Conservatives Want Bridenstine to Seek Coburn's Senate Seat

Image: Conservatives Want Bridenstine to Seek Coburn's Senate Seat

Monday, 20 Jan 2014 10:35 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Conservatives on the national level are pushing Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine to run in the coming special election to replace retiring Sen. Tom Coburn, saying he's the best alternative to Republican Rep. James Lankford, who announced his candidacy Monday.

But neither Bridenstine nor another potential candidate, Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, has decided officially whether he'll run in the election, The Hill reports.

Bridenstine's campaign on Monday pushed back on reports that he is moving away from the Senate election, and reasserted his interest in the special election.

Coburn said Thursday that he was not finishing his term and retiring after the November election. While he is battling a strong recurrence of cancer, he said he is not stepping down because of his illness but because of his length of time in the Senate.

"My commitment to the people of Oklahoma has always been that I would serve no more than two terms," Coburn said. "Our founders saw public service and politics as a calling rather than a career. That's how I saw it when I first ran for office in 1994, and that's how I still see it today."

Bridenstine said Monday that he is pleased to know Coburn's health isn't the entire reason for his retirement, and that he "is honored by the number of people, statewide and nationally," who are encouraging him to run for the Senate seat, but he said he's not inclined to rush the decision.

With major conservative groups backing him in the race, however, Bridenstine's decision likely will come within the week. One of the groups, the Madison Project, said he "has too much to offer Oklahoma in the Senate for him to sit this one out."

In addition, the Senate Conservatives Fund suggested as long ago as last year that Bridenstine would be a good candidate.

Should Shannon run, however, he and Bridenstine could split the vote, giving the nomination to Lankford. The race could also head to a runoff if none of the three candidates gets a majority of the votes.

Shannon said Monday he has not made his own decision in the race, and is "disappointed" Coburn is leaving.

"No one can replace Tom Coburn, but someone will succeed him," Shannon said. "I am praying with my family about whether to enter the race to do just that, and I know the Lord will clearly place on my heart what my assignment is."

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