Friday, November 22, 2019

Insiders Panel on CD5 race: GOP top tier clear, leader still uncertain

As announced earlier this week, I have put together a Insiders Panel to discuss certain aspects of 2020 Oklahoma politics with people "in the know". The anonymity of the panel is designed to allow them to more freely express their thoughts, giving an inside look at some behind the scenes moves and trends across the state.

The first topic that the Insiders Panel has discussed is the 5th Congressional District campaign. I posed five questions to the members, and received comment in detail on each.
  1. Which candidates do you view as being in the top tier?
  2. Which candidate would you currently put in the lead?
  3. Which candidate(s), if any, do you think will drop out before filing day? 
  4. Which candidate has the best potential to beat Horn? 
  5. Do you anticipate anyone else of import joining the race?
Let's dive in to the commentary.

1. Which candidates do you view as being in the top tier? 
Panelists were bullish on Terry Neese and Stephanie Bice, with every respondent including the two in their top tier. David Hill was included by four, with some caveats, while two included Janet Barresi.

An Oklahoma City-area panelist had this to say: "Tier 1 would be Neese, Bice, Barresi and Hill in no particular order. Hill may be tier 2 depending on how much of his own money he puts in."

A figure involved in government agreed on Hill's uncertain position. "I see this as a Bice vs Neese runoff right now. David Hill is the wildcard."

A longtime insider said this: "Even though the race for OK-5 has drawn many candidates, I feel there are only 4 viable candidates on the ticket (Neese, Bice, Hill, Barresi). Quite simply the winner will be a combination of who has the most money and who runs the best campaign. This seems like an oversimplified statement but it is actually quite complex in 2020."

Two others, from outside of the 5th District, agreed that Bice, Hill, and Neese make up the top tier, in no particular order. A rural member added Ballard. 

2. Which candidate would you currently put in the lead? 

A Tulsa area activist put it this way: "I'd put Neese in the lead as she's making the clearest pitch to the Republican, pro-Trump, base."

Taking a slightly different angle, this was from an OKC metro activist: "I would put Bice in the lead, just for name ID."

Some expressed concern over the lack of a clear leader: "It’s evenly tilted in my mind. No candidate has truly showed themselves to be the front runner, which is concerning when multiple candidates can put in millions of dollars and the Democrat incumbent has a massive war chest."

This comment came from a person experienced in campaigns: "Bice and Barresi both have bases of support. Granted, Barresi also has serious baggage with pro-education voters. Bice had the highest re-election percentage of any incumbent Senator, running in the 70’s in the primary and general elections in 2018. Stitt won 7 of her 13 precincts, showing she is very strong where known. Neese just hasn’t been on the ballot since 1994. The electorate has changed and I’m sure her name ID starts very low. She has put a lot of money in but Bice has actually out raised her from donors. That's why I would say Bice and Barresi have the edge for now."

A legislator said that Neese was the clear frontrunner. 

3.Which candidate(s), if any, do you think will drop out before filing day? 

An OKC metro panelist made this response: "I don’t think any of those [Bice, Neese, Hill, Barresi] will drop out. This race is headed for a run-off. I'm sure we will get into that more closely to the elections. None of the other candidates are known or raised money to even begin campaigning."

The mentality that the primary will be a jungle leading to a runoff was pervasive. This was a government official: "I doubt many will drop out. No downside for these candidates as filing is cheap."

Most respondents don't expect any of the major candidates to drop out, although several of the lesser-known hopefuls likely will.

4. Which candidate has the best potential to beat Horn? 

Illustrative of the early state of the race, no consensus was reached on this question.

One of the 5th District insiders sees Bice with the inside track: "There is so much time on the clock. I would like to give Hill time to see some more from the campaign. Today I would say Senator Bice is the best match up against the incumbent. They are around the same age but Bice has more actual legislative experience and authored popular legislation not to mention SQ 792 which passed with 66% statewide. While the incumbent is single, Bice has two daughters - one college age and the other in high school. Married with a family is a contrast in backgrounds. Barresi, again, has a base, but I do question how many Republicans she would lose over her history with education. I don’t believe any other [statewide] incumbent has come in 3rd in a primary for re-election. I think Neese and Hill have to introduce themselves and carve out bases, while the other two have a large head start on."

An OKC metro activist had this thought: "I think Neese has the best chance to defeat Horn, because Bice would divide the Republican base. Neese has no voting record and I think she is more conservative."

One of the younger panelists had another opinion: "David Hill if he starts actually coalition building . Right now I haven’t seen it."

A Tulsa member feels optimistic about the odds to flip the 5th: "I think whoever the Republican nominee is, can absolutely win. And not just because it's a traditional Republican seat, but because Horn is underwhelming, and she's trying to appease both conservative and liberal democrats in her district. That doesn't work long-term. Money also matters here. The Republican nominee will have to raise significant dollars. If they don't, I think it's tough."

One of the members involved in government felt that, of all the candidates, Neese has the best chance to defeat Kendra Horn.

5. Do you anticipate anyone else of import joining the race?

A media member thinks the field is mostly set: "I don’t see another significant candidate jumping in. Mick Cornett has told many people he has no interest and its getting late if you already have 4 candidates that will be well funded. This race is headed to a run off and it will be interesting to who runs the best race."

Several others dismissed the Cornett rumor, or felt that nobody of substance would join the race from this point out.

That's all for now. On Tuesday, I'll be publishing a briefing on the top four candidates penned by one of the Insiders panelists. Visit back for some special insights on the 5th District race!


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