Lankford Wins 'Conservative Showdown' in Oklahoma Senate Primary

Tuesday, 24 Jun 2014 10:06 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Rep. James Lankford rode a late-in-the-race boost from Oklahoma's retiring Republican Sen. Tom Coburn to snatch the party's primary nod Tuesday in a battle that had been dubbed a "conservative showdown."

With 81.8 percent of the vote counted, Lankford glided to victory with 56.3 percent against former state House Speaker T. W. Shannon's 35.3 percent.

There was little difference between the conservative candidates on policy issues, but Lankford had come under fierce attack as "too establishment" from tea party groups that backed Shannon, and the race remained tight, the Washington Examiner noted. 

FiveThirtyEight.com called the battle a "conservative showdown" among a crowded field competing to succeed Coburn, who has battled cancer and is retiring two years before his term is up.

With the victory Tuesday, Lankford will be the heavy favorite to retain Coburn's Republican seat in the fall.

Breitbart noted the turning point in the race came June 12. 

When the Senate Conservatives Fund bought a statewide commercial that declared Lankford supported raising the debt ceiling and would "never change Washington," Coburn, who had vowed to stay neutral, released a statement blasting "advertisements by groups such as Senate Conservatives Fund and Oklahomans for a Conservative Future" that he said "simply aren't truthful" and "mischaracterize James Lankford's service in Congress."

"I have come to know James Lankford in his short but very productive time in Washington, and I know he is a man of absolute integrity," Coburn said, Breitbart noted. "We haven't always agreed, but he is one of the most honest, thoughtful and sincere men I have met in my time in Washington."

Lankford took his words and ran with them, running TV ads and sending mailers across the state with Coburn's quotes and picture, Breitbart reported.

Sooner Poll's Bill Shapard told the news site that the "timing" of Coburn's statement was crucial, noting that two in three Oklahoma GOP primary voters said it was "very important" to elect someone who would vote like Coburn.

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