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Lankford says he wants Coburn's Senate seat

Tim Farley January 20th, 2014

U.S. Rep. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) will seek election to the U.S. Senate following Sen. Tom Coburn’s announcement that he plans to retire early next year.

“After a great deal of thought, prayer and discussion with my family, I feel led to continue my Oklahoma common sense and principled approach to attack the deep problems in the United States Senate,” he said during a press conference Thursday at the Oklahoma History Center.

Coburn (R-Oklahoma) has held the Senate seat since 2004, replacing longtime Sen. Don Nickles. While in the Senate, Coburn developed a reputation as a no-nonsense, frugal politician who always searched for ways to eliminate wasteful spending.

Coburn, a physician, announced he would retire at the end of the current congressional session, which will be early 2015. His current Senate term would have expired in January 2017.

Coburn (R-Oklahoma) made his decision public after dealing with a recurrence of prostate cancer and a seemingly endless bi-partisan battle in Congress.

But already, Lankford has his detractors including the Senate Conservatives Fund, which announced it will not support him because of his votes to increase the debt limit, raise taxes and fund Obamacare.

Another political group, Club for Growth, isn’t jumping on the Lankford bandwagon, either. The organization announced Lankford has a 78 percent voting record in connection with its issues while Coburn’s scorecard is at 96 percent. Club for Growth promotes pro-growth policies including limited government, low taxes and economic freedom, according to its Web site.

Lankford and other candidates will file for the Senate seat April 9-11. Primary elections are June 24 with a runoff set for Aug. 26, if needed. The general election is Nov. 4.

Those other candidates might include Rep. Jim Bridenstine, who defeated longtime incumbent John Sullivan in 2012, and possibly Oklahoma’s Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon (R-Lawton). However, neither Bridenstine nor Shannon have made any public announcements.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Moore) and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt both said they won’t seek Coburn’s seat.

Lankford, elected to the 5th congressional district in 2010 and again in 2012, operated a Baptist youth camp prior to his entry into politics. Lankford’s entry into the Senate race will leave the 5th District searching for a new representative during this year’s election cycle.

During his two terms in the House, Lankford has never shied away from conservative social causes, including a recent federal judge’s ruling that Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. Lankford argued after the ruling was announced that the judge had ignored Oklahoma voters who in 2004 approved the constitutional ban on same-sex marriages.

“This is why the American people are so frustrated with government and government officials; the people speak clearly but elected officials and judges ignore them,” he said at the time.

Prior to his Senate election in 2004, Coburn served in the U.S. House for three terms beginning in 1994. Pledging to serve only three terms in the House, Coburn left Congress after the 2000 elections.

After Nickles retired, Coburn won the Senate race while making a commitment to serve just two six-year terms.

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