Who Is Kendra Horn? 1-On-1 With Oklahoma's First Democratic Congresswoman
One week into her new job, Oklahoma Congresswoman Kendra Horn, D-5th District, may be glad that her orientation, as she recently described it, was like being "in the middle of a whirlwind, drinking from a firehose."
With pressure mounting for an end to the partial government shutdown, Rep. Horn, and the 110 other freshman members of the 116th Congress, have had to hit the ground running.
But Kendra Horn is used to running. She ran a grass roots campaign that got her through a crowded primary and runoff, and then helped her pull off one of the biggest upsets in the country on Election Day.
"People have asked me since November 6, 'Where did you come from?' 'How did you do it?'" Horn allowed.
Horn says her campaign was successful because she and her volunteers "met people where they were, and I listened."
"We knocked tens of thousands of doors, made tens of thousands of phone calls, probably even more than that," Horn explained. "We just really reached out, and brought in people who previously thought their voices didn't matter, and I think that's what made a difference."
The margin of victory was slim -- 3,300 votes -- but historic just the same.
In unseating incumbent Republican Steve Russell, Horn became the first Democrat to take the 5th District in 44 years, and just the third woman Oklahoma voters have ever sent to Washington, D.C.
In an interview the day before being sworn into office, Horn tried to deflect such accolades.
"This position is not about me," Rep. Horn said, "it's about every single person in Oklahoma's Fifth Congressional District having a voice."
If giving her constituents a voice means wearing a path between her office and the House Chamber, Congresswoman Horn is off to a good start.
"We should have counted steps today," said an aide accompanying Horn and her family to the Capitol for Horn's first vote -- the election of the Speaker of the House.
Clerk of the House: "Kendra S. Horn--"
Representative Horn: "Pelosi."
Clerk of the House: "--Pelosi."
As expected, Rep. Nancy Pelosi was elected Speaker in a party line vote.
While so much of this experience is new to Horn, politics, in general, is not. The Chickasha native has worked on campaigns and as a political consultant. She is an attorney and mediator who, most recently, was recruiting women to run for public office through a nonprofit she founded, Oklahoma Women Lead.
Understandably, she is excited and proud to be part of largest contingent of women ever to hold seats in Congress: 106 in the House and 25 in the Senate.
"It's not that women are better than men," Horn said, "but when our elected officials look more like our communities, it makes all of us stronger."
Horn is a Democrat, but identifies also as a pragmatist. She says she'll consider each issue on its merits.
"My lens is always going to be -- what is the best decision for the greatest number of people," said Horn, "and I'm going to stand up to my party, when that is called for and that's in the best interest of Oklahoma."
Dan Boren can relate: "I took some votes that my leadership was not happy with."
Boren, who now works for the Chickasaw Nation, was the last Democrat to represent Oklahoma in Congress. He was a moderate -- a so-called Blue Dog Democrat, who didn't always toe the party line. He says his constituents responded by giving him latitude on tough issues.
"I think that's what all of us should do with Kendra," Boren stated. "She's going to have to make some very difficult decisions, and we have to put that trust in her. I do"
Horn's parents, who still live in Chickasha, made the trip to the nation's capital to watch as their daughter took the oath of office. They say she became interested in politics at a very early age, and yet still found themselves in disbelief that she is now an actual member of Congress.
"It's still surreal," said Brenda Horn, Kendra's mother. "It's just, like, oh my gosh, she really did it!"
"She's a leader, and she was born to do this," said her father, Kent Horn, choking up. "Excuse me..."
Horn says her parents deserve credit: "[They] always taught me, if you see a problem, you can't complain about it unless you're willing to roll up your sleeves and get to work to fix it."
Horn says there are many problems that Washington can help fix, such as healthcare, education, and prescription drug prices. She says she plans to be in the district often and hold frequent town hall meetings so that she can get input from everyone who wants to be heard.
She says it is her goal to have the best constituent services in the country.
"I want everybody to know that their voice matters," Rep. Horn stated. "I don't care if they voted for me or if they didn't, we're still gonna show up and serve every single person."