma Democratic Party Chair Alicia Andrews said the Democrats in the Fifth District will support Horn for voting for the resolution, and Republicans should support her for trying to get the president “his fair say in the process.”
Gaddie said impeaching the president at this point would not be in Horn’s best interests as someone with a large Republican population in her district.
“She doesn't need to be out there at the forefront driving on the sort of partisanship just to satisfy the hardcore Democrats in her district,” said Gaddie. “She has to take care of that vote in the middle if she wants to survive. It’s just savvy politics.”
“I am an Oklahoman, I'm American, and my party doesn't dictate what I do, and it never will,” Horn said.
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Bob Salera said Horn’s vote for the impeachment resolution ensured that she will be a one-term Congresswoman. He said Horn’s Republican opponents currently competing in the primary are making the case that Horn does not represent Oklahoma’s Fifth District interests.
“Her Republican opponents are already doing all the right things,” said Salera. “The key message here in Oklahoma Five is that Kendra Horn is a partisan Democrat, who is not representing her constituents. That's the message that's going to win the general election.”
Salera said that although Horn may say her party doesn’t control her actions, that is “simply a lie,” based on her voting records. Horn has voted with Trump 7.5 percent of the time in her career, according to FiveThirtyEight.
The Oklahoma Democratic Party has already been registering people to vote, campaigning and reaching out to potential voters in the Fifth District, according to Andrews. She said one of the reasons Horn will be reelected is that Horn was still working last week during the partisan fighting over the resolution.
“Everybody's in impeachment mania,” said Andrews. “While that was going on, Kendra was writing bills to reduce prescription drug prices. She was writing bills to address this massive student debt problem that we have. She's actually doing work, which I will say specifically a couple of her counterparts in Oklahoma, they weren't participating in this.”
Horn has out-raised any other contestant in her 2020 race by raising a little over $1.1 million. Her next closest opponent, Oklahoma State Senator Stephanie Bice, raised $217,092 cash on hand, according to FEC reports.
Horn said she knows that she’s in for a competitive race, but said that she will be reelected because she focuses on the needs of Oklahomans rather than partisanship.
“We pulled off in Oklahoma and the Fifth Congressional District the biggest upset in the entire country,” said Horn. “When I started running, no one — all the way up until the end — no one thought we could do this.”
As for Horn’s colleagues, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said the impeachment inquiry resolution put Horn in a tight spot for re-election. Inhofe agreed with Horn that the resolution vote was not for impeachment, but disagreed about its purpose.
“Certainly, it will harm the chances of the 31 Democrats who are in Republican districts,” said Inhofe. “[The impeachment resolution vote] That's not a vote on impeachment. So that vote is not going to send it to the Senate, but it's going to show who is will ultimately most likely vote when that vote comes, if it does.
Horn said her constituents have voiced their main concerns over health care, prescription drug costs and education rather than impeachment. Horn said that while it may seem like only the impeachment inquiry is happening in D.C., she is still working to support Oklahoma’s interests.
“Just this week alone, we passed a bill that had over 400 votes in the House of Representatives that is incredibly bipartisan, that would sanction Turkey for their actions against the Kurds,” said Horn. She said she’s also helped pass bills that would increase accessibility for veterans to get health care and almost unanimously helped pass a bill that would grant funding for testing rape kit backlogs in states — one of which is Oklahoma.
Horn said she has a lot of hope for the future because there are a lot of good things happening at the Capitol that have nothing to do with impeachment. She said she sees many of her colleagues put their constituents above partisan ideology.
“I don't know anybody I agree with 100 percent of the time, but the bottom line is, are we looking at the issues? Are we doing what we can to build smart policies that help grow our economy, increase access to health care and education, and make all of us stronger in the process?” said Horn.
Addison Kliewker contributed to this report. Gaylord News is a reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.