State Sen. Stephanie Bice defeated business owner Terry Neese Tuesday night in the GOP runoff for House District 5. Bice advances to face incumbent Rep. Kendra Horn Nov. 3 for a seat Horn has held for the past two years.
With 86 percent of precincts reporting as of 9:30, Bice was leading Neese 52.3 percent to 47.7 percent.
Neese and Bice have been locked in a bitter contest for the nomination after neither secured more than 50% of the vote in a nine-way June primary. Neese led the field with 36% of the vote to Bice’s 25%.
The two women are vying to replace first-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn who pulled one of the biggest congressional upsets in the country in 2018 when she toppled a Republican incumbent in a district President Donald Trump won by 14 points in 2016. The district had been in Republican hands for four decades.
Republicans have a slight edge in voter registration in the district, but an infusion of younger people in recent years could give Horn a boost in November.
Horn also has proven to be an effective fundraiser, amassing more than $3.6 million, compared to $1.2 million for Neese and $1.4 million for Bice, according to the most recent federal expenditure reports.
While Neese and Bice have spent money attacking one another in the primary runoff, Horn is running ads that highlight her willingness to work with Republicans and find bipartisan consensus.
Neese has made her admiration for Trump the center of her campaign, sporting a red “Trump 2020” hat in her ads and vowing to “protect” the president. Bice, who earned a reputation in the state Senate as a hardworking moderate, has touted her support for Trump on the campaign trail.
Bice has been targeted by outside groups for voting for tax increases to fund a teacher pay raise, while Neese, who is not Native American, has faced criticism for claiming Cherokee heritage that helped her land a federal appointment and after the release of audiotapes in which Neese can be heard encouraging her employees to mislead clients.