Patrick B. McGuigan, Publisher and Editor, The City Sentinel
Oklahoma City, OK – State Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, is one of ten Republicans seeking the party nomination to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, a Democrat, in November. Horn was elected to the job in 2018.
Bice is the most experienced leader among the GOP candidates. Next week, she will begin her sixth legislative session at the state Capitol.
In an interview with The City Sentinel, Bice said she decided to run for Congress, “Because I’m frustrated with Washington’s inability to get things done. I think Washington needs leaders who are willing to take on the big, seemingly intractable problems. That’s been my approach in Oklahoma – to tackle big problems head-on and work to deliver conservative solutions that grow our economy and make life better for Oklahomans.
“We’re seeing dramatic change in Oklahoma and I’m proud to be part of the turnaround we’re experiencing. I want to take that same approach to Washington.”
Sen. Bice is probably best known for methodical work in two policy areas – criminal justice reform, and updating of state liquor laws.
In 2018, this reporter (writing for CapitolBeatOK.com) listed Bice’s broad reform of liquor laws as one of the top 10 state government stories of that year – and of recent years. Legislative tinkering with some provisions during the 2019 legislative session were recently struck down in a controversial state Supreme Court decision. Although the ruling touches “reverse franchise” provisions, that edict does not appear to erode the broader reforms in the original law.
This past year, breakthrough-changes in key areas of criminal justice which Bice guided in the upper chamber qualified, for CapitolBeatOK.com as part of the second top story of the year in Oklahoma state government and politics.
Bice was at the center of each of those narratives about key developments in state policy over recent years.
Asked why a mother and wife would run for elective office in this tumultuous era, Bice candidly addressed the challenges of modern public service. She said, “Running for any office is a life commitment that impacts the entire family, so it was a decision our family made together. My husband and I discussed it for several months. Our two daughters, one in college and one in high school, shared their opinions as well. It gives me peace of mind knowing I have the full support of my family behind me in this race.
“My daughters are one of the fundamental reasons I’m running. I want them to have the same opportunities we’ve had right here in Oklahoma. The problems we face in this country are large, and too often we kick the can down the road. We are $21 trillion in debt and we simply can’t keep leaving our problems to our children and grandchildren.”
Known for a multi-issue conservative record in public office, Bice supported a tax measure that raised government revenue in 2017 for the explicit purpose of supporting public education.
Asked about that decision, she said, “I’ve got one of the most conservative records in the Oklahoma Senate. I’ve never voted to raise taxes on hardworking Oklahoma taxpayers. Whenever there have been efforts to raise Income taxes or property taxes or sales taxes on the working men and women of Oklahoma, I’ve opposed those efforts.”
Bice continued, “In 2017, Oklahoma was facing a fiscal crisis. You may remember it. The downturn in the economy effected state revenues. We had already had three consecutive years of budget cuts totaling more than $2.5 billion. We had done what legislators are supposed to do, we had reined in spending.
“But an economic crisis became a public relations crisis that threatened our state and its reputation for decades. It was clear our teachers were underpaid and I support the objective to make them the highest paid in the region. Frankly, our constituents demanded we stop cutting core services and find solutions.”
The state senator, a leader in the majority caucus since early in her tenure in elective office, continued, “Several plans were offered, but I made it clear that I wouldn’t vote for anything that raised taxes on individual taxpayers or small businesses. Ultimately, a solution was found that could receive the Constitutionally required 75 percent of the legislature. But I was proud to stand up to those who wanted to raise income, sales and property taxes on hardworking taxpayers.”
Sen. Bice has resided in the Fifth Congressional District throughout her time in public office. Her state Senate District 22 is based in Oklahoma City and Edmond, also reaching into parts of Deer Creek, Piedmont and Yukon. Before seeking public office, Bice helped lead a small business.
The Republican primary is set for June 30. The likely runoff election would be August 25. The general election is on November 3.
Bice and this reporter concluded the recent interview with a conversation about broader reasons for her decision to seek the party nomination to challenge Rep. Horn.
Bice said, “Six years ago I would never have imagined running for office. What I’ve found at the state level is that one person can make a difference.
“I’m the chair of the Senate Finance Committee here in Oklahoma and I’ve been able to build coalitions to help fix large problems. People laughed when I told them I wanted to modernize our alcohol laws. Now, 5000 jobs later we’re in the 21st Century and we’ve created economic development opportunities, too.
“I’m not afraid to tackle the big problems others won’t. Washington needs more people willing to do that.”