Lankford Favorite to Succeed Coburn as Cole Drops Out

Image: Lankford Favorite to Succeed Coburn as Cole Drops Out

Monday, 20 Jan 2014 01:18 PM

By Elliot Jager

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Oklahoma GOP Congressman James Lankford looks set to start as favorite to replace retiring Sen. Tom Coburn in the special election set for November.

His main threat for the seat, Rep. Tom Cole, announced Sunday that he will sit out the race, giving the two-term congressman a huge leg-up for the GOP nomination.

Another potential threat to Lankford, state Attorney General, Scott Pruitt has also bowed out of the Republican primary while Rep. Jim Bridenstine, is said to be "leaning against a run," according to The Hill.

Lankford, a two-term congressman, whose district is based on Oklahoma City, announced his candidacy Monday afternoon at a press conference. The Hill said Coburn is likely to endorse him.

Lankford told The Associated Press he wanted to press for "conservative solutions that most Americans believe in."

"We're facing serious issues," he said. "We can either complain about it or try to step in and solve it."

The winner of the Republican primary is considered a shoo-in for the seat in the deep red Sooner State.

Others who have been mentioned as possible Republican primary candidates include Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, whose possible candidacy is said to have garnered interest among conservative groups. The Speaker is well connected to the Baptist and Native American communities, according to The Hill.

Another name mentioned is former Rep. J.C. Watts who left the House in 2003. Shannon is a former aide to Watts.

A longtime director of a youth summer camp, Lankford was a political unknown when he emerged from a crowded Republican primary field in 2010 to win the U.S. House seat. He won re-election in 2012 and was the only member of Oklahoma's House delegation to not face a GOP primary opponent that year.

Cole, who has often been named as a potential successor to Hose Speaker John Boehner, said he would not run for the election Sunday, citing the power he wields within the House of Representatives.

"My seniority, my membership on three major committees, my position as a subcommittee chairman on the Appropriations Committee and my role as a Deputy Whip in the Republican Conference make me much more valuable to Oklahoma and the Fourth District in the House than I could be as a freshman U.S. Senator," he said.

Pruitt also said he could do more for the state by staying put.

"At present, my choice is clear: it is serving as Oklahoma's Attorney General, where I can continue to lead the fight for the preservation of our freedoms and constitutional system," he said.

Coburn, who is a strong conservative, is being treated for prostate cancer. He said he was stepping down because he did not want to make public service his career. The senator is a physician by training.

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