MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

February 20, 2014

Senate hopeful makes pitch to replace Coburn

U.S. Rep. James Lankford stumped Thursday in Muskogee in support of his bid to serve the final two years of U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn’s unexpired second term.

The Oklahoma City Republican was the first to enter the race for the GOP nomination in the special election that materialized after Coburn announced he would resign in December. To date, Lankford has drawn two opponents: State Rep. T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, relinquished his position as House speaker earlier this month to pursue similar ambitions, and Jason Weger, a Norman paramedic, also plans to compete for the nomination.

Lankford was elected in 2010 to represent the state’s 5th Congressional District, succeeding Gov. Mary Fallin. He served as director of Falls Creek Youth Camp, owned and operated by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, from 1996 to 2009 before making his first political bid for public office. Instead of seeking a third term as the state’s 5th District representative, Lankford opted for a shot at filling Coburn’s seat in the U.S. Senate.

Serving in the U.S. Senate, Lankford said, would give him a chance to take part in the oversight of the judiciary and executive cabinet members. It also would allow him to help shape foreign policy and diplomatic issues, all of which he said “is done only in the Senate.”

“There are things that can be done there — in order to be effective, to try and push a set of ideas only happens in the Senate,” Lankford said Thursday morning before playing host to a community forum later in the day at the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. “As gridlocked as the Senate is currently — and it’s a mess — it’s still the battlefield and the place where a lot of those things will be determined.”

During a public forum, Lankford outlined his conservative credentials and fielded questions about immigration reform, congressional oversight, term limits and taxes. He said conservative principles and ideas stand up on their own without over-amplification and defended congressional efforts to get to the bottom of the killing of a U.S. ambassador in Libya.

Lankford said he supports immigration reform but believes it can be accomplished only by breaking it down to individual components to be passed one at a time. He also expressed support for a “fair tax” and a “flat tax.”

Coburn’s resignation gives Oklahoma voters the chance to elect two U.S. senators this year. Sen. Jim Inhofe is campaigning for his fourth full term as part of the regular election cycle.

While Lankford, Shannon and Weger have committed to compete for the GOP nomination in the race to succeed Coburn, there is speculation others Republicans could join the fray. No Democrats are openly campaigning for Coburn’s seat, but Tulsa insurance executive Matt Silverstein plans to challenge Inhofe as a Democrat in the regular election cycle.

The filing period for county, state and federal elections is April 9-11. Primary elections are scheduled June 24, with run-offs planned for Aug. 26 and general elections on Nov. 4.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

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