Sen. Tom Coburn said Thursday he was “sickened” and “disturbed” by negative ads being aired against U.S. Rep. James Lankford, the Oklahoma City Republican who is running to replace Coburn.
In an interview, Coburn, R-Muskogee, said the ads being run by outside groups and one of Lankford’s opponents, state Rep. T.W. Shannon, are “absolutely untruthful” and “deceitful.”
Coburn has not endorsed Lankford in the race and said Thursday he was not doing so in defending him against claims in the ads.
However, he called Lankford “a great man of character” who has worked diligently in the U.S. House to conduct oversight of government programs and activities.
“I am sickened that the only way someone can win a race is to run negative ads against them,” Coburn said.
A candidate who wins only by disparaging his opponent would begin his term with “a trust deficit” among the people who didn’t support him, Coburn said.
Coburn is retiring after the current congressional session; Shannon and Lankford are among seven Republican candidates vying for the GOP nomination.
Coburn’s comments came as a group called the Senate Conservatives Fund began airing an ad accusing Lankford of voting for wasteful spending, higher taxes and more debt.
A group called Oklahomans for a Conservative Future has spent more than $1 million on behalf of Shannon and recently began running ads showing Lankford with President Barack Obama and saying he had voted for an “Obama budget.”
Coburn said he was particularly offended by charges that Lankford had supported Obamacare or voted for government waste. He said Lankford _ who has taken up some of Coburn’s causes, including duplicative spending and Social Security fraud _ was the best lawmaker in the House for oversight.
Shannon, who said earlier this month that outside groups should stick to issues, released a statement Thursday in response to Coburn’s comments.
“Like Dr. Coburn did in 2004 during his campaign, I have already spoken out against negative ads from outside groups,” Shannon said.
“I agree that all ads should be truthful and focused on issues and the records of the candidates. I cannot control the messaging of outside groups, but I can control what my campaign says and does.
“My campaign has focused on my record as Speaker, and Congressman Lankford’s record of voting to increase America’s debt limit. Congressman Lankford is a good man, but we just disagree on this issue. This is a fact that clearly differentiates us, because as Speaker I opposed all debt.
“America is at a crossroads and we simply cannot sustain the endless debt that threatens our economy and is burying future generations. We need to send leaders to Washington, D.C. who understand this and will vote to balance the budget, not increase spending and add more debt.”
Lankford released his own statement.
“I am opposed to negative ads,” Lankford said.
” I agree with Dr. Coburn that a campaign should be about a candidate’s own ideas and not disparaging his opponent. I think all of these outside groups should end the negative ads. I remain disappointed that my opponent has not called on these groups to stop their untruthful attacks on my campaign, but he has now added his voice to those attacks through his own campaign’s television ads and direct mail hit pieces.”