Candidates race to win oil industry support in key Oklahoma House race

Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn and her Republican opponent, state Sen. Stephanie Bice, are racing to prove their devotion to Oklahoma City’s dominant, but wounded, oil and gas industry, in a one of the most fiercely fought House contests.

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The coronavirus pandemic forced people to stop driving and flying, stomping out demand for fuels and causing an oil price crash, pushing Horn to occupy an unusual position for Democrat in the final months before Election Day.

“I have spent a great deal of time as a Democrat in an energy state working to educate my colleagues on the importance of oil and gas,” Horn told the Washington Examiner in an interview.

Whether Horn can establish herself as an fossil fuel industry ally in the face of skeptical attacks from Bice and House Republican leaders will be a key factor in whether she can hang onto Oklahoma’s 5th district.

President Trump won the district by about 13 percentage points in 2016.

“I certainly think jobs and the economy are the big issue, and when you talk about Oklahoma, oil and gas are a big part of that,” Bice, 46, told the Washington Examiner in an interview.

Horn, 44, won a 2018 upset over incumbent Republican Rep. Steve Russell. She was among the “majority makers” that gave Democrats control of the House for the first time in eight years.

Election prognosticators Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball both rate the 2020 race a toss-up. Horn hopes to get a boost from a recent endorsement by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a rare break from the business group’s usual alliance with Republicans.

“The Chamber recognizes my sensible, thoughtful approach to policy, business, and job creation, and I am very proud of that recognition,” Horn said.

But GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy singled out the endorsement of Horn as proof that the Chamber had “sold out” Republicans, and accused her of supporting the liberal “Green New Deal” to tackle climate change. That’s a mischaracterization of Horn’s position (she did not sign on as a sponsor of the Green New Deal). But it’s representative of the attacks Horn will face being a part of a Democratic Party that with Joe Biden atop the ticket is proposing the most progressive climate agenda in history.

For her part, Bice notes business leaders in Oklahoma opposed the Chamber’s endorsement of Horn, with the state’s oil and gas industry accusing Horn of voting with Democrats most of the time on energy issues.

“Her voting record speaks volumes about her lack of support for the oil and gas industry,” Bice said. “She may have received the endorsement, but I don’t know if Oklahomans put weight in the endorsement from a D.C. group.”

Bice is not running as a diehard Trump devotee. In the primary, she didn’t mention him as frequently, seeking to appeal to moderate suburban women and even enduring attack ads from the conservative Club for Growth.

Trump got 54% of the vote in the 5th District, lower than the 65% he received statewide.

Perhaps that explains why Bice is not running all that differently than Horn on energy and climate issues. Bice touts that “oil and gas pays my mortgage,” since her husband works in information technology for an oil and gas company in her district, Tapstone Energy. But like Horn, she says climate change is a problem that should be addressed by encouraging the private sector to produce innovative clean energy technologies.

“Certainly we should be mindful of the impact of oil and gas on our climate,” Bice said. “We need to be looking at all forms of energy,” she added, noting Oklahoma’s leading status in generating power from wind and to a lesser extent, solar.

Horn strikes a similar balance.

“We have to act now, but it doesn’t mean there is a switch we can magically flip,” Horn said. “It can’t be all or nothing.”

Tags: News, Energy and Environment, Oklahoma, Green New Deal, Chambers of Commerce, Climate Change, 2020 Elections

Original Author: Josh Siegel

Original Location: Candidates race to win oil industry support in key Oklahoma House race

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