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District 5 Candidates

 

October 15, 2020

Countywide & Sun reporter Alex Sloan interviews Stephanie Bice, while Publisher Suzie Campbell and editorial writer Wayne Trotter listen.

As part of our continuing coverage of the 2020 elections, The Countywide & Sun spoke to the two candidates seeking to represent Oklahoma's 5th Congressional District. What follows is a summary of those conversations. The candidates appear in the order the interviews were conducted.

 

Stephanie Bice

Stephanie Bice said she's been a member of the GOP since she was 18 years old.

 "I've never been anything but a Republican," Bice said. "And I believe that, you know, that represents conservative values."

Specifically, Bice said those values were faith, family, and freedom. She mentioned the importance of the second amendment and religious liberty to her ideology. 

 "And I think that that's one of the reasons why I want to go to Washington," said Bice, a State Senator representing Oklahoma City's Dist. 22, "because I want to return this congressional district to those conservative values."

Bice said if elected, she plans to be present in the local community. Going even further, Bice, 47, said she would hold regular town halls across the district, to allow public comment on the issues at hand.

On the national debt issue, Bice pointed to the economy prior to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. She said in March, America had a thriving economy that was on track to start paying down that national debt.

 "But unfortunately, COVID had other plans," Bice said.

She said difficult situations like providing economic stimulus, business relief, and unemployment insurance had made it necessary to allow the debt to continue growing.

 "The bottom line is, we do need to look at making sure that we're, you know, making wise decisions about reducing the debt," Bice said.

She emphasized cost-cutting as an important tool towards that end. Bice said healthcare costs could be reduced without reducing quality of care through the use of technology. She pointed to Telehealth during COVID-19 as a prime example.

 "We've seen a huge increase in ... Telehealth over the last six months, because of COVID," Bice said. "People can dial up their doctor on their iPhone, and get an appointment."

Bice said she would fight to protect the federal dollars that are currently allocated towards Oklahoma's Medicaid expansion, but said if the program gets cut, that's going to be an issue for the state government.

 "You've seen other federal programs that were implemented, like 'No Child Left Behind', or 'Race to the Top', where the federal government offered dollars to the states and had very stringent guidelines on how the dollars could be spent," Bice said.

Bice said her concern with Medicaid expansion is that the federal government will impose more restrictions and requirements on Oklahoma's healthcare system, without providing adequate funds to meet those requirements.

 "I think that's the fear, when the government starts putting all these restrictions in place, and they threaten to cut funding if you don't do these things," Bice said, "well, then the state's left holding the bag."

Bice spoke strongly against the HEROES Act, and said she wouldn't support the programs put forth by Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats.

 "They are wanting to give money to cities, municipalities that have huge pension liabilities, that are, you know, potentially bankrupt," Bice said.

She said Oklahoma taxpayers are being asked to foot the bill for cities across the country. 

 "I am not in favor of that," Bice said. "We should not be paying for those cities' failures."

Instead, Bice said there were still PPP funds available for businesses that should be opened back up.

 "There are dollars left over from the first round of PPP that have not been used," Bice said. "Why are we not opening that back up?"

She commended the Trump administration on its push for a COVID-19 vaccine and expressed optimism for the future.

 "This economy under President Trump was roaring before COVID," Bice said. "And we'll get back there, but it's going to take a little while."

Bice acknowledged that the executive branch has been becoming increasingly powerful over the last several decades, but said it was important to examine why that was. She said that when Congress is dysfunctional, the executive branch steps in to fill the void.

She pointed to President Trump's executive orders giving employers the option to temporarily delay collection of payroll taxes and a partial extension of the expanded unemployment benefits.

 "Nancy Pelosi is not willing to negotiate a fair and bipartisan deal to keep this economy going," Bice said. "And so I think he made the right decision in at least getting something on the table."

        

Congresswoman Kendra Horn

Rep. Kendra Horn said that being a Democrat in Oklahoma means protecting Oklahomans' access to healthcare.

 "There are places that I agree, and there are places that I very much disagree with the party," Horn said. "But I also think it's the space to have those places where I agree and disagree."

Horn said for her, that means protecting the Affordable Care Act, protecting people with pre-existing conditions, and fighting against arbitrary lifetime caps on benefits. Horn said she would commit to fighting for the availability of the federal funds for Oklahoma's Medicaid expansion.

 "It's the right thing to do for people, and it's the right thing to do for our economy," Horn said.

Horn said she supported the Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma, but now it's time to focus on lowering prescription drug prices. However, Horn explicitly does not support Medicare for all.

 "I think healthcare is a right for everyone, not a privilege to be reserved for a few," said Horn, 44. "But I don't support the faction of my party that wants Medicare for all, because I think that's the wrong way to do it."

The first-term incumbent said Medicare for all amounts to throwing out our existing system, and that's not the way to go about healthcare expansion.

One of the mistakes the Democratic Party has made for some time, Horn said, is not focusing enough on rural needs. She said being a voice for rural communities will continue to be a focus of hers.

 "I serve on the rural broadband task force," Horn said. "And we've been doing quite a bit of work over this first term to think about what the barriers are, and what the most effective pathway is for an investment in infrastructure to ensure we get high-speed internet to all households."

Horn said the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of access to broadband, especially in the age of virtual learning.

 "When you're teaching remotely, everyone looks around and goes, 'Oh wait, this is real. This is a problem," Horn said.

Horn said she also wants to focus on rural infrastructure more broadly. She said she's worked with local leaders to help expand and maintain access to safe, clean water.

 "I think that the understanding of the needs of rural communities is something that needs to be brought to the forefront," Horn said.

Despite not walking the party line on the issue, Horn said the country still needs another round of stimulus spending to help pull us out of the dire economic straits that accompanied the spread of COVID-19.

The first aid package was broader by necessity, Horn said, because legislators didn't know what areas would be the most heavily impacted. However, she said any future aid packages should be tailored more narrowly.

 "We don't know how long this is going to last," Horn said. "That's the thing we just don't know. What I do know is we've got to actually do something. People sitting in their own sides of the room and pointing fingers at each other doesn't actually help anything."

Horn said she thinks both parties have some room for compromise if it means getting aid to the people impacted most by this pandemic.

 "We've got to get relief that's timely, targeted, and transparent," Horn said. 

Any aid agreement needs to be bipartisan and narrowly tailored to help with COVID-19 related needs, Horn said. She said neither party should be using aid as an opportunity to boost their pet projects, but both sides of the aisle have been guilty of such maneuvering so far.

Gloria Trotter

Countywide & Sun reporter Alex Sloan interviews incumbent Kendra Horn, while Publisher Suzie Campbell listen intently to responses.

 "I'm on the side of helping people, because families are hurting, businesses are hurting, we need to take action," Horn said. "And I would just rather get something done that helps people, rather than holding out for something that is our idea of perfect."

Horn said the expansion of Presidential power in recent years has been concerning.

 "I think it is troubling how much power congress that has ceded to the administrative branch, over the course of about four decades," Horn said.

She said ceding power to the executive branch makes it easier for Congress to kick the can down the road and not take action on controversial items. Horn said even if former Vice President Joe Biden is elected President, she will work to reclaim powers for the legislature.

 "If we're letting people put party before everything else, we're doing it wrong," Horn said. "We're not doing what we should be doing."

 

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