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Neese, Bice advance to runoff for chance to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
OKLAHOMA CITY (CFP) — Voters in deep-red Oklahoma narrowly approved expanding Medicaid in Tuesday’s primary election, overriding Republican politicians who had blocked expansion for more than a decade because of its association with Obamacare.
With Tuesday’s vote, Oklahoma becomes the fourth conservative, Republican-led state where voters have used the initiative process to force Medicaid expansion over the objections of political leaders.
State voters said yes to Medicaid expansion by a margin of 50.5% to 49.5%, a margin of just 6,500 votes.
Also Tuesday, Republicans in the 5th U.S. House District in metro Oklahoma City narrowed their choice to two candidates — businesswoman Terry Neese and State Senator Stephanie Bice — who will now compete in an August runoff for the right to face Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, who flipped the seat in 2018 and is one of the GOP’s top targets for 2020.
Neese took 37% to Bice’s 25% to earn runoff spots from the nine-candidate field.
Sooner State Democrats also picked Abby Broyles, a former investigative reporter for an Oklahoma City television station, as their nominee to face U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe. She carried 60% against three other candidates.
Given the state’s strong Republican tilt, Inhofe, running for his fifth full term, will be the prohibitive favorite in November. At 85, if he wins, he’ll be 92 by the time his term ends in 2029.
Oklahoma had been one of 14 Republican-controlled states whose leaders have refused to expand Medicaid to extend coverage to low-income residents without insurance who don’t currently qualify for the program but can’t afford private coverage on the Obamacare exchanges.
According to proponents, expansion could benefit 200,000 state residents and help rescue rural hospitals how in financial trouble.
Proponents collected enough petition signatures to put expansion on the ballot Tuesday as a constitutional amendment, following similar successful efforts in the conservative states of Utah, Idaho and Nebraska to use voter initiatives to get around lawmakers philosophically opposed to participating in Obamacare.
Republican Governor Kevin Stitt opposed expansion, arguing that the state cannot afford to cover its part of the cost amid a budget crunch caused by the coronavirus crisis.